Protesters in cities all over Europe gathered yesterday to demonstrate in opposition to the far-reaching Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated by the European Union and the United States.
The “secretive” TTIP has garnered increasing controversy in recent months as critics fear it could lead to the privatization of public healthcare systems, the weakening of environmental regulations and the removal of food safety standards to allow GM crops and chlorine-washed chicken.
The “European Day of Action” – consisting of marches, rallies, flash mobs and other public events involving tens of thousands of people in over 1,000 locations in 22 countries – was organized by an unprecedented alliance of civil society groups and individuals, social movements, trade unions, farmers and grassroots activist groups.
The main aim of the wave of protests is “to reclaim democracy” – which in this case translates into ending the TTIP negotiations as well as killing the EU-Canada deal (CETA) and withdrawing from talks over the trade in services agreement (TiSA) that aims to liberalize trade in areas such as banking and transport. At the demonstration in Berlin, protesters symbolically stuffed signs marked “TTIP” and “CETA” into a wood chipper.
In the UK, where over a dozen actions took place, many people fear for the future of the country’s public services. Critics worry that the NHS healthcare system, the education system and even the BBC may be susceptible to market interference from U.S. corporations. A recent YouGov survey found that most Britons (54%) do not trust the current Tory government to negotiate a good deal for the country in the trade talks.
Conservative trade minister Lord Livingston said that TTIP talks “can’t be sacrificed by misinformation and scare stories” and business secretary Vince Cable told reporters he was “genuinely baffled” by fears about Britain’s health service.