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Can Public Opposition to Corporate 'Free Trade' Derail US/EU Deal?

EU government officials and business leaders feeling heat from concerned public

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Public opposition to "free trade" and multinational corporations could obstruct closed-door negotiations over the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement between the United States and European Union, EU government officials and businesspeople stated Friday, according to Reuters.

"We are grappling with people who are anti-European, who are anti-American, who are anti-free trade, who are anti-globalization and who are anti-multinational corporations," said Alexander Stubb, Finland's minister for Europe and trade, quoted by Reuters at a meeting with EU government officials and business leaders.

"We have an uphill battle to make the argument that this EU-U.S. free-trade agreement is a good one," Stubb remarked.

Ben Beachy, Research Director for Public Citizen, told Common Dreams, "Stubb is correct that he faces an 'uphill battle' to gain support for a controversial deal opposed by a diverse array of consumer, small business, environmental, family farmer, public health, labor, Internet freedom and other groups concerned about the pact's threats to the public interest. His resort to name-calling won't help."

Beachy added, "There's nothing 'anti-American' or 'anti-European' about opposing a deal so as to safeguard financial stability, food safety, data privacy, access to medicines and climate stability on both sides of the Atlantic."

EU trade chief Karel De Gucht acknowledged that the public is largely in the dark about this mammoth deal that would have far-reaching implications. "When we talk about [TAFTA], some people think it is an extraterrestrial," De Gucht stated, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Congress and European parliament must ratify the agreement once it is reached.  EU politicians already proved they are at least somewhat vulnerable to public pressure when they rejected the global Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in 2012, Reuters notes.

Under negotiation since July 2013, TAFTA has been fiercely opposed on both sides of the Atlantic. Critics charge the deal would expand corporate power, undermine environmental, health, worker, and food safety protections and big bank regulations, and include other infamous provisions from past trade deals — including the extrajudicial corporate tribunals of NAFTA.


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