Populism may tip deal over the edge
Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30
IRISH farmers will have heard about TTIP, the acronym for a major EU-US trade deal because of concerns about food exports.
But few Irish people, beyond political activists and academics, will have heard of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP for short. However, believe it or not, TTIP is the subject of popular conversation in Germany where a book attacking the project is a best seller.
"The Free Trade Lie," published in German, as Die Freihandelslüge, has sold 70,000 copies in the past 16 months. A rally against TTIP in Berlin last October, attracted more than 150,000 people, and was the country's largest political demonstration since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel still publicly defends the principle of TTIP. But the German Socialists, in coalition with Ms Merkel, are vehemently opposed to it and last week they stated "TTIP is dead."
There is widespread hostility in France too where the farming lobby has always packed a political punch far in excess of its numbers. Last month the EU Commission president, Jean Claude Juncker of Luxembourg went to Paris to address a convention of small town mayors from the length and breath of France in efforts to sell the idea.
It has been openly conceded among Brussels diplomats for some time that the goal of concluding a TTIP deal before the departure of US President Barack Obama was "fanciful." Now those same diplomats are considering whether it will be possible to do a deal at all.
The French Government has always been sceptical and they face presidential and parliamentary elections early next summer. In the autumn there are federal elections in Germany and Chancellor Merkel will be bidding for a fourth consecutive win.
Watch her at very least put TTIP on the back burner. The well-read Brussels magazine, Politico, yesterday reported support for the process in Germany had fallen from 55pc in 2014 to just 17pc currently. Big trade unions in Germany, who supported what was billed as potentially the biggest trade deal in history, in hopes of job creation, are now totally opposed.