Luxembourg's growing opposition to transatlantic trade deal
(CS) Esch/Alzette has become the first commune to speak out against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), joining opposition from Luxembourg unions, politicians and a citizens' initiative.
Only last week, Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna said that the government “was very much in favour” of TTIP, despite growing opposition to the partnership in the Grand Duchy.
On Friday, the commune of Esch/Alzette voted in favour of a proposal put forward by “déi Lénk”, demanding that the government should advocate an end to the talks at EU level. This marked the first time that a commune decided to take action against the trade agreement.
Criticism of TTIP has been growing over the past months. In February this year, citizens' initiative Stop TAFTA (Transatlantic Free Trade Area) was founded, running talks, petitions and other events, while Luxembourg unions OGBL and LCGB have also publicly spoken out for an end to the negotiations.
Calls to end negotiations
With the European elections around the corner, TTIP has also become an election issue, with Luxembourg's Pirate Party and the Communist Party saying they will try to put a stop to partnership talks.
While the Greens on their website state that TTIP needs to be stopped, the head of the party's parliamentary faction Viviane Loschetter offered a more nuanced approach in a recent speech in parliament.
Speaking at the Chamber of Deputies in March, Loschetter said that “déi Gréng” are very critical about the project, explaining that it threatens to diminish European standards, for example in the areas of food or technology safety.
Loschetter also blasted the secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding the negotiations, especially the role of powerful lobbying groups deciding the future of citizens around Europe. However, the politician did not openly demand that talks end, rather asking the government to make the concerns heard at EU level.
Open the door for US investment
For the CSV meanwhile negotiations should continue, the party said in an official statement, explaining that it is “unreasonable” to condemn the partnership before negotiation results have come through.
At the same time, the party said that the US will have to accept that there are red lines Europe will not be willing to cross, especially in regard to standards. “Should the final text include elements, which are incompatible with European environment, social and legal standards, we will reject the agreement,” the party said.
At a panel discussion in April, US ambassador to Luxembourg Robert A Mandell, UK ambassador Alice Walpole and American Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg chairman Paul Schonenberg advocated the benefits the agreement could bring, not just to the US and EU economies, but also Luxembourg.
According to Schonenberg, Luxembourg could be the big winner of TTIP, as it could open the door to increased US investment, with the Grand Duchy an ideal location for American businesses to set up their European headquarters.