With Obama’s much anticipated arrival in Berlin causing a stir across the city; security is on high alert. This is the President’s first official visit to the German capital. The last time he was in town was during his election campaign in July 2008, where he spoke to a crowd of more than 200,000 people. Today’s visit is part of a presidential trip that also includes the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland.
The American President will hold a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. A key topic: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the planned free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States.
With negotiations set to begin in earnest in Washington next month, many international leaders have welcomed the agreement. Speaking yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron said that an EU-US pact would “turbocharge the transatlantic economy“.
Speaking at the joint EU – US press conference at the margins of the G8 summit yesterday EU President Barroso echoed his support: “Today is a special day for relations between the European Union and the United States. We are ready to start the negotiations of a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement.”
Elsewhere, however, concerns are being raised.
Many fear the TTIP could present new threats to sustainable farming and food systems in the EU and US. Key concerns include food safety standards in Europe and rules on GMOs, with fears that only the lowest consumer protection and environmental standards will remain.
Yesterday, a platform of 22 German NGOs launched a common position paper on the TTIP. They warn that the agreement only promises more growth to business representatives. In terms of food and farming, they suggest the agreement could result in unlabeled GM foods and hormone-treated meat landing on our plates.
“Europe’s farmers would be subject to even greater competitive pressure. U.S. exporters would push their soy and dairy products onto the EU market and undermine our efforts to replace soybean with indigenous protein crops. Instead of more “grow or perish” we need to protect small and environment-friendly farming.”
The transparency of the agreement is also called into question, stating negotiatins would be carried out with substantial exclusion of the public and parliaments.
Find the full statement here: