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French celebs blast EU-US trade treaty

Published: 10 Jul 2014 14:39 GMT+02:00

One year into the negotiations to create a free trade zone that would span the Atlantic Ocean and some of France’s leading luminaries are demanding Europe should pull out of the talks now.

The 100 performers, writers, political leaders and thinkers are the first signatories of a petition that argues the negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would create the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA), are being done in secret at the peril of France’s future.

“These opaque negotiations are happening behind our back and the backs of Europeans and North Americans,” the collective wrote. “Under the cover of a hypothetical relaunch of economic growth, these negotiations are likely to lower our social, economic, health, cultural and environmental standards.”

"It’s the reason we are calling on French and European members of parliament to put pressure on EU members and the European Commission to disrupt the negotiations," the statement read.

Some of the prominent signatories of the call to action sponsored by the collective “Stop TAFTA” include far-left firebrand Jean Luc Mélenchon, actress Marianne Denicourt and comedian Christophe Alevêque.

Despite opposition, Washington and Brussels hope the free trade deal will deliver a major boost to growth and jobs, especially in Europe where the euro debt crisis has left the economy stuck in the doldrums.

France’s moribund economy and record unemployment has stirred up anger and frustration, which voters have expressed in recent “punishment” defeats for the ruling Socialists in local and European elections.

This proposed accord would be the world's largest Free Trade Agreement, with bilateral trade in goods last year worth some €500 billion ($670 billion), services worth another €280 billion and investment flows hitting the trillions.

The EU says it would add some €119 billion annually to the EU economy and €95 billion for the United States.

However, the personalities who have signed the petition are tapping into a growing portion of the country that has grown wary of the agreement and the cost of the growth it claims to offer.

One worry is that the agreement would pave the way for American food products, like hormone-treated beef and genetically modified corn, which is illegal to grow in France, to more easily enter the European market.  There are also concerns that the lowering of trade barriers would permit large multinational corporation to consolidate their control of certain industries.

Comedian Christophe Alevêque, who's also an activist, believes it’s time for people to stand up to big business.

“The problem is that humanity, the environment, culture and social protections are second to the all mighty market,” Alevêque told French daily Le Parisien.

“It’s these same merchants to whom we’ve given the keys to the house. Now we’re adding a few more keys to their ring. We have nothing left. There must be a firewall, a little bit of control, to make sure humans are a bit more at the centre of our concerns.”

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Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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