The ongoing negotiations for a free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States has triggered numerous citizen protests across European cities, including Spanish ones.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in Germany, Austria and France.
In Spain, that opposition is still incipient. Livestock breeders, farmers, environmentalists, anti-globalization activists and representatives of the anti-austerity party Podemos have been the most vocal opponents of an agreement meant to liberalize new markets, but whose exact terms are being kept under wraps while talks are underway.
We don’t believe that the jobs generated by the TTIP will make up for those that will be lost
Miguel Blanco, activist
Spanish detractors of the treaty believe it could hurt jobs, the economy and the environment.
The cities of Seville, Zaragoza, Segovia, Valladolid, Barcelona, Lleida, Castellón de la Plana, Valencia, Mérida, Lugo, Pontevedra, Santiago de Compostela – and soon Madrid as well, according to economy councilor Carlos Sánchez Mato— have added their names to the 146 municipalities that are expressing opposition to the deal by declaring themselves “TTIP-free Zones.”
Most of these local governments are controlled by Podemos or by sister groups.
Meanwhile, up to 270 unions, environmental associations and anti-globalization groups are working to stop the agreement before it gets signed.
Lola Sánchez, a member of the European Parliament for Podemos, explains that it is difficult for citizens to discuss the treaty because most politicians are not talking about it in public either, whether to defend it or criticize it.
“We need to do a lot more campaigning in rural areas. Many producers have trouble understanding the implications of this treaty,” says Jorge Luis Bail, of the green group Confluencia por Aragón (Equo).
The way each Spanish region views the TTIP depends largely on what drives the regional economy. Farmers and cattle breeders feel that their sector is particularly sensitive to the entry of US products that undergo fewer food safety controls than European ones.
Andalusians are “very concerned about the future of livestock breeding and agriculture,” says Alejandro Aguilar, a 32-year-old without a job who represents the “No to TTIP” movement in the southern Spanish region.
“There is great concern over the loss of jobs,” he says, adding that producers are particularly worried about the future of Spanish food products with Denominación de Origen – a quality guarantee similar to France’s Appellation d’Origine.
COAG, an umbrella group for farmers and livestock breeders representing thousands of people, wants Spanish political parties to take a clear stand against the treaty.
“We don’t believe that the jobs generated by the TTIP will make up for those that will be lost,” said secretary general Miguel Blanco, who believes that small and medium businesses will suffer the most.
A budding debate
Tom Kucharz, an expert in international trade for the green group Ecologistas en Acción, says that opposition to the treaty is growing in Spain even as the debate opens up to the public. Extremadura is the first region to have created a committee to analyze the potential impact of the TTIP on the area. The initiative came from Podemos.
Of 158 anti-TTIP motions filed in assemblies across Spain, the Popular Party opposed at least 66 and Ciudadanos voted against 17, according to Podemos sources.
In the Madrid region, the PP and Ciudadanos voted against an anti-TTIP motion in the regional assembly; but the city of Madrid is run by the leftist alliance Ahora Madrid, which has already expressed its wish to join the “TTIP-free Zones.”
In the meantime, Brussels has already drafted an impact evaluation for Spain, but detractors of the treaty say this document is biased because its authors work for the Institute for Economic Studies (IEE) and because it was sponsored by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.
IEE director José Luis Feito holds that theirs is “the best” study on the subject, and that Spain can only benefit from joining the TTIP.
English version by Susana Urra.