Protesters demonstrate during a rally against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in Strasbourg, France, on Oct. 10, 2015. (Xinhua/Lu Suyan)
STRASBOURG, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Protesters on Saturday took to the streets of Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament, against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement currently being negotiated between the European Union (EU) and the United States.
The demonstration was called for by members of the protest group "Stop TAFTA" (the French acronym for TTIP) which comprises 142 associations, trade unions and other groups.
An "international day of mobilization" against TTIP also saw demonstrations in other European as well as American cities. Protesters oppose what they see as a lack of transparency in the negotiations. Some claim the treaty would have harmful consequences for citizens.
"We reject the transatlantic market that Brussels and Washington want to impose," a young protestor from Strasbourg Left Front, a far left political group, told Xinhua during the demonstration. "Such a treaty would only increase competition and commoditization, and carry major risks of social, political and environmental regression."
Also taking part in the protest in the Alsatian capital were members of the youth wing of the Green Party, as well as the apolitical Pirate Party movement.
Students, families with children and other citizens formed the bulk of the procession that marched behind a banner reading: "TAFTA or climate, we must choose!" Another flagship slogan reflecting the concerns of the protesters was "TTIP: as much chlorinated chicken on your plate as you want!"
Many people are indeed alarmed at what they see as the potential environmental and health hazards of the establishment of a liberalized transatlantic trading regime, claiming in particular that food and environmental standards are not the same in the EU and North America.
But beyond concerns about the practical consequences of TTIP for daily life, protesters also emphasized worries about cultural issues arising from the treaty. "We do not want an Americanization of our society," a student attending the demonstration told Xinhua.
"The transatlantic treaty could mean not only the end of the European social model in the face of American monopolistic and ultra-capitalist practices, but could also put at risk a certain vision of culture, which for us in Europe is more than just a commercial product," he said.
A petition against TTIP has already collected more than three million signatures in the EU. Launched a year ago as part of a Europe-wide initiative -- which plans to ask the European Commission to act on the basis of a million signatures collected in at least seven different states -- it was handed in this week to the European Commission, which has so far refused to consider it.
In the European Parliament, TTIP has been causing mayhem to the point where in June a major debate on the issue had to be postponed. This was a bombshell in the Strasbourg chamber illustrating the growing divisions over the EU's trade policy.
A new round of TTIP negotiations should start at late October. Brussels and Washington want to conclude an agreement by the beginning of next year. TTIP, if ratified, would be the world's biggest trade agreement, affecting nearly 60 percent of global economic output and reaching into a market of 850 million consumers.