00:37 GMT +319 March 2018
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    Protesters demonstrate against Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade agreement ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit in Hanover, Germany April 23, 2016

    Dead in the Water: German Consumer Champion Kills Transatlantic Trade Deal

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    The prospect of the controversial TTIP trade deal becoming European law has been greatly diminished thanks to the efforts of veteran German consumer champion Thilo Bode.

    The TTIP trade deal is all but dead thanks to the intervention of an unlikely hero, US magazine Politico reported on Thursday.

    Thilo Bode is an experienced environmental campaigner, who headed the German branch of Greenpeace in the 1990s. In 2002, he established the NGO Foodwatch, which aims to protect the rights of consumers with respect to the food industry. 

    The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a bilateral trade agreement which has been under negotiation, behind closed doors, between the US and EU for three years.

    Europe's opponents to the deal have long complained about its secrecy, with much of the information about the content of the negotiations coming from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests.

    The content of the deal has been severely criticized; among the major concerns is that multinational companies could use the Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) proposed by TTIP to sue national governments if their policies cause them to lose profit. 

    The clause can be exploited by multinationals to claim compensation from governments, even if the legislation in question protected public health.

    For example, when the German government phased out nuclear power in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011, Swedish nuclear plant operator Vattenfall sued Germany for €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion), under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments.

    TIIP also proposes changing European law regarding privacy, health and safety and employment; US regulation offers less protection in these areas. Despite their legitimate concern, opponents to TTIP's institution in the EU have found it hard to transmit these issues to the general public

    Thilo Bode
    © AP Photo/ apn Photo/Joerg Sarbach
    Thilo Bode
    German campaigner Thilo Bode has helped to get information about the trade deal through to ordinary people, and on Saturday US magazine Politico reported that since Bode entered the fray to campaign against TTIP in 2014, "support for TTIP in Germany has plummeted from 55 down to 17 percent."

    "The mild-mannered former development worker gave a face and a voice to a broad-based movement that has wrong-footed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left EU leaders with their mouths agape, and derailed what would have been the largest free-trade deal in history. He did so by stirring up and, on current evidence, winning an argument over TTIP that Europe’s political establishment only realized had started when it was virtually over," the magazine wrote.

    Bode has written a bestselling book, called "The Free Trade Lie," (Die Freihandelslüge), which lays bare the true contents of the TTIP deal. He also organized an anti-TTIP rally in Berlin in 2015 which was attended by more than 150,000 people.

    Last week politicians from Germany's SPD party, who govern Germany in coalition with Angela Merkel's CDU and Bavarian-based CSU described TTIP as "dead."

    However, on Saturday Thilo Bode himself was more cautious when responding to reports that TIIP has failed.

    "The chances are not bad, that TTIP will fail," he told German broadcaster SWR2, but said he was waiting for official confirmation that the deal is dead.

    "I will only be happy when these contracts have really been buried officially," Bode said.

    Calling TTIP a "bad deal," Bode added that opposition to the negotiations is based on their content.

    "I think that one has to be opposed to these agreements, even if one approves of international trade," the campaigner said.


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