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THIS past weekend, thousands of people across Europe protested against the proposed free trade agreements between the EU and the United States and the EU and Canada. Several hundred participated in Helsinki. While their aims are noble, their fears are unfounded.

THE two proposed trade agreements are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with America and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada. It is nothing unusual for the far right and far left to oppose free trade (although for different reasons), but this movement has a list of grievances instead of vague philosophical worries.

PROTESTORS under the Stop TTIP banner are upset that the negotiations are conducted in secret. They have problems with the investor-state dispute settlement procedures (ISDS), which gives private companies the right to sue governments via international panels. They suspect health and safety standards will be lowered and regulations on some business practices – such as fracking and the use of genetically modified organisms – will be discarded. In a nutshell, they say it will increase corporate power and make it more difficult for governments to regulate markets for the public good.

THE Finnish government is firmly in favour of the deal. Prime Minister Alexander Stubb has argued fervently for the agreement and attempted to meet objections point by point. He points out that public services are exempt from the deal, Finland already has 67 other treaties with ISDS procedures, and that free trade secures economic growth and provides jobs.

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David J. Cord
(This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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