The National Front launched a campaign against the transatlantic trade pact this week, two years after negotiations began between the EU and the United States. EurActiv France reports.
The National Front (NF) officially added its voice to the campaign against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Monday (18 May), at the European Parliament representation in Paris. This positioning has come rather late, given that the EU has been negotiating the free-trade agreement with the United States for two years. Many parties and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum have voiced their opposition to TTIP, and demanded changes to the treaty already.
This latest campaign by the NF brings back echoes of the “patriotic” environmentalist movement it launched last December. The movement currently boasts 200 members.
Asked by EurActiv how the National Front’s position on the trade negotiations would differ from those of the other parties, Marine Le Pen insisted that politics was not about “dividing up the market”, and that with the largest French delegation in the European Parliament, it was only right that the NF should take a position.
“I call on all the groups with whom we do not necessarily see eye to eye on other issues to mobilise, even more, against this treaty,” the party leader said. This message was not received with great enthusiasm by established anti-TTIP campaigners.
“This is intellectual fraud. The nationalistic pronunciations of the NF have nothing to do with the TTIP that is supported by the elites and the multinationals from around the world,” said Maximes Combes, of Attac France. The NF has also adopted one of the established anti-TTIP hashtags, #NonAuTafta.
Attac highlighted its 40 years of experience in the critical analysis of international trade, in support of the radical left and the Greens. “But if the NF can launch a campaign on this subject, it also means that the French left has not been clear enough. Three of the four motions that will be presented at the Socialist Party congress are against the treaty, but still the government supports it,” Combes added.
TTIP, a destroyer of jobs?
“One million Germans have signed the petition against TTIP, compared to only 60,000 French citizens,” said Eric Richermoz, a member of the National Front Youth. He believes the mainstream political parties in France have turned the subject into a “taboo”. Marine Le Pen said “nobody is talking about TTIP in France”. The petition against the treaty was initially launched by radical left wing organisations.
The NF clearly wants to exploit the doubts that have already been raised by other opponents of the treaty surrounding the question of employment. Marine Le Pen believes that the free trade partnership would threaten thousands of jobs, but much of the evidence suggests otherwise. The many studies on the subject have come to a diverse range of conclusions, but nearly all predict a net gain in employment.
A European Commission study predicts that increased exports would create thousands of jobs, while a German study foresees the relocation of many jobs between different countries in the EU. According to this study, the greatest benefits of the trade deal would be felt in the south, by Europe’s weakest exporters. Mathias Fekl, France’s Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, has also asked the Commission to authorise a new study on the economic impact of TTIP, to be carried out by an independent institute.
Using the European Parliament for national gains
“Treaties can be made and they can be unmade,” Le Pen warned. She assured the press that the treaty would not survive if the NF were to win the presidential elections in 2017 – if it had already been signed. While the Paris Prosecutor is still investigating the French National Front’s use of European funds for national purposes, the MEP once again demonstrated her party’s willingness to use the European Parliament, including its Parisian offices, to promote her national ambitions.
The National Front, which brought together a broad range of extreme right movements, emerged under the leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 1970s.
The strategy of normalisation run by the party's current head, Marine Le Pen, is similar to efforts made by other extreme right European parties, which call for a "chauvinistic" welfare state, which protects only one part of the population.
With one eye on France's 2017 presidential elections, Marine Le Pen is trying to distance herself from the racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic language used by other European parties, as well as members of her own party.