Greece Would Block Transatlantic Trade Pact: Minister

The far-left ruling party in Greece says it will not ratify a trade agreement with the United States.

Greece’s new anti-austerity government would block a trade and investment agreement with the United States, a senior ruling party member said.

Georgios Katrougkalos, a former member of the European Parliament who became Greece’s deputy minister for administrative reform last week, told EurActiv his far-left Syriza party could not support a transatlantic free-trade pact.

“I can ensure you that a parliament where Syriza holds the majority will never ratify the deal,” Katrougkalos said. “And this will be a big gift not only to the Greek people but to all the European people.”

Syriza, an amalgamation of former communists, socialists and Greens, won the election last week but fell two seats short of an outright majority. It entered into a coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks who won thirteen seats.

Both parties had campaigned against the budget cuts and economic reforms Greece was forced to implement in exchange for €240 billion in financial support from other European Union countries and the International Monetary Fund.

After taking office, Syria leader and Greece’s new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, immediately defied his nation’s creditors by rolling back the privatization of Greece’s largest seaport and its public power utility. Both were supposed to be sold off under the terms of Greece’s bailouts.

Tsipras also wants to cancel spending cuts and public-sector reforms earlier governments agreed to.

While generally opposed to “neoliberalism,” Katrougkalos said Syriza’s specific objection to the trade agreement had to do with its investor protection clause. This would allow companies to bring claims against a government if it breached the treaty.

While common to international trade agreements, including one the European Union negotiated with Canada two years ago, leftists believe the provision could lead to states being pressured into ignoring national environmental and labor laws as well as food standards.

Unanimous approval is required among European Union member states in order to ratify the treaty which the European Commission says would add €120 billion to the European economy and €90 billion to that of the United States.

Surveys show a majority of Greeks doesn’t share Syriza’s concerns. 61 percent is in favor of the proposed trade agreement.

According to the latest Eurobarometer poll, which is regularly conducted on behalf of the European Commission, there are only majorities in Austria and Germany opposed to the pact. This probably has more to do with resurgent anti-Americanism in both German-speaking countries due to recent spying revelations and the Austrians’ and Germans’ ambivalence about the East-West standoff with Russia in Ukraine than it does with widespread opposition to freer trade.

Members of American president Barack Obama’s Democratic Party are also wary of the treaty, fearing that expanding foreign access to especially food and fuel markets will cause job losses in their districts and states.