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Anti-TTIP petition draws one million signatures

Opponents of a massive free-trade agreement between the US and Europe have been hoping to pressure Brussels into scrapping the deal for over a year. Now a petition against the pact has attracted its millionth signature.

An online petition criticizing the ongoing trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States surpassed one million signatures on Thursday - a key milestone for opponents who hope to block Brussels from going through with the deal.

The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would create the world's largest free-trade and investment agreement, but critics are worried the policy would override local laws and play into the hands of corporate interests.

The STOP TTIP coalition, comprised of 320 NGOs and activists from 24 member states, said it has collected more than 1 million signatures over the span of two months in its online petition, part of its European Citizens' Initiative.

The petition calls on the EU to abandon TTIP and a similar pact with Canada, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Under EU regulations, an initiative that garners the support of 1 million people pushes the European Commission (EC) to review the policy and to hold a hearing in the European Parliament.

"This is especially embarrassing for the European Commission as it has tried repeatedly to block any citizen's involvement in the way these treaties are being negotiated and what the outcome should be," said John Hilary, a member of the coalition.

Although EC President Jean-Claude Juncker considers TTIP an essential part of his five-year agenda, he has promised to address opponents' concerns of the trade agreement.

el/cjc (AFP, dpa)

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