The European Union (EU) and the United States recently announced that the fourth round of negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will take place in Brussels in March.
The EU-U.S. talks for the TTIP started in July 2013. The two partners aim to remove trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the two sides.
The deal is expected to result in more jobs and economic growth for both sides. A study by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London forecast an ambitious and comprehensive deal could see the EU gaining 119 billion euros (161 billion U.S. dollars) a year once fully implemented.
In addition, EU exports to the United States could rise by 28 percent, earning exporters of goods and services an extra 187 billion euros (254 billion dollars) annually.
According to the research center, consumers will benefit too with an average family of four living in the EU being 545 euros (740 U.S. dollars) better off every year.
But the TTIP negotiations have raised criticism from civil society groups, members of the European Parliament as well as companies.
The most-heard criticism about the negotiations is the perceived lack of transparency of the negotiation process. Civil society representatives and parliamentarians feel that they have inadequate access to negotiation documents.
Another concern is that TTIP might lower environmental standards and consumer protection.
Although the European Commission has repeatedly promised civil society that the TTIP negotiations will not lead to a decrease of environmental protection, health and safety standards and consumer rights, civil society groups on both sides of the Atlantic are increasingly feeling uneasy.