(Originally published 4 Dec 2014, on previous Sustainable Wales blog)
Why would a million people sign a petition against TTIP ? - here are some of the issues...
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a comprehensive free trade and investment treaty currently being negotiated – in secret – between the European Union and the USA. - War on Want
The main goal of TTIP is to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. As a bi-lateral trade agreement, TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. It is, as John Hilary, Executive Director of campaign group War on Want, said: “An assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”
Since before TTIP negotiations began last February, the process has been secretive and undemocratic. This secrecy is on-going, with nearly all information on negotiations coming from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests. - Independent
The EU official position on TTIP is:
- TTIP is designed to drive growth and create jobs.
- Independent research shows that TTIP could boost:
- the EU's economy by €120 billion;
- the US economy by €90 billion;
- the rest of the world by €100 billion
Because the EU-US trade relationship is already the biggest in the world – every day we trade goods and services worth €2 billion, every trade barrier we remove could result in significant economic gains.
An independent report suggests that an ambitious agreement could result in millions of euros of savings to companies and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
It's expected that every year an average European household would gain €545, as our economy would be boosted by 0.5% of GDP, or €120 billion annually, once fully implemented.
The extra economic growth will benefit everyone; boosting trade is a good way of boosting our economies by creating increased demand and supply without having to increase public spending or borrowing.
Six key areas of concern (The Independent Voices)
1 The NHS
Public services, especially the NHS, are in the firing line. One of the main aims of TTIP is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could essentially mean the privatisation of the NHS.
The European Commission has claimed that public services will be kept out of TTIP. However, according to the Huffington Post, the UK Trade Minister Lord Livingston has admitted that talks about the NHS were still on the table.
2nd Dec BBC:
2 Food and environmental safety
TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients. By contrast, the EU allows virtually no GM foods. The US also has far laxer restrictions on the use of pesticides. It also uses growth hormones in its beef which are restricted in Europe due to links to cancer. US farmers have tried to have these restrictions lifted repeatedly in the past through the World Trade Organisation and it is likely that they will use TTIP to do so again.
The same goes for the environment, where the EU’s REACH regulations are far tougher on potentially toxic substances. In Europe a company has to prove a substance is safe before it can be used; in the US the opposite is true: any substance can be used until it is proven unsafe. As an example, the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics; the US just 12.
3 Banking regulations
TTIP cuts both ways. The UK, under the influence of the all-powerful City of London, is thought to be seeking a loosening of US banking regulations. America’s financial rules are tougher than ours. They were put into place after the financial crisis to directly curb the powers of bankers and avoid a similar crisis happening again. TTIP, it is feared, will remove those restrictions, effectively handing all those powers back to the bankers.
Remember ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)? It was thrown out by a massive majority in the European Parliament in 2012 after a huge public backlash against what was rightly seen as an attack on individual privacy where internet service providers would be required to monitor people’s online activity. Well, it’s feared that TTIP could be bringing back ACTA’s central elements, proving that if the democratic approach doesn’t work, there’s always the back door. An easing of data privacy laws and a restriction of public access to pharmaceutical companies’ clinical trials are also thought to be on the cards.
The EU has admitted that TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower. It has even advised EU members to draw on European support funds to compensate for the expected unemployment.
Examples from other similar bi-lateral trade agreements around the world support the case for job losses. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico caused the loss of one million US jobs over 12 years, instead of the hundreds of thousands of extra that were promised.
TTIP’s biggest threat to society is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.
ISDSs are already in place in other bi-lateral trade agreements around the world and have led to such injustices as in Germany where Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing the German government for billions of dollars over its decision to phase out nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Here we see a public health policy put into place by a democratically elected government being threatened by an energy giant because of a potential loss of profit. Nothing could be more cynically anti-democratic.
There are around 500 similar cases of businesses versus nations going on around the world at the moment and they are all taking place before ‘arbitration tribunals’ made up of corporate lawyers appointed on an ad hoc basis, which according to War on Want’s John Hilary, are “little more than kangaroo courts” with “a vested interest in ruling in favour of business.”
David Cameron has pledged to put "rocket boosters" behind plans for an EU-US free trade deal.
The UK prime minister said EU and US leaders had met and all agreed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) "is a deal we want".
Speaking at the G20 summit, he said arguments against TTIP were "weak" and fears over the NHS were "nonsense".
Many opponents are concerned about TTIP giving firms power to sue governments if they are hit by policy changes.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, has called for the NHS to be excluded from the deal.
TTIP at 3:48
Resources, more information
Plaid Cymru debate on trade and commerce (BBC Democracy Live)
A short briefing on the background, negotiation process and sticking points of the proposed EU-US free trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. (UK Parliamentary briefing)
Friends of the Earth - hidden costs of EU trade deals (Report) This report compiles all publicly available data on investor-state dispute settlement cases taken against EU member states since 1994. It highlights the irrefutable attack on recent EU accession countries and the environment, as well as the cost this system has already had on EU taxpayers and European democracy.