What is TTIP?
In secrecy and away from the front pages of the newspapers or the glare of TV cameras, bureaucrats and lawyers from the USA and the EU are negotiating a new trade deal which could spell disaster in many different ways. The deal is known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.
A threat to democracy, standards and jobs
TTIP is a deal that aims to remove ‘non-tariff barriers to trade’. There’s very little obstacle to trade between the EU and the US at present — tariffs are at an all-time low. But corporations, on both sides of the Atlantic, want to remove other rules and regulations that might be stopping them from making even bigger profits.
The prospects for countries in the global South are bleak. Many enjoy most favoured nation status in trading with the European Union, but this is threatened by TTIP. Worse will follow, as TTIP will become the global standard for trade deals in the future. The power shift to corporations will be echoed across the planet.
Safety regulations, workers’ rights, environmental protection rules and food standards regulations are all threatened by TTIP. All of these can and are seen by corporate interests as barriers to trade and profits. Corporations have a new way of imposing their will, called the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS), which is part of the TTIP deal.
ISDS is a legal system, run entirely by corporate lawyers, which allows corporations to sue governments if they think legislation will impede future profits. It is a system that has been implemented in other trade deals previously and we can see the injustices it brings:
- Tobacco giant Philip Morris has sued Australia for introducing plain packaging on cigarettes
- Philip Morris also sued Uruguay for simply printing a health warning on cigarette packets
- Waste and energy company Veolia sued Egypt for introducing a minimum wage
- Argentina was sued for freezing energy prices to protect consumers following the country’s financial collapse
But even removing ISDS from TTIP will not make it an acceptable deal.
Food and agricultural multinationals are spending more money than any other sector in lobbying for TTIP, US food giants want EU legislation removed on certain food safety rules – including the bans on chickens washed in chlorinated water and meat raised using certain growth hormones and additives.
If TTIP is agreed, health, education and water will each face being opened up to private companies. The chances of rolling back any privatisation of previously publicly owned entities will be seriously diminished.
An attack on society
Regulations on the financial sector introduced in the wake of the 2008 financial crash are also in the sights of big business, as are restrictions which protect the welfare of farm animals or protection for consumers’ data online.
TTIP is less of a negotiation about trade and more of a full frontal attack on society by transnational corporations wishing to impose their will on people both sides of the Atlantic.
We can win
But we can beat TTIP. We did it before in 1996 when leading industrialised nations pushed for agreement on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. The campaign against TTIP is gaining huge support and great momentum. A year ago, very few people had heard of TTIP. Now, over three million people signed a petition against the deal across Europe, and the French government has declared that any deal containing ISDS is unacceptable.
If we educate ourselves and those around us about the contents and the impacts of TTIP, if we continue to campaign in every quarter of society at every opportunity, we can beat TTIP.