What is TTIP?
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade deal being negotiated behind closed doors between the European Union and the United States, and currently on hold.
Although negotiations have been defeated at the moment (see below), similar trade deals continue to be priorities for EU and US governments – including the possibility of reviving TTIP itself, perhaps with another name.
A threat to democracy, the environment and jobs
Despite the name, TTIP wasn’t mainly about trading goods, but more about removing important safeguards for our health and allowing corporations to sue governments.
While TTIP was aimed at reducing barriers to trade between the US and the EU, there are already very few obstacles to such trade, with tariffs 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.
Safety regulations, workers’ rights, environmental protection rules and food standard regulations were threatened by TTIP, as they are often seen as obstacles to trade and profit.
For example, 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.
TTIP would also have entrenched ‘corporate court’ or ISDS, which gives greater power to corporations.
TTIP included ‘corporate courts’, technically known as Investor State Dispute Mechanism or ISDS. This allows foreign corporations to sue governments for passing regulations that could affect corporate profits, through an international arbitration process that completely bypasses our own national justice system. In practice, this means corporations would be able to sue Britain for doing almost anything they don’t like – environmental protection, regulating finance, renationalising public services, anti-smoking policies – you name it.
Corporate courts have been included in previous trade and investment deals where we can see the damage caused:
- public health: Cargill sued Mexico over a tax on sugary drinks; Ethyl sued Canada over a ban on MMT, which is a suspected neurotoxin, in petrol
- energy: Vattenfall sued Germany for deciding to phase out nuclear power; Lone Pine sued Quebec over a fracking moratorium
- employment: Veolia sued Egypt over the introduction of a minimum wage
If TTIP had been agreed, health, education and water could have been opened up to private companies. The chances of rolling back any privatisation of previously publicly-owned entities would be seriously diminished because governments could face being sued by the private companies, who could claim for future lost profits.
The problem for the global south
TTIP was bad news for countries in the global south too. TTIP, along with two other mega-trade deals, was designed to setthe global standard for trade deals everywhere. It is likely that smaller less powerful countries will be coerced into accepting the rules of the mega trade deals like TTIP in the future without having been part of the process that influenced the agreement in the first place.
Campaign success and next steps
In 2016 we won a big battle against TTIP, thanks to thousands of supporters like you and over 3.2 million of people from all across the EU who opposed the deal.
The end was heralded by French trade minister who declared in August 2016 "These negotiations are dead and France wants an end to them. There is no political support in France for these negotiations."
With ambiguity from the Trump administration over TTIP, as things stand there lacks the political will necessary to pull the negotiations process back on track.
But a defeat for TTIP does not mean everyone can relax. The EU is now pressurising the Trump administration in the US to come back to the negotiating table. In the UK, Theresa May is fawning over Trump in her rush to try to sign a US-UK deal. Such a deal is likely to be far worse than TTIP.
Now it is time to step up our campaign to make sure dangerous deals like TTIP (or worse) are not cooked up in the dark.
Take action: call for trade democracy in the UK
Photo: Jess Hurd