Monday, December 1, 2014

The meaning of TTIP

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a free trade and investment treaty being negotiated in secret between the European Union and the USA. TTIP negotiations were first announced by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address of February 2013, and negotiations between European Commission and US officials began that July. The talks are to be rushed through swiftly with no details entering the public domain, so they can be concluded before the peoples of Europe and the USA find out the scale of the TTIP threat.

Officials accept TTIP is not really to stimulate trade by removing tariffs between the EU and USA, as they are already minimal. Its aim, they admit, is to remove regulatory “barriers” which restrict the profits possible by both US and EU based transnational corporations, “barriers” that are actually standards and regulations important to us, such as labour rights, restrictions on GMOs and food safety rules, limits on the use of toxic chemicals, fracking, digital privacy laws, and financial and banking safeguards meant to prevent another bank-led financial crisis. TTIP also seeks to open public services and government procurement contracts to transnational corporations, threatening a wave of privatizations in sectors like health and education. These costs to us could not be higher.

Worst of all, TTIP gives investors a right to sue sovereign states, in customized private tribunals, for loss of profits from any of their governments' decisions that reduce corporate profits. This ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) puts transnational capital on the level of national states, thereby challenging or destroying popular democracy in both the EU and USA, and instituting a corporatocracy as the NWO!

So TTIP is not a negotiation between trading partners, but an attempt by transnational corporations to deregulate markets on either side of the Atlantic. EU and US citizens are equally concerned at the threats posed by TTIP, and civil society groups, trade unions, academics, parliamentarians, and others are uniting to prevent pro-capitalist bureaucrats from signing away valuable social and environmental standards. Join this resistance in an existing union or local campaign, or by starting one.

Free trade is an ideology of the powerful and can be a very effective means of engaging in lobbying. Critics are right to seek to prevent TTIP. For the real danger of TTIP is beyond well-known headings such as chlorinated chicken, hormone-treated meat and GM food—the attempt of commercial lobbyists to establish undemocratic procedures which would give corporations substantial influence, on two continents and thus worldwide.

A Warning From Canada

The free trade agreement with Canada has been under negotiation since 2009 and has now been largely completed—but not published. The EU Commission probably fears that the text of the agreement will be met with so much public outrage that TTIP negotiations would fail immediately and permanently.

The EU Commission has already experienced twice how dangerous public outrage can be—the multilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was blocked in 2012, as was the international investment agreement MAI in 1996. Thus, the EU Commission is silent on what it has negotiated with Canada. Until now, all we have are rough summaries and some excerpts that have been leaked. But even this meagre amount of information is sufficient to alert experts.

A principal witness is the Canadian lawyer Howard Mann, who has been dealing with investor protection agreements for more than 15 years and has co-operated with more than 75 governments on issues of investment clauses. In December 2013, Mann was commissioned by the Canadian parliament to assess the free trade agreement with Europe. His assessment was devastating—This agreement was the most “investor-friendly” contract the Canadian government had ever negotiated.

It can thus only be concluded that we cannot trust the EU Commission’s assurances that it wants to restrict investor protection. Instead, it is presumably going to enter into agreements which go far beyond prior agreements.

The agreement with Canada is, however, not merely a blueprint of what could be expected from TTIP. It is worse. The German Macroeconomic Policy Institute (IMK) warned that TTIP would not even be necessary, should the agreement with Canada be ratified. For the US and Canada are both members of the NAFTA free trade zone. Put simply, a branch in Canada will be sufficient to rely on the investor protection clauses.

Nothing speaks in favour of free trade agreements, ( be it with Canada or the US. The risks are enormous, and the benefits minimal.