Saturday, 15 August 2015
TTIP puts our democracy in danger
TTIP stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It doesn't yet exist but negotiations, between the European Commission and the United States, are taking place now to create it. The aim is to turn these two huge economic areas into one great a free trade zone.
Well, I'm a Liberal and very much disposed towards free trade. However, there are several very serious problems related to TTIP. The main ones, to my mind, are:
1. As with any free trade area, what is permissible in one economy is permissible in the other. But the US's regulations to maintain high food standards are much laxer than those in the EU. For example, they use many growth hormones banned in the EU to fatten their cattle and pigs, permit over 80 pesticides which the EU bans, and grow genetically modified crops which the EU allows individual members to ban.
2. It is possible that TTIP will open up Europe's publicly provided services such as our NHS to yet further privatisation.
The argument in favour of TTIP is that it will create jobs, employment and growth. And you could argue that we've already accepted the pooling of our sovereignty with the other members of the EU, and thus sacrificed some of our ability to act independently, for the economic, political and social advantages we gain. However, whether it is wise to accept further pooling with such a massive economy as the US, with such very different standards on workers' rights, environmental protection, food safety and public health is highly questionable.
What in my view cannot be questioned is this third objection.
3. TTIP will introduce a system of dispute resolution called Investor-State Dispute Settlements, or ISDSs, These are operated by by tribunals entirely separate from the legal systems of the countries involved, and have the power to allow private companies to sue national governments if the companies believe that the governments have made regulations which interfere with their making of profits. ISDSs already exist in other contexts and the examples of their powers are bizarre. For example, the tobacco company Philip Morris is to sue the governments of both Australia and Uruguay for the loss of profits arising from anti-smoking regulations. In the context of the North Atlantic Free Trade Association, the government of Canada has been successfully sued for daring to stop the building of a quarry on the grounds that it would damage their environment.
In other words, ISDSs place the profit making interests of international businesses above the sovereignty of governments.
For 200 years or so (longer if you want to go back to Magna Carta) we have gradually wrested control of our societies from monarchs, aristocrats, generals, dictators and suchlike and implemented, albeit imperfectly, government of the people, for the people, by the people. We are now in the process of handing our sovereignty over to unelected private corporations.
Protests about TTIP are to be held throughout the EU (and possibly in the US as well) next Saturday, 22nd August. To sign the petitions click here. For details of how to take part in the action see https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/index.php/pages/486/