Mel Strickland explains what TTIP is and why we oppose it, and unite with others fighting for a better world

 World Development Movement will host at workshop at Reclaim the Power on TTIP on Saturday 16 August – see our Programme:

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, is a free trade agreement between the US and the EU, currently being negotiated on behalf of EU citizens by the European Commission. If it goes ahead it will be the biggest bilateral trade deal ever – the US and EU combined constitute about half of the global economy. TTIP will have permanent and far reaching implications for government procurement, public services (including the NHS), finance, food, chemicals, the environment, climate change regulation, data protection laws, to name a few. Many argue that TTIP is not about free trade at all, but rather an attack by capital to prise open markets and deregulate, further entrenching neoliberalism.

TTIP aims

The main aims of TTIP – as explained by a Parliament briefing – are to increase trade and investment by reducing tariffs, aligning regulations and standards, increasing protection for overseas investors, and improving access to government procurement markets by overseas providers. 1 The improved investor protection is to be achieved through the ‘investor state dispute settlement’ – which will give foreign companies a right to take legal cases directly against nation states if those companies believe they have suffered expropriation or discrimination. It effectively puts companies on the same legal footing as nation States. 2 The ambition of TTIP in fact goes beyond the relationship between EU and US – its purpose is to impose global rules on trade – as the European Commission President Barroso put it in a speech in the US earlier this year:

“TTIP should become the economic pillar of the EU and US alliance. It should be our joint attempt to shape a fast changing world and to set the standards of the future. It should act as a platform to project shared EU-U.S. values worldwide with regard to open markets and rule of law.”3

That’s an audacious comment.

‘Regulatory harmonisation’

One of the ways the US and EU plan to deliver on ‘regulatory haromisation’ (which I understand to mean ‘lowest regulatory standards’, in line with the focus on improving conditions for business), is through the creation of a ‘Regulatory Co-operation Council.’ This Council would be made up of representatives from US and EU regulatory authorities.4 Due to the extreme secrecy of the negotiations, not much is known about how this would actually work. However, President Barosso in a speech earlier this year confirms that regulatory cooperation is about making EU and US regulation ‘compatible’ and emphasises “This is what business expects from us. This is what we should deliver.”5 To state the obvious, this seems to be a clear signal that the trade deal is being driven by business, not by Parliamentarians who have the public interest in mind. US regulations are generally lower than EU regulations, and it seems disingenuous to suggest that US regulations can be made compatible with EU ones without the EU accepting lower regulations (since the whole thrust of the deal is to remove obstacles to profit, it’s not likely to be the other way around). Civil society organisations have also stated that such an organisation is unlikely to place high priority on environmental standards and is likely to undermine the ability of States to take measures to tackle climate change. 6

Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)

Some examples of how the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism works in practice in other free trade agreements include Swedish energy company Vattenfall taking legal proceedings against Germany for €3.7bn under the Energy Charter Treaty, following Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power. 7 Another example is tobacco company Philip Morris taking proceedings against Australia following its decision to pass legislation on the plain packaging of cigarettes. 8 Under other bilateral trade treaties, Philip Morris is also suing Uruguay and Thailand for similar measures those States have taken to improve public health and reduce the numbers of people becoming addicted to smoking. 9 A further example is company Lone Pine Resources suing Canada over Quebec’s decision to pass a moratorium on fracking. In all cases, the sums demanded for lost profits and future lost profits range from the tens of millions of dollars, to billions, enough to cripple smaller countries and cause even wealthy nations significant financial loss. The ISDS will also have a ‘chilling’ effect on legislators, making them more cautious about passing laws that could lead to threats of legal action, even when there’s a clear public interest in doing so.

‘Civil Society Dialogue’

TTIP is being negotiated in secret from citizens. They rely on leaks to get an idea of what’s actually happening behind the closed doors.

The vast majority of the stakeholders feeding into TTIP negotiations are powerful corporate interests. For example a ‘civil society dialogue’ was established by the European Commission, and a meeting was held in January 2014. The representatives from ‘civil society’ at the meeting were largely business and lobby groups, including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI – one of the most powerful business lobby groups in the UK), the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers, the European Dairy Association, the Industrial Ethanol Association and the European Petroleum Industry Association, to name a few.10

In the UK, an All Party Parliamentary Group on EU-US Trade and Investment was established, and the Secretariat to that group is BritishAmerican Business, 11 which describes itself as “the leading transatlantic business organization, dedicated to helping companies connect and build their business on both sides of the Atlantic.” 12 This deal is sewn up!

 TTIP, the NHS and public services

There is some public awareness regarding the effect of TTIP on the NHS. With an annual budget of £100bn, the NHS represents the biggest public prize for investors. But in fact the public sector generally is in danger from TTIP. This is because TTIP will affect all areas of government spending. Business interests are keen for a ‘negative list’ of services to be covered by TTIP, and the EU Commission is open to this. 13 This would mean that all public services would be within scope of TTIP, unless specifically excluded. TTIP, if transnational business gets its way, would generally facilitate private foreign companies to access government contracts. We can stop this.

Reclaim the Power supports a broad campaign to stop TTIP and to build a fair, sustainable world. Building on the success of a national demo in July, WDM will host a workshop on TTIP on Saturday 16 August at the Reclaim the Power camp.

1 See: Parliament briefing note:

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