Courtesy of Young Greens:
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated in the US and EU between governments and corporations presents an unprecedented threat not only to food, labour and environmental standards but to democracy itself.
TTIP is a proposed ‘free trade’ agreement between the US and the EU. The negotiations around it are shrouded in secrecy, but the information that has been forced out shows that if successful, the agreement would lead to deregulation of what we eat, how we work, and increase the power that large corporations hold over national governments. TTIP is designed to benefit these corporations: the removal of tariffs and regulatory ‘barriers’ to trade and labour would allow them to maximise their profits, at the cost of workers and consumers. All reasons why Greens in both the UK and across Europe oppose this bosses’ charter.
The Center for Food Safety has already raised concerns about the potential for TTIP to establish a Regulatory Cooperation Council, which could result in ‘harmonisation’ of safety standards, meaning that food not meeting EU standards could be sold here anyway. Such products include chemically washed poultry, livestock treated with growth hormones, and genetically modified crops. These are allowed in the US, which adopts a ‘cost-benefit’ approach to food safety, balancing the interests of corporations against the safety of consumers, as opposed to the ‘precautionary principle’ used in the EU. A lobbyist for the US Council for International Business has admitted that ‘getting rid of the precautionary principle’ is a key aim of TTIP negotiations. Furthermore, such deregulation would apply not only to goods but to labour, allowing business to relocate to places – such as the US – where working standards are lower. This would result in huge job losses in Europe.
In addition to dangerous deregulation, TTIP also proposes to include the ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) mechanism. Already in action in several countries under the existing NAFTA (North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement), this allows corporations to directly sue governments for introducing legislation that reduces their profits. The effects of this have already been seen in Canada, where the Ethyl Corporation successfully sued the Canadian government for banning MMT, a neuro-toxic gasoline additive, resulting in a repeal of the ban. ISDS can also have disastrous environmental consequences, with a Swedish Energy company currently suing the German government for its decision to phase out nuclear energy.
This kind of legislation threatens the sovereignty of democratically elected governments and prioritises multinational corporations over the wellbeing of citizens. The dominance of big business in the TTIP negotiations is clear: in the US, the 30 working groups involved in the negotiation are made up of 90% private sector representatives, with civil society only being given 9% of the representation. On both sides of the Atlantic, elected parliamentarians are only allowed limited access to information about the negotiations, while around 600 ‘corporate advisors’ have full access to this information.
The only real parliamentary opposition to TTIP has come from the Green Party. In November 2013 Caroline Lucas tabled an Early Day Motion, raising concerns about TTIP and calling for negotiations to be frozen, and in February this year opposed TTIP when it was debated in Parliament. On Monday, Vince Cable and other members of the government will meet with big business to discuss the agreement. The Coalition government’s support for TTIP is not, of course, the first instance of them putting the interests of big business first: only last week, Friends of the Earth accused George Osborne of exacerbating climate change through tax breaks for oil companies. It is, however, the biggest ever attempt to hand power to global corporations at the expense of democratic states and their citizens, and it must be resisted.