Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Are we reaching the TTIPing point?

Andrew Fisher, author of The Failed Experiment ... and how to build  an economy that works, on the trade agreement that threatens us all

Fourteen years ago I read the excellent Captive State - The Corporate Takeover of Britain by George Monbiot. I was entering my final year of my undergraduate politics degree, and Monbiot's masterpiece (still his best book to date IMHO) was massively influential both on me and on many other young activists at the time.

Chapter ten of that book was the story of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). It confirmed everything I instinctively knew. This was the exposition of a conspiracy to subjugate democratic rights to corporate greed - and the politicians connived in it.

MAI was defeated by movements around the world, and an by an effective veto by the French. But attempts to resurrect the agenda piecemeal continued through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the proposed Transatlantic Economic Partnership.

Fast forward fourteen years and that agenda is back with a vengeance, newly branded as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The protagonists are the same, a corporate-driven agenda to elevate the right to make corporate profits above any democratic accountability, delivered by the US government and the European Union - pushed most enthusiastically by the UK government. For Clinton substitute Obama, for Blair substitute Cameron - different puppets with the same corporate paymasters.

Those attempting to cast this as the evil EU negotiating away our democratic rights have to concede that the greatest cheerleader for TTIP in the EU has been David Cameron, who claimed the deal would "bring £99 billion a year to the EU, giving an average family of four in the UK an extra £454 per year". A dubious claim presented without supporting evidence (refuted by WDM). If we look at the details of TTIP, they bear an uncanny resemblance to Cameron's agenda in government.

The proposals contained in TTIP would:
  • Remove regulatory barriers to trade - including environmental safeguards, labour standards (including trade union rights and health & safety), and food safety standards 
  • Liberalise procurement in a whole range of public services - effectively opening up the NHS and other areas to unrestricted privatisation by global corporations
  • Allow global corporations to sue governments if they believed their profits would be harmed by government decisions - with decisions made by a secret tribunal

This time a brilliant book, The Poverty of Capitalism, has been written in advance - outlining the corporate trade agreement agenda - and War on Want's John Hilary deserves huge credit (see our review here).

There is again a global coalition of campaigning organisations, activist groups, and trade unions organised to oppose the agreement, including War on Want, the World Development Movement, Friends of the Earth, the People's Assembly and UK Uncut. They also include the unions that fund Labour: Unite, Unison and GMB all vocally opposed, as are the influential non-affiliated campaigning unions NUT, PCS and UCU.

If Ed Miliband really opposed predatory capitalism, he would be shouting from the rooftops about the trampling of people's rights under the corporate jackboot that is TTIP. Yet the Labour leader and the frontbench have been silent.

So could the great redemption again come from France? If Hollande's repeated capitulations since his election are anything to go by then shouldn't place our oeufs in the French basket.

We are reaching the tipping point in the battle between capitalism and democracy. So ...

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