Saturday, 22 November 2014

Update on TTIP

Andrew Fisher listens to War on Want's John Hilary at the Betty Sinclair Winter School in Fermanagh

TTIP is sold to us as response to global recession, but it's actually a political programme that dates back to 1990s.

The EU and the US meet behind closed doors alternately in Brussels and Washington. There is a 30 year ban on seeing the documentation relating to TTIP negotiations - and even MPs have no access to it.

They claim that TTIP will boost the UK economy by £10 billion a year and create jobs. But the figures claimed pre-NAFTA turned out to be bogus. Actually there was a net loss of jobs. And a leaked calculation says 1 million will lose jobs in EU and US as a result of TTIP.

TTIP represents the single biggest transfer of power to transnational business we have seen for a generation, and is seen as a template for all future trade deals

There are three main pillars of the proposed deal:
  1. Deregulation - there are very few tariff barriers between the EU and US, so TTIP gets 'beyond borders' and tries to harmonise labour rights, environmental standards. In the EU 1300 substances are  banned from cosmetics, but only 12 are in the US, which allows lead in lipstick. Similarly, GMOs and bovine growth hormone (found to be carcinogenic) are allowed in the US, but financial services standards are tighter in the US. A 'Regulatory Co-operation Council' would be formed as a living body as part of the treaty to vet any future regulatory proposals 
  2. Privatisation - this would open up local procurement in US - which currently allows for 'Buy America' and 'buy local' clauses; but in the UK would mean the opening up of the NHS and public services to US corporations too.
  3. ISDS mechanism - the Investor-State Dispute mechanism would give big business the same status as a nation state. Under ISDS decisions would not be made by tenured judges, but by appointed corporate lawyers instead; this power included in other bilateral trade agreements - which has resulted in Philip Morris suing the Australian government over plain packaging on cigarettes; Germany said from 2022 it will be nuclear free, now Swedish corporate suing Germany for 3.7bn euros of lost revenue; and Veolia sued the Egyptian government for raising minimum wage.

Can we defeat it?

The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) was defeated in the 1990s. They tried again through the WTO, and again were defeated. The political breadth of opposition to TTIP is much wider than ever before in opposition.

Once negotiations are finalised, the European Parliament will get the first vote. Then it will go to national parliaments for approval.

All major British trade unions are against - and the TUC has position of "outright opposition". The ETUC is in favour as are some Nordic trade union confederations, but most other national confederations are against including the German DGB. In the European Parliament, the Left and Green blocs are against, while the Social Democratic group (PES) so far in favour.

The French government has recently said it will not sign TTIP with ISDS included. The US government wanted it through by end of 2015; and so one option the US is looking at is to take a compromise 'bank what they can' by the end of next year - and then come back for more in the future.

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