TTIP Defeated; CETA Next

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is seemingly dead in the water, according to the German Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel who admitted this week that “negotiations with the United States have de facto failed”. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has also called for a “clear halt” to negotiations, and it now appears that the infamously insidious and anti-democratic treaty has been defeated.

Gabriel divulged that in 14 rounds of talks on the pact, the two sides have not agreed on a single item of the 27 chapters discussed, and he joins France’s Foreign Trade Minister Matthias Fekl in stating that the delay is the result of the United States’ unwillingness to make concessions as the EU has. Speaking to French radio, Fekl said that the agreement is “a bad deal”, and that “Europe is offering a lot and we are getting very little in return”.

It would be disingenuous, however, to claim that TTIP’s demise is the result of anything but unparalleled opposition. Indeed, almost 3.5 million Europeans signed a petition to oppose it, while a protest in Berlin last year drew 250,000 people. I too take some pride in this victory given that my video, which has a humble 45,000 views to date, may perhaps have played a minor role in the success of this campaign. Yet, while people power wins for now, another menacingly anti-democratic treaty is pending.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, is ostensibly a deal between the EU and Canada awaiting only final approval, which could yet arrive before Britain leaves the EU. Its purpose is to ease trade by reducing regulation on business through “regulatory cooperation”, or the removal of legislation that protects us from corporate exploitation. In practice, it would weaken our standards of food safety, workers’ rights and environmental regulation on the basis that they are “obstacles to trade”.

Like TTIP, CETA would allow any corporation operation in the EU or Canada, wherever its headquarters might be, to sue governments before an international tribunal whenever they fear that their “future anticipated profits” might be affected by new laws, preventing parliaments on both sides of the Atlantic from legislating to further protect their people.

In addition, the “ratchet clause” would “lock in” current levels of privatisation so that, for example, a government wanting to bring the railways or certain NHS services back into public ownership would be breaking the terms of the agreement, and exposed to a tribunal before a court of corporate lawyers. CETA, which claims to be a trade treaty, is in fact an attempt to circumscribe democracy on behalf of corporate power.

This is not a new phenomenon. Working in secret, and without a democratic mandate, corporate lobbyists and their captive governments have been seeking to impose such treaties for over 20 years. The Multilateral Agreement on Investment, like TTIP, was also destroyed by massive public protests in 1998. If parliaments reject CETA, they will return once more with the Trade in Services Agreement, which the EU is negotiating with the US and 21 other nations. It has already been endorsed by a Department for International Trade stating that: “The UK remains committed to an ambitious Trade in Services Agreement.”