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.”

TTIP: The Dirtiest Deal You’ve Never Heard Of

“The United States of America is pursuing controversial trade deals with both the EU and the Pacific Rim countries. But just why are these treaties being pushed through in suspicious haste and shrouded in secrecy?”


What is the TTIP?

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or ‘TTIP’, is an amalgamation of international agreements currently being negotiated by the European Union and the United States of America. It claims to pertain to the dismantling of trade barriers. The reality, however, is that there are very few trade barriers remaining between these two great blocs.

So what exactly will it address?

It aims to establish common regulation to fit both the European and American markets. Today, a company operating in Europe and America must tweak its product in order to conform to two differing sets of regulation. This process is expensive for multi-national corporations, which is why they are lobbying the TTIP negotiators. This trade deal is their effort to minimise – even eliminate – these differences in regulation.

But what kind of regulation would it seek to alter?

This eradication of differences in regulation essentially equates to the removal of EU safeguards regarding: product safety, consumer rights, food quality, labour rights and environmental protections.

So then what are the dangers of the TTIP?

Given the economic and political power of America’s multi-national corporations, the negotiation process will undoubtedly unfold as a “race to the bottom”, with the likely outcome forcing European submission to a system of American-standard regulation which would, of course, offer far less protection than our incumbent safeguards.

In the USA, for example, hormone-injected meat, cloned cattle, chlorinated chicken and genetic engineering are all common place. Each of these processes is currently outlawed by European law, but this be overturned with the ratification of the TTIP.

That explains the suspiciously secretive negotiations then, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Even more galling is the introduction of the Investor-State Dispute System (ISDS), a judicial system through which corporations are able to prosecute against governmental action that detrimentally affects corporate profits. The jury is composed of corporate lawyers, there is no public gallery nor independent representatives, no judicial review nor right of appeal. How very democratic.

How do we know about this?

Well, ISDS already exists courtesy of trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The governments of Canada, Australia and El Salvador have all been sued for introducing regulation to protect their citizens and environments on the basis that such efforts have negatively impacted the profits of certain corporations.

In Quebec, for example, where a referendum saw the extraction of shale gas outlawed, a fracking company was able to sue the Canadian government for $250million in lost anticipated profit. In Australia, Phillip Morris Tobacco is suing the government for $10billion in anticipated profits lost due to laws requiring plain packaging for cigarettes.

Worse still is the case brought before El Salvador where a mining company, that had been shutdown for poisoning the local water supply, was able to sue the government for $100million – or one half of the Central American nation’s annual budget!

In short then, the TTIP would render it impossible – even illegal – for a corporation not to be profitable. Nobody wants this dodgy agreement, nobody voted for it, and nobody could think it acceptable for governments to be prosecuted for protecting their citizens. This “free trade agreement” is a direct attack on democracy, and it must be opposed.

Please sign this petition to register your opposition to the TTIP.