The US/EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – TTIP (called the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement in the US -TAFTA) for which negotiations are going ahead fast, will affect all of us.
It is not about trade.
TTIP has all the usual inclusions of a free trade deal
– tariff tax reductions,
– service liberalisations with rights for service investors
– strengthened corporate Intellectual Property rights
But the main part of this trade deal is ‘regulatory harmonisation’, that is regulatory frameworks of the US and the EU, across the board, brought into sync.
As this is a corporate deal, primarily on behalf of transnational banking services, there is only one way for regulation to go in this process – to the most corporate friendly, lax level. This is indeed a way to undermine environmental, labour and social protections – called ‘trade irritants’ in ��tradespeak’.
What’s at stake?
The EU’s higher standards on food safety, chemical safety, climate change (EU Fuel Quality Directive has already been abandoned in preparation), data protection, public service models (public broadcasting?) all stand to be degraded.
Conversely, as the US now has stronger financial services regulation than the EU, the EU, on the City of London’s behalf, is insisting that financial services are included in the deal, so these regulations can be downgraded too.
Transnational firms can use international trade deals such as TTIP to undermine the regulations they want to avoid in their own state.
Where ‘harmonisation’ is not possible, there will be Mutual Recognition (accepting each other’s standards), which is at least as dangerous.
And an ongoing mechanism, a Regulatory Co-operation Committee, will allow for a ‘living agreement’, with these processes continuing, overriding states legislation, on, into the future.
How will this be enforced?
A main aspect of the TTIP is investor state dispute settlement (ISDS), allowing corporations to sue governments for any changes to regulation they don’t like, i.e. to sue for the loss of future profits.
Where ISDS is already in place in other agreements around the world, it is leading to huge pay-outs from the state to corporations, or else to the legislative ‘chill’, whereby governments are pulling back from legislating for fear of being sued.
This means corporations are effectively controlling governments permanently, as the commitments made in trade deals are intended to be permanent.
The negotiations on this deal are proceeding with unprecedented speed, but public awareness is growing fast too. There is co-ordinated civil society action between EU and US groups and public meetings in London on what the TTIP will affect: the NHS, food (including GM), fracking and the environment. (Food/TTIP 6.30 Monday 17th March, Unite building, Holborn). .
It is acknowledged that new regulation is the easiest to ‘harmonise’, and the NHS has already harmonised with the US corporate-benefit public health model in the Health and Social Care Act (2012).
The Act is national legislation – which could be reversed. However, when the provisions of the Act, notably the opening of investment opportunities to transnational and foreign corporations, are committed to the TTIP, these provisions will become irreversible, however disastrous the effects.
There will be a 38 degrees petition campaign in the coming weeks calling for a broad exemption of the NHS from the TTIP, backed by public statements from major organisations.
The TTIP negotiating texts are secret – even though this deal affects 850m people. But enough documents are being leaked to expose the true nature of the agreement.
A 12-country Transpacific Partnership (TPP) deal, with similar aims and inclusions, is being attempted in parallel, and similarly resisted. Documents from this are also being leaked.
This deal is being pushed through by secrecy, spin – usually about ‘jobs and growth’ – and technical trade language. It’s important to crack through all of these with real information about what TTIP will mean.