The FT reports that the EU has been hit by a stinging public backlash against its landmark trade deal with the US, making it increasingly unlikely that the accord will be concluded this year.
Brussels last year launched a public consultation to gauge popular sentiment about the most contentious part of the deal: clauses mapping out the rights of foreign investors to sue governments in international tribunals, bypassing national courts.
The European Commission received almost 150,000 responses to its survey – more than 100 times more than any previous consultation on trade – and admitted on Tuesday that the majority of respondents expressed fears that the deal’s investment clauses would undermine national sovereignty.
“The consultation clearly shows that there is huge scepticism against the [investment] instrument,” said Cecilia Malmström, the EU trade commissioner.
MEP Molly added her thoughts to this debate – including one concern:
“The Cornish pasty is one of many iconic British food products that currently enjoy special regional protection, but could be threatened by a flood of American imitations under TTIP.
However, we should be far more worried about what might lurk inside our pasty if TTIP is agreed. Beef from intensively reared livestock, treated with growth hormones and genetically modified potatoes could find their way under the crust, not to mention the lower animal welfare and environmental standards so prevalent in the US.” More on this story
Julian’s four page paper may be read here: http://neweranetwork.info/reports/closing-the-gate-on-gmo-and-the-criminal-transatlantic-trade-agreement/.
It ends: All groups and organizations that care about retaining a largely GMO Free Europe and the consumption of genuine, healthy food – in tandem with the ecological farming methods that produce it – had better jump to the task of stopping TTIP, and its related trading blocks, from destroying the last line of defence against a complete corporate take-over of the food chain.
Join the resistance! Check the internet and join one of the groups in your area that are committed to blocking TTIP and CETA.
James – in an article originally published in the Friend, asks, “Why bother about TTIP?”
It would give corporations an exclusive form of justice, enabling them to sue governments should their profits be threatened.
- reduce social, environment and food-safety regulation;
- open up public services such as the NHS for privatisation;
- prevent government from returning them to the public sector;
- eliminate preferential treatment for local suppliers;
- weaken workers’ rights;
- and curtail the regulation of banks.
The Quaker Council for European Affairs has strongly condemned the TTIP.
So what is it?
The European Commission says: “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. It aims at removing trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US.
“On top of cutting tariffs across all sectors, the EU and the US want to tackle barriers behind the customs border – such as differences in technical regulations, standards and approval procedures. These often cost unnecessary time and money for companies who want to sell their products on both markets. For example, when a car is approved as safe in the EU, it has to undergo a new approval procedure in the US even though the safety standards are similar. The TTIP negotiations will also look at opening both markets for services, investment, and public procurement. They could also shape global rules on trade.”
The harmonisation of regulations causes concern. It seems likely, for example, that the more rigorous safety standards in Europe would be reduced in order to harmonise with lower standards in the USA. This could, among other things, open the floodgates to growth hormones in meat, chicken washed in chlorine and pesticides harmful to bees. TTIP deals with social and environmental regulations from the point of view of business alone without taking into account the affect on society or nature. Corporations could determine aspects of government policy.
“Extrajudicial tribunals comprised of three private attorneys” would judge disputes using the ISDS (Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement) formula to impose fines, with no right of appeal. QCEA says it “completely rejects the inclusion of ISDS as part of the TTIP . . . We consider that the existing national judicial structures in both the US and the EU provide adequate, unbiased, and democratically sound legal systems.”
ISDS, obviously, appeals to corporations and their shareholders but it is less clear why any government should support it since it would reduce their freedom to legislate in the public’s interest.
ISDS has been used in other bilateral trade agreements. For example, Egypt has been sued for increasing the minimum wage; Slovakia for attempting to bring health insurance back into the public sector; Canada for refusing fracking rights in Quebec; Germany for deciding to phase out nuclear energy; Australia and Uruguay for introducing plain-pack cigarettes; El Salvador for protecting its water from contamination by gold mines; Vermont is for requiring GM foods to be labelled.
QCEA refers to the ‘chill effect’: “governments could potentially change policy to suit the preferences of big business rather than risk losing large sums of tax-payers’ money, even if the claim is potentially frivolous.” For example New Zealand has decided not to go ahead with plain-pack cigarettes due Australia’s experience. The threat of huge compensation claims could make it impossible for any future British government to stop the further privatisation of the NHS. And finance? “ISDS would empower the world’s largest banks to launch investor-state claims against US and EU financial regulations, which could chill regulators’ resolve to enact the bold financial stability measures needed to prevent another crisis.”
Our government claims that TTIP would enhance growth. QCEA says, “The stated purpose of the proposed Free Trade Agreement is to increase incomes for citizens in both the EU and the US. In this situation, the profits will most likely go to those who are already wealthy, the investors . . . giving large multinational corporations an advantage over Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) . . . The potential cost to governments is enormous.” During recent decades, growth has led to stagnant wages and spiraling inequality.
There is some light on the horizon. Germany and Austria have said that they will not support TTIP unless the ISDS mechanism is removed. Also, in response to widespread protests, the European Commissioner stated: “My Commission will not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes. The rule of law and the principle of equality before the law must also apply in this context”. However, many governments, headed by the UK, are challenging him.
Even without ISDS being included, the remaining provisions of this trade deal could greatly damage public services, the environment and health & safety. The full proposals were not published until the end of the year though implementation is scheduled for 2015. The situation is urgent.
If you also feel strongly please write to your MP and support at least one of the many NGOs that oppose the proposal.
google: ‘ttip wiki’ or ‘qcea’s background paper’ or ‘qcea’s model answers’.