At a meeting in Derby on Wednesday 8th January, 2015 we heard a very clear presentation on the implications for us if TTIP becomes law. The meeting was organised by Derby Peoples Assembly and Derby Trades Union Council. The speaker was John Hilary, Director of War on Want. John explained he has worked for the past 20 years in the international development and human rights sector.
John said that although TTIP is being promoted as a way of getting out of recession and recovering from the financial crisis of 2008, the ideas actually started back in 1990 with the Trans-Atlantic Business Diologue when big executives got together to sweep away barriers that stopped their profits. He also said that ‘Austerity’ was not a recent policy but was part of a long term engineering programme.
The intention to launch TTIP negotiations was first announced by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address in February 2013, and the first round of negotiations took place between European Commission and US officials in July of the same year. The aim is to rush through the talks as swiftly as possible with no details entering the public domain, in the hope that they can be concluded before the peoples of Europe and the USA find out the true scale of the TTIP threat. It was hoped to finish plans by this year, 2015, as next year the US Presidential Elections take place so America won’t be able to deal with negotiations in election year.
TTIP is being negotiated ‘on our behalf’ by unelected European officials. Even our MP’s don’t know – and aren’t allowed to know – what’s being negotiated away.
It will cost at least one million jobs. It will pave the way for the introduction of genetically modified food into Europe. It will irreversibly extend the privatisation of key public services such as the NHS and it will give US corporations the power to sue the UK and other states for loss of profits when these governments introduce public policies designed to protect their citizens.
It is based on three pillars:
• Power to sue host governments – Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)
De-regulation – John explained that TTIP is not a traditional trade agreement designed to reduce tariffs between economic partners. Tariffs between the EU and US are already at minimal levels. The stated aim of TTIP is to remove regulatory barriers which restrict the profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.
The worry is that these ‘barriers’ are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations such as labour rights, food safety rules (including restrictions of GM food), regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and even new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.
John explained that the EU works on a ‘precautionary principle’ – the onus is on the corporation to prove a chemical is safe or it will be banned. In America it is different. There, the onus is on the government to prove something is unsafe before it can be banned. To highlight this difference, in the cosmetics industry there are 1300 banned substances in the EU. In America only 12 substances are banned.
If TTIP is adopted, then the EU would be forced to lower its standards in food safety to the US level.
• In America you can’t chose what food you eat. 90% of beef in America contains growth hormones and 70% of processed food contains genetically modified ingredients.
• Environmental regulations would be harmonised and reduced to US levels allowing a US-style fracking boom in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
Privatisation – There is grave concern at the recent confirmation that health services, education, postal services and sewerage services are all included in the TTIP negotiations, with only audio-visual services (at the insistence of the French government) excluded. TTIP will open up our public services and government contracts to competition from multinational corporations and would make privatisation of the NHS irreversible in the future. (See below for information about a meeting organised by NHS Campaign Groups in February)
Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – TTIP would enable huge multinational corporations to sue governments for loss of profits resulting from public policy decisions. It would allow a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of parliament and destroy our legal protections.
This is already happening in relation to existing treaties. For example:
• Swedish energy company, Vattenfall, is suing the German government for 3.7 billion Euros over the country’s decision to phase out nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
• The French company, Veolia, is suing the Egyptian government for loss of profit as a result of the country’s decision to raise the minimum wage.
Good News – The good news is that there has been huge uproar about these plans. Thanks to massive people-powered campaigns across Europe, the European Commission was forced to suspend negotiations on ISDS at the beginning of 2014 and conduct a public consultation. A record 150,000 people took part in the consultation – including War on Want supporters and Green Party members – and the overwhelming answer was ‘no’, we don’t want companies to be handed these destructive powers. Fifty groups in Britain have signed up to the NoTTIP coalition – including all the largest trade unions, social justice groups, environmental campaigners and of course, the Green Party.
Bad News – Unfortunately, despite this, the European Commission has confirmed its intention to press forward regardless and to use TTIP to introduce the controversial new powers and the British government is hell bent on getting TTIP agreed. David Cameron calls the deal a “once in a generation” opportunity which will create ‘growth and jobs’.
What we can do? – At the heart of it, TTIP will lead to a shift in the values upon which our society is based. The movement against TTIP is growing, but for it to succeed all the groups in society who are threatened by this corporate power grab need to be mobilised. Some suggestions:
• Attend a meeting “TTIP and the attack on the NHS” – Tuesday 17 February 7.30pm in St Peter’s Church Hall, St Peter’s Street, Derby. Organised by NHS Campaign groups, supported by People’s Assembly. Will TTIP mean the wholesale privatisation of the NHS? John Hilary, Director of War On Want, will be speaking again along with an NHS Speaker.
• Local Councils – A city council in the German town of Erkrath unanimously declared its opposition to TTIP. This follows the initiative by hundreds of French municipalities to declare themselves TTIP-free zones. It was suggested at the meeting that we might press for Derby City Council to declare themselves a TTIP-free zone.
• May 7 Election – Push TTIP up the agenda by contacting candidates, sharing our concerns and asking them where they stand.
• European Parliament – contact MEPs – John suggested that many MEPs are not fully aware of all the implications.
• Small Businesses – contact the Small Business Federation to find out their views and get them involved.
• Young People – The effects on the lives of the young and underprivileged could be phenomenal. Mass youth resistance is needed.
We need to keep building the movement against TTIP because we can win.
Jean Macdonald Green Party Activist
http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/ttip – sign the European Citizen’s Initiative against TTIP and CETA
http://www.waronwant.org/news/latest-news/18256-ttip-the-fight-is-on-for-2015 video of John speaking short presentation at seminar in Stockholm
http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18196-ttip-will-cost-one-million-jobs-official download the TTPI myth buster
http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18078-what-is-ttip download a booklet written by John Hilary
http://www.nottip.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TTIP-Newspaper-Issue-02-04.pdf read a copy of The #noTTIP Times, October 2014