At a recent meeting in Birmingham speakers from Britain, Germany and the USA outlined the dangers to workers throughout the world from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
TTIP is described as a free trade and investment treaty between the EU and the USA. The reality is far more sinister. All negotiations take place in secret and started in July 2013 between US officials and the European Commission. It is not about removing tariffs as there aren’t many left. The negotiators want the discussions completed as soon as possible without any points scrutinised by the public; even elected politicians have no right to look at what is being discussed. The main aim is to remove any regulation that inhibits transnational corporations from maximising their profits. Any laws protecting labour rights (the few that remain), regulations on food safety, toxic chemicals, digital privacy and banking are to be scrapped.
The TTIP would act like a supranational state accelerating privatisation in vital areas such as education, health and social services. It enforces the right of foreign corporations to sue sovereign governments for reduced profits as a result of public policy decisions and claim eye-watering amounts of compensation.
The power to take on the nation state is enshrined in the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a bland title that raises transnational capital to the status of any nation state. The US insists on including ISDS in all bilateral investment treaties. Companies may bring claims for damages against a host country even if no contract between them and its government exists. Domestic courts can be ignored with claims heard before international arbitration tribunals. Domestic companies can change themselves into ‘foreign’ investors in order to acquire ISDS protection and sue their own government. The Arbitration Tribunals are above public scrutiny and in a real sense ‘above the law’. Corporate lawyers have a vested interest in ruling in favour of the corporations, and all tribunals sit in secret.
A German speaker talked of the link between TTIP and ‘lobbyism’ by multi-nationals, subverting the role of governments. She spoke of the real barrier to trade being currency speculation to the tune of 5.3 trillion dollars every day – which governments and multi-nationals have no intention of tackling, even though it is so far removed from real economic activity. The result is another inflation of a banking and debt bubble.
Last Saturday over a thousand people marched on the European Commission offices in London to protest against TTIP. More protests took place in Birmingham, Cambridge and Edinburgh.
The secret talks between the EU and US are backed by the 3 main parties. Labour as usual equivocates, but ultimately falls into line, despite some MPs’ discomfort over US healthcare’s intentions to bid for NHS contracts under the terms of the treaty. Opposition against TTIP is growing on both sides of the Atlantic when people see how seriously this can affect their lives. Health, environmental and social justice campaigners are joining with trade unions and consumer groups in the EU and USA to oppose this. Opposition in Britain is growing as more people are given the facts. There is precious little democracy left in our country. Interestingly, UKIP, for all its bluster about British sovereignty, does not oppose TTIP.