TTIP: Corporate secrets and influence
TTIP - Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - is, perhaps, the most spoken about secret right now. It is mostly being negotiated secretly between the EU and the US. Corporates love it, while critics think it puts profits before human rights; they have called for a day of action this Saturday.
TTIP's main advocates - governments and big business - believe that it is good for the economy, as it will allow easier movement of people and products between the EU and the US.
The European Commission estimates that TTIP will boost EU and US GDP by 0.5% and 0.4% respectively by 2027. Proponents also believe that it is a necessary response to the rise of of China and other new economic powers.
Critics - mainly NGOs and trade unions - believe that TTIP is dangerous. It is seen as an assault on democracy, as it will enable corporates to dictate the policies of democratically elected governments through the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), allowing companies to sue governments if their policies cause profit loss.
Uruguay was sued by the tobacco company Philip Morris after its anti-smoking campaign reduced smoking among its adult population from 40% to 23%.
Such cases take place before arbitration tribunals made up of corporate lawyers on an ad hoc basis. War on Want executive director John Hilary described them as "little more than kangaroo courts with a vested interest in ruling in favour of business".
TTIP might also lead to the privatisation of the NHS, as the American companies that run some NHS services might be able to sue the Government if it decides to reveres some of its health policies.
Food safety is another issue. TTIP might bring the EU food standards closer to the relaxed US standards about using chemicals - some of which can cause cancer.
European jobs moving to America due to lower labour standards and trade union rights and easing data privacy laws are other concerns.
TTIP is a serious issue and governments should be open about it. The fact that it is being negotiated in secret is a major concern in its own right.
Mohammed Samaana is a writer based in Belfast