Belfast Telegraph

TTIP: Some important controls could be taken away from you if new EU and US partnership is agreed

By Steven Agnew

If the Government came to you tomorrow and asked you to sign away the right to prevent corporations from contaminating your water supplies, would you agree? 

If they asked you to sign a form allowing companies to sue the government for stopping them selling untested drugs, would you give them the go-ahead?  How about letting a company overturn our health regulations?  Or letting companies rather than elected representatives, decide what health-warnings go on cigarette packs?  No?  Well, that may be why they haven’t asked you.

In effect this is what could happen if the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) is agreed between the EU and the US in behind closed doors negotiations.  Were it not for the Greens in the European Parliament leaking secret documents relating to TTIP we would effectively know nothing about it.

It is billed as a boring old trade agreement between the US and Europe, merely a mechanism for removing regulatory differences between the two trading partners. Campaigners claim it is a slow-burn disaster for our democracy, a secretive sweetheart deal, between US and European technocrats and multi-national corporations, of Faustian proportions.  We supposedly get to enjoy the fruits of free trade – higher profits and allegedly higher GDP growth – and the corporations?  They get to sue governments if they don’t like the law of the land.

The supporters may or may not be right about the benefits: there’s a lot to be said for well-regulated trade.  But the whole point of TTIP is to let corporations decide what constitutes good regulation.  The old phrase about putting foxes in charge of chicken coops springs to mind.

The greatest threat posed by TTIP is the ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) mechanism, under which large trans-national corporations are given an equivalent legal status to nation states.  If this deal goes through, any regulatory barriers that restrict large corporations from boosting profits run the risk of being overturned in court. 

TTIP poses a threat to regulations that protect our privacy, the environment, food safety and the economy, as well as posing a threat to public services such as health, education and water.

One possible outcome is that NHS services would have to be opened up to private tender.  This could lead to the complete privatisation of the NHS with the UK government left powerless to stop it. 

TTIP could also have a devastating impact on employment.  The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994 caused the net loss of over one million US jobs and a significant decline in the wages of workers, with a loss of jobs in trade, goods and services as well as an intended undermining of trade unions.

Green MP Caroline Lucas tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament in November to raise her concerns about a deal that the other UK parties seem quite happy to support.

Given that the negotiations have been taking place out of the public eye, we need our MPs and MEPs to ensure there is democratic oversight before the deal is signed sealed and delivered.

Saturday October 11 has been declared a Day of Action by the #noTTIP group.

Perhaps a place to start would be to ask your MP and MEPs what they know about TTIP and more importantly, what are they doing about it?

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