Pictured: Campaigners against TTIP make their point loud and clear at a demonstration at the Central Bank | Photo credit: Monica Manzzi
Barry Finnegan from the TTIP Information Network takes a look at the trade deal.
No one is against recognising each other’s standards for car airbags and indicators; the same goes for medical devices related to insulin, stints and the like. So let’s make trade better between the EU and the USA. Great!
With only 5% of trade between the EU and the US subject to import taxes, the only place for them to go to get more profit from a new ‘free’ trade deal is to remove rules and regulations relating to democracy, public services, workers’ rights, food and the environment. If TTIP is agreed as planned, “behind the border barriers to trade” like government monopolies, including water, would be illegal. Public services would have to be privatised. Government grants and funding, including for community development, would be awarded on a cheapest-bidder-wins basis. Banning fracking would be, “an unnecessarily restrictive barrier to trade”.
Food sovereignty as a political goal, banning or enforcing labelling of GMOs and maintaining our high standards of food regulation and animal farming would be classed as an “overly meddlesome barrier to trade”. Plus, the precautionary principle would be classed as legally unscientific, and we could not use it to interfere with corporate profit. And as if that wasn’t enough, the people would have to pay for corporate profit lost as a result of any new rules to cut down on fossil fuel use and stop climate change.
And so we ask the question – how could corporations insist that citizens pay for their loss in profit? The answer is through a mechanism called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). The purpose of ISDS is to allow corporations to sue states through a special private ‘court’ if they feel they have lost, or might lose money as a result of government policy. It means corporations become independent global actors, able to sue sovereign states in special courts, and not subject to the same democratic court system that citizens are. This allows them to bypass the democratic judicial systems of Ireland, the EU and the USA and is clearly an assault on the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, and equality before the law.
In creating favourable economic forecasts for TTIP integration, particularly for jobs and growth, the Government and the Commission rely on figures generated by the Computable General Equilibrium Calculation System. This system makes a number of problematic assumptions about the labour market. It assumes that free and efficient labour mobility exists across all sectors, that 100% employment is a pre-condition and operates on regulation free conditions for environmental and human health standards. Despite relying on this questionable model, these reports still only predict that economic growth would be 0.05% per year, not the 0.5% that Malmström has suggested.
The Commission’s CEPR study and our government’s Copenhagen report treat regulations which protect workers, health, food quality and the environment, simply as costs; removing costs is always calculated as an economic gain. Even though they predict large worker displacement, they do not factor in a financial cost for the impact of the human and social disruption and unemployment caused.
The plan for TTIP is to make all EU and US rules and regulations the same (harmonisation), or to promise to respect each other’s rules and regulations (regulatory recognition) not just of food and agriculture and cosmetics (we ban 1,100 chemicals in cosmetics, they only ban 12) and the environment, but workers’ rights too.
With ISDS, US companies will be able to do like Veolia did in Egypt recently, and sue the government for imagined unearned future profit “lost” as a result of a rise in the minimum wage. The Egyptian government backed down, and did not raise the minimum wage. One would be naïve to believe, that TTIP is going to do anything except drive down peoples’ pay and conditions of work, block chances of stopping climate change, enforce the privatisation of public services, force US-style, chemical-fuelled food in to our shops, and eradicate the democratic principles of the independence of the judiciary and equality before the law.