This week I attended an excellent public meeting about TTIP – the ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’ at the UNISON North West Regional centre in Manchester, chaired by the UNISON Regional Convenor, Angie Rayner and featuring John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want and Lynne Morris from UNISON North West.Sold as a ‘Trade deal’, TTIP is shrouded in opaque and purposefully incomprehensible language but TTIP is an important issue we need to know about.
TTIP is a trade deal that is currently being negotiated in secret by the EU and US. TTIP involves an attempt to harmonise regulations between the EU and US. This would cover important safeguards on health and safety, food, environment, privacy and labour standards. The effect would be to level down not up. This is a further continuation of the politics that has sought to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich and hand more power to the super rich over the last few years - Only TTIP would take it much further.A key proposal under TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). ISDS would allow transnational corporations to sue governments directly for the loss of any future profits resulting from government action. Where trade agreements with ISDS arrangements are already in place, multinational companies are using them to try to overturn the decisions of national governments:
· Phillip Morris (the tobacco company) is suing the Australian government for its decision to introduce plain package cigarettes. Phillip Morris argues that having their name removed from their product is a “threat to their business”.
· The French based multinational company Veolia, are suing the Egyptian government for increasing the national minimum wage – claiming this will “hurt” its investment.
· A Swedish energy company is suing the German Government for closing nuclear power stations that it operates.Under TTIP, the proposal is that the ISDS tribunals (in effect kangaroo courts) will be heard by corporate lawyers, who can take decisions against governments without a right of appeal. This is a serious threat to our democracy.
The EU’s own research indicates that the introduction of TTIP would cost 600,000 European jobs. TTIP is billed as being good for the economy – but it is big business that would gain, not workers.Over 1 million people have signed a petition against TTIP in the European union already and momentum is building around this campaign which is a very important one to win. In this country predictably David Cameron has said we need to ‘put a rocket booster under TTIP’. We need to increase our efforts to oppose TTIP and if you are a Trade Unionist you can invite a speaker on TTIP to a union meeting. We should also use the power of social media to spread the word about TTIP. We have defeated proposed agreements like TTIP before (the multilateral agreement on investment 15 years ago) prior to the social media age. We need to put pressure on our elected representatives, our MPs and ask questions of them over TTIP so this moves up the political agenda.