Politics Magazine

TTIP: The EU-US Pact That Threatens Democracy

Posted on the 30 May 2014 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

Politicians know that one of the best ways to avoid public scrutiny is to make things sound as boring as possible. That’s why the economic pact being negotiated (in secret) by the European Commission and the US government has been given the mundane title of the ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’ (TTIP).

The stated aim of the TTIP is to create an open market spanning a bloc stretching from Anchorage to Athens, encompassing more than half of the world’s economy.  Goods and services would be freely exchanged between 29 of the world’s richest nations, perhaps providing some respite from the relentless industrial competition from the likes of China.

So far, so reasonable.

However, the negotiations have been conducted in secret, leaving the general public learning about their economic futures through a series of leaks. The European and American governments would not have told the people that they can’t agree on common food safety standards (after all, consumer regulations would have to be standardised). Funnily enough, the EU is reluctant to dilute its regulations to American levels, which were virtually written by Monsanto lobbyists.  We would also have not been told about the inclusion of the dull sounding Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the agreement.

ISDS means the establishment of a ‘supercourt’, which can impose crippling fines on governments which do anything to limit the profits of a corporation of industry. Even the risk of being sued will prevent governments imposing inconvenient regulations, even environmental protections. Nationalisation will become virtually impossible, as will protecting strategic industries from foreign ownership. I  wish that I was exaggerating, but sadly I’m not. It is widely accepted, for example, that NHS semi-privatisation would be not only permanently entrenched by TTIP, but American healthcare giants would be able to take over most privatised services.

As if this weren’t bad enough, the principle of ‘mutual recognition’ would be imposed. Business would effectively be allowed to choose which country’s regulatory regime it abides by. Surely, nobody is seriously suggesting that this won’t lead to ‘lowest common denominator’ regulation! We’ve been warned that US banks would opt for lax European controls, for example.

The will of the people’s democratically elected leaders would become secondary to multinationals. The corporatocracy is here.

Image courtesy of Greenpeace

Image courtesy of Greenpeace

The structure of TTIP is being hammered out in secretive negotiations between the American government and the European Commission, an unelected body. However, the resulting treaty will have to be ratified by the US Congress, the European Parliament and the national parliaments of every EU member state. Although there will be a democratic process for approving TTIP, it will be presented as a fait accompli. All or nothing, Given the make-up of the new European Parliament, the right-wing majority is likely to approve it. If there are only one or two dissenting national parliaments, they will come under intense pressure to surrender to the TTIP. The EU has a habit of ‘asking’ member states the same question again and again until the right answer is given.

The TTIP must be either revised beyond recognition or rejected, if elected governments are to retain sovereignty over corporations. With determined campaigning, either of these aims can be achieved. For example, it is difficult to see France- which is so economically protectionist that it recently blocked a foreign takeover of the Danone yoghurt company citing “national security”- really surrendering control of its business affairs. American industry will reject out of hand the toughening of law to meet more exacting European requirements.

The European Green movement is unequivocal in its opposition to TTIP. Many of the populist movements in Europe share that position. Then there are many movements like Labour which are divided. These parties could perhaps be persuaded that TTIP must be ratified by a referendum, given that is in essence a transfer of sovereignty and thus a constitutional reform.  It is only right that the people themselves have the final say on how their lives and their economy is governed.

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