Image from 'People Against Free Trade Agreements Image from 'People Against Free Trade Agreements

The planned US-EU trade deal TTIP is about deregulating the market completely, regardless of the effects on society writes Ellen Graubart

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade and investment agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States, and has been described as “the biggest trade deal in the world”. The declared purpose of TTIP is to drive growth and promote jobs by removing trade barriers (tariffs, unnecessary regulations, restrictions on investment etc.) in a wide range of economic sectors so as to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US and to make it easier for their companies to invest in each other’s economy.

The proposed TTIP trade deal is promoted by big corporations, primarily the transnational financial service corporations that make up the City of London Corporation. (So the UK has a central role in this despite the fact that the Trade Commission negotiates the deal.)

What is TTIP about?

TTIP is about removing barriers such as differences in technical regulations, standards and approval procedures which according to the European Commission and the US cost unnecessary time and money for companies who want to sell their products in both markets.

They want to be able to use their influence to stall necessary action on toxic chemicals, climate change, health and other critical issues. They are working towards a combination of convergence of the regulations of the EU and the US across all areas, and deregulation of existing controls and safety measures that are now in place.

TTIP is not about regulation, but about deregulating the market completely, regardless of the effects on society.

How would deregulation affect us?

Deregulation would affect every aspect of our lives, including health, environment, education, work, safety, or financial and data security.

It has now become clear that the passing of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 ,which undermines the founding principles of the NHS, was a necessary preparation for the opening up the NHS to US health and pharmaceutical companies. (Large swathes of the NHS have already been privatised and are owned by the likes of Virgin and Serco.) The passing of the bill was if you like, a can-opener, and the TTIP deal, if passed, will provide the full-on bulldozer for the final extinguishing of the NHS as a public service. The purpose of our health service will no longer be to serve the health needs of the people, but to serve the mantra of the bottom line: profit for global corporations.

Protective standards across all areas are likely to be lowered: EU REACH chemical safety standards are likely to be ‘harmonised’ down to the lower standards of the US, whose regulatory laws are weak:

” Only eleven ingredients are restricted from cosmetics in the US, versus over 1300 in the EU. Under a law dating back to 1976, US regulators have only been able to restrict the use of merely five of over 60,000 industrial chemicals that were presumed safe when the law was adopted, including asbestos.”

We would have no choice over the introduction of genetically modified foods (So far the EU has resisted US pressure for access to GM crops) or beef implanted with synthetic hormones: most US beef cattle are implanted with such hormones prior to slaughter.

There are concerns that public education would be treated as an ordinary economic service and sold off to private companies for profit, which would inevitably result in lower standards of education, except for the elite few able to pay for private education.

Climate change is perhaps the most urgent problem humanity has ever been faced with, but the pressure from corporations for profit over people and the planet would guarantee that efforts towards solving the crisis would be futile if the TTIP trade deal is put in place.

We must fight for better regulation not deregulation, which would also provide financial savings to governments and individuals from avoiding the spiraling costs of treating diseases like cancer – and stronger laws for protecting public safety, health, education and the environment. These are the issues that the EU and the global community should be addressing. We should be working towards a world not darkened by poverty and endless wars and an ever-widening chasm between the 1% of haves and the 99% of have-nots, but for a world which holds a future for all of us, not just the greedy few.

We have been kept in the dark – why?

Brussels has kept quiet about TTIP – no surprise, in that it would give rapacious companies the legal power to subvert our laws, rights and national sovereignty

“Investor-state rules could be used to smash any attempt to save the NHS from corporate control, to re-regulate the banks, to curb the greed of the energy companies, to renationalise the railways, to leave fossil fuels in the ground. These rules shut down democratic alternatives. They outlaw leftwing politics. * [my emphasis]

Only industry lobbyists have privileged access, and so far, all requests for full transparency have been ignored.

TTIP certainly would not be a vote-winner – This explains our government’s silence over this monstrous assault on democracy.

How will this effect our democratic rights?

Plans to create an EU-US single market will allow corporations to sue governments using secretive panels, bypassing courts and parliaments. The investor-state dispute settlement (which the Commission insists should be included in TTIP as has been forced into other trade agreements), will allow big corporations to sue governments before secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers – bypassing domestic courts and overriding the will of parliaments – is already being used by a nuclear company contesting Germany’s decision to switch off atomic power’. Philip Morris is suing the Australian government through the same mechanism in another treaty for its decision to enforce plain packaging for cigarettes.

Acceptance of the deal would create a permanent opportunity for industry and foreign interests to undermine the implementation of EU laws passed through the democratic process, and obstruct the adoption of legislation that puts the public interest ahead of profit in every single area of our lives. This unprecedented trade deal is about deregulating the market completely, regardless of the effects on society.

The fundamental purpose of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is in fact to cast neoliberal policy in stone, out of reach of the power of governments, forever and irreversibly.

Are there reasons for hope?

Opposition to TTIP is growing. When representatives of the EU and US met in Brussels for talks on an agreement to the trade deal they were challenged by an unprecedented coalition of environmental and anti-poverty groups, trade unions and consumer rights groups. Campaign groups are building in the UK as well. The World Development Movement has called for the deal to be abandoned, and recent research has shown that the economic advantages have been exaggerated by the British government.

Unless we are prepared to accept a very dark future we must all join the battle to build further awareness and opposition to this iniquitous trade deal.

Campaigns against TTIP:

38 Degrees – Stop the British government joining the transatlantic trade and investment partnership

World Development Movement – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

People Against Free Trade Agreements

Campaigns specific to saving the NHS:

999 Call for the NHS

Keep Our NHS Public

City and Hackney Campaign to Save the NHS

A must watch video

Further reading:

Ellen Graubart

Ellen Graubart was born in India of American parents and came to London from Virginia as a teenager to study art. She lives and works as an artist in Hackney. She is a member of Counterfire, Stop the War and Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

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