Europe’s most wanted secret – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This is something enormous. It is about a final control. And it’s the US saying, ‘there may be another power in the world, but we will be the ultimate power’.
The TTIP is the most important thing that’s happening in Europe right now. It’s a secretive deal being negotiated between Europe and the United States.
Once signed, it will cement the key parts of the US governments plan to create a new global bloc that will insure the dominance of its largest companies. After the Second World War, the US accounted for half of the world’s economy. Its influence was unmatched by any country and it was able to write the early rules of international trade to its advantage. The World Trade Organisation was created in this context, and the US created rules that favoured American business.
But as economies like China and India joined the WTO, it became a more democratised arena and the US found it harder to control its decision making. At the WTO in the Dohar rounds, India spoke up and Brazil spoke up, and the US lost control. The US felt it needed a new strategy to maintain its global dominance, so in classical American style, they went big. To bypass the WTO they’re creating the biggest international agreements that the world has ever seen. They’re called the Three Big Ts – the TPP, the TiSA, and the TTIP and they’re all being negotiated in secret right now.
We only found out when WikiLeaks was able to leak parts of them. What’s interesting is when you look across all of these deals whether it be TiSA, TPP, or TTIP, China is excluded but also Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa – they’re all excluded, because those are the emerging economies.
What often is not understood is that these agreements are part of a geo-political war. This is a new war which is taking place between the United States and China. The US is very scared of the rise of China so it has moved to militarily encircle it through what is called the ‘Pivot to Asia’ and now it’s moving on to doing that economically.
The basic idea that comes across from reading US Strategy Papers is the construction of a new grand enclosure, and to put inside this grand enclosure the US, 51 other countries, 1.6 billion people and 2/3 of global GDP. To integrate Latin America away from Brazil and towards the United States. To integrate South East Asia away from China and towards the United States. And to integrate Western Europe, pulling it away from Eurasia as a whole and towards the Atlantic.
Of the Three Big Ts, WikiLeaks has revealed 4 chapters of the TPP which affects 12 countries in the Americas and South East Asia. We also obtained and released the core text of TiSA which affects 52 countries, including the EU. But nearly all of TTIP is still secret. When signed, the TTIP will cover half of global GDP and will affect every European member state. Yet EU Parliamentarians have serious restrictions in accessing the proposed agreement.
We don’t have access to the key documents, the most important ones because the devil is in the detail. When it comes to trade agreements you need to know exactly what is in the text, so that you can assess what the impact’s going to be.
If EU Parliamentarians want to see the TTIP, the have to call the US Embassy and make an appointment. Appointments are only available 2 days a week for 2 hour time slots. Only 2 PMs are permitted at once. They go to the US Embassy, they have to hand in every electronic device so they cannot possibly make a copy. They must agree to keep everything confidential and then they’re led to a secure reading room where 2 US embassy guards watch everything that they do. How can EU PMs possibly understand what they’re negotiating for Europe under these circumstances?
The worlds biggest corporations don’t have the same problem. They have been receiving VIP access from day one. And have had abundant influence in negotiations.
People, the likes of you and I, are excluded. Governments to a great extent are excluded. Those who are included are the multinational corporations.
These agreements are basically corporate ownership agreements. The funny thing about Free Trade Agreements, as we understand them, is they often have nothing to do with trade in the sense of the mutual lowering of tariffs. What they’re about is enshrining an Investor Rights regime in the respective countries and ensuring the corporations can run wild in the respective economies with very little regulation or impingement by government or authorities.
These treaties will have huge, huge implications for literally almost every critical issue an individual citizen or community would care about. Health, education, the environment, privacy, access to medicines, the list could go on.
One of the most criticised aspects of TTIP is a system called the Investor State Dispute Settlement or ISDS. It’s a secretive international tribunal that allows companies to sue States over virtually anything that they can claim affects their investment. If a protest affects their profits, they can sue. If laws affect their profits,
they can sue. If new regulations might impact where or what they want to do with their money, they can sue.
This is a new power which will be handed over to US corporations to sue the governments of Europe in a parallel judicial system which is available to them alone. So people have no access to it. Domestic firms have no access to it. Governments have no access to it. It’s just the foreign investors, in this case, US corporations. Based on ISDS history, critics argue that European State Sovereignty and democracy are at serious risk. Previous law suits include Swedish company Battenval suing the German state for 3.7 b dollars for phasing out nuclear energy. British American Tobacco (Philip Morris Asia) sued the Australian government for passing low limiting cigarette advertising. The French company Violia sued Egypt for raising the minimum wage.
TTIP advocates say that in order for the EU and US to become a single market, regulatory barriers need to be eliminated. This way for example, a US seatbelt manufacturer already selling seat belts domestically, wouldn’t need to test for safety a second time as the EU would agree to recognise the US safety standards. They argue this would save costs and lower prices for consumers. But just how safe are US standards?
In the USA 70% of all processed foods sold in supermarkets contain genetically modified ingredients. Whereas in the European Union we’ve said quite clearly we don’t want GM ingredients in our food chain. Similarly, in the US, 90% of all beef is produced using growth hormones which have been found to be carcinogenic in humans. So they’re banned in the EU. And what the US is saying is that under TTIP, under the free trade rules that they want to bring in, European consumers don’t get the right to choose.
TTIP includes all the most important public sectors in Europe including education, railways, water, postal services and most controversially, it also includes public health services.
What is so scary about this is that corporations want to lock in their power. So they not only want increased power but they want to make it impossible for sovereign governments to reverse the changes which are going to give them power. So for example with TTIP, if it passes with ISDS in it, the privatisation of the NHS which is happening in the UK can never be reversed.
What is democratic about an enormous imposition of power on countries whose citizens have no way of knowing what’s going on, of debating it, or influencing their government in its decision? That’s anti-democratic.
The history of these agreements shows that they’re very difficult to change unless people can see what’s in them. And that’s why they’re kept secret. Because when the contents are revealed, it generates an opposition.