As Donald Trump and the E.U prepare to re-launch the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Karla Anguita Falcón of the IRSP International Department addresses why we should all be concerned.
The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently under negotiation between US and EU technocrats, is a new free trade agreement between the two economic powerhouses on either side of the Atlantic. Up until recently this has been happening very much below the radar of public perception, despite writers such as The Guardian’s George Monbiot eloquently trying to force it onto the public agenda.
While the bureaucratic detail may appear off-putting and boring, the veil of secrecy surrounding the negotiations gives it an intrigue and allure that I suspect may have something nasty lurking underneath. George Monbiot fears that a sustained attack on the justice system as we know it, and that what is about to be unleashed is in fact a corporate coup against sovereign democracies disguised as a harmless trade agreement.
Professor Colin Crouch of the University of Warwick describes the proposed treaty as ‘post-democracy in its purest form’. Post-democracy is for Crouch, our current system of governance where traditional institutions such as elected parliaments are rendered empty and ineffective, with real power residing among other, undemocratic forums – “small, private circles where political elites do deals with corporate lobbies”.
So what effects will the proposed TTIP will have on the average European?
One major fear is a reduction in European food safety standards. Whereas at the moment EU food safety regulations are strict and comprehensive, standards could be lowered to that of the US where their cattle and pigs are pumped full of growth-promoting hormones banned in the EU. As a result of this most US beef cannot be sold in the EU, but in a post TTIP situation the European market could become flooded with genetically modified, growth hormone pumped meats, and US fruit and vegetables grown with the help of 85 pesticides currently banned in the EU. The lowering of standards also extends to issues concerning employment, the social and privacy, consumer protections, the deregulation of public services (including water) and cultural assets.
Secondly, is the inclusion of a legal mechanism known as – Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). This will allow corporations to sue national governments over laws that might affect future projected profits. For example, Tobacco giant Philip Morris is currently suing the governments of Australia and Uruguay for their attempts to discourage smoking (Laws introduced on public health grounds!) Most worryingly, is that under TTIP it is proposed that these disputes will be heard in International courts, in effect offshore tribunals operating in secret.
Finally, critics argue that TTIP will hit average Europeans in the pocket. While the European Commission estimates that, by 2027, TTIP could boost the size of the EU economy by £94bn or 0.5% of GDP, an economic study by Jeronim Capaldo of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University argues that the commission’s econometric modelling is simplistic and superficial. TTIP will undoubtedly negatively impact Europeans, with Capaldo predicting 600,000 European job losses as a result of TTIP, a net fall in EU exports, declining GDPs for EU member states and a fall in Europeans’ personal income. The principal beneficiaries of this proposed trade deal, will be transnational capital and the big corporations. It is an attempted power grab of historic proportions.