The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a bit of a mouthful to even say out loud, and transcontinental investment treaties are never the sexiest of topics for campaigning. But the TTIP, currently being negotiated in secret by the EU and the USA, threatens every hard-won piece of environmental legislation in the past hundred years. This comprehensive free trade agreement has one goal: to remove regulatory barriers which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations.
What a transnational corporation sees as a barrier to profit, of course, is what most ordinary people would see as indispensable social standards, such as labour rights, food safety rules (including restrictions on GMOs), regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and even new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis. Through a euphemistic commitment to ‘harmonise standards’, the TTIP would ensure a race to the bottom for working conditions and environmental protection.
The ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ mechanism would grant corporations the right to sue governments, if governments make decisions which reduce their profits. This would take place through an international arbitration process that completely bypasses countries’ existing legal systems. This is the same mechanism that tobacco and oil companies have used against legitimate states.
If the treaty comes into force, countries in the global south will come under huge pressure to apply TTIP standards to avoid losing trade from the EU and US. The business lobby are upfront about the fact that they aim to secure “global convergence toward EU-US standards which could then become de facto global standards”. TTIP would make it easier for western companies and governments to push deregulation and neo-liberal economic policies on poorer countries, worsening poverty and inequality.
For the UK, this would mean locking in the privatisation of the NHS, an easier ride for fracking companies, an attack on workers’ rights and declining standards for food safety and consumer rights. A particular concern for those of us involved in the anti-fracking movement is that a major impetus for the deal on both sides of the Atlantic is securing EU market access for US companies involved in fracking.
A huge range of concerned groups have formed an alliance against this assault on our democratic rights. Groups such as War on Want, WDM, Friends of the Earth, trade unions, anti-fracking groups, Occupy activists, NHS campaigners all recognise the threat the TTIP poses and are actively fighting back. Protests and pressure against this corporate power grab are mounting across the EU.