Members of Parliament were debating the TTIP Thursday, with many expressing concerns over the secrecy with which the talks have been undertaken and the possibility that the merging of regulatory regimes will lead to Europe — and the UK — losing the ability to regulate on such matters as workers' rights, food safety and the environment.
One of the most controversial aspects of the TTIP is the proposal for an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. So, if a US multinational company lost profits because their product or service was banned by law for health or other reasons, the ISDS would allow companies to sue governments if their regulations or laws affected their profits.
Critics believe large multinational companies — which have been lobbying hard for the TTIP — will force through a trade agreement that would reduce the ability of democratically-elected politicians to regulate the market.
Opening the debate, UK lawmaker Geraint Davies said:
"We should pull the ISDS teeth out of the wolf, and genetically edit TTIP so that it includes environmental imperatives, enforceable rights at work, and human rights. It should be a blueprint for future global trade, rather than a blueprint for the destruction of environmental and human rights.
"On the ISDS, we know that big companies use the powers available to them to sue democratically elected Governments.
"For example, the Lone Pine fracking company is suing the Canadian Government for hundreds of millions of dollars because Quebec brought out a moratorium on fracking. In a well-known case, Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia over tobacco packaging. The Dutch insurance company, Achmea, is suing the Slovakians for trying to reverse health privatization. If those powers are available, corporations will use them to maximize profit," Davies said.
Big Business Barriers
Critics say that the TTIP deal will create a bureaucracy that will take powers away from the European Union and its member states and create a trade system that would self-regulate, with multinational companies pulling the strings.
UK Lawmaker and former Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Lilley said that big business uses regulation "as a barrier to be used against small businesses trying to enter the market and new businesses trying to innovate. So we should be very careful about creating international bureaucracies outside of the control of democrats [elected politicians], which may prove less responsive to elected governments but more vulnerable to corporate regulation.
"I would be very careful about creating a self-perpetuating international bureaucracy and handing to it, powers which are largely out of the control of elected representatives and too much under the influence of corporate lobbying. In the end, democracy is more important — even — than free trade," Lilley said.