If the new TTIP trade deal is signed, corporations can sue foreign governments if a company or organisation in that state breaks a contract or part of it. According to our panel guests, this is an affront to democracy and sovereignty. Once signed, even if a government is changed or new policies are adopted, governments will still be liable. This means that we may be entering, without realising, a whole new international economic situation where the democratic rights of individuals are severely compromised. Opposition to the new deal is apparently growing, as John Hilary and Guy Taylor explain in the second part of the programme.
What is TTIP?
John Hilary: The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or treaty is a comprehensive trade and investment deal currently being negotiated in secret between the European Commission and the US Government. And the idea is that this is going to set the model for all the future trade and investment deals across the world. And that’s why it is being considered to be such an important deal, because it is not just about the EU-US relations, but it will be a template for everybody else. And the idea is that the TTIP really removes any barriers which block the maximization of profits by the big companies trading or investing across the Atlantic.
Okay, that’s whole understood, but why is the TTIP necessarily a bad thing?
John Hilary: The big fear that we have is that the TTIP is going to undermine all of the most praised social and environmental standards that we have in the EU. They have explicitly said that the TTIP is not about trying to get rid of tariff barriers, like the old trade agreement used to do, but it is about reaching behind the border to get rid of the regulatory barriers. And these regulatory barriers, as they call them, are some of the most praised social and environmental standards we have.
Guy Taylor: There is very little fetter on trade between America and the EU at the moment. The tariffs are notoriously low, it is a very easy market to exploit. But certain industries are unsatisfied at what they see as barriers to their trading. I’ll give you an example. In America, when they kill chickens for food, they wash them in antibacterial normally chlorinated water. That’s the practice which is banned in the EU. So, what they want to do is actually remove that ban, so that they can sell their chickens in the EU without the safety rules getting in their way.
But the individual companies or government branches, or whatever they are in the European countries don’t have to accept, don’t have to choose to trade with an American corporation under TTIP?
Guy Taylor: This is another vague thing about the whole thing. I've just come back from a trip to Brussels and I've been discussing the TTIP with the MPs and people from different interest groups in Brussels. And our understanding is – if this is agreed by the European Commission and it is a done deal, then individual countries within Europe are automatically in that agreement.
For example, if an Austrian local government had a buy-local-buy-organic policy for its schools or its hospitals, or colleges, or whatever, the American corporations could actually take that to a dispute level, and actually try and overturn that type of policy. So, yes, this is a huge attack on sovereignty and a huge attack on democracy. And basically, it is a huge corporate power grab that is going on at the moment in TTIP.
Do we Europeans have the power to do the same thing to a US company or organization?
Guy Taylor: We, Europeans don’t, but corporations do or the staff from the local governments. Actually, it is the EU which is especially pushing it, because they want access to the American market. So, this isn’t about Europe versus America or America versus Europe, this is about people on both sides of the Atlantic against the corporations. This is a corporate power grab that is giving money to the 1% and it is going to be keeping 99% of people in the dark and play their game.
What chances do campaigns against TTIP have?
John Hilary: I think we have very-very great chances of undermining TTIP and stopping it, as we are seeing the light of the day. And I'm very hopeful about that, because the last time they’ve tried to introduce these new powers for business, we defeated them. So, every time they tried to expand the reach of multinationals in this way, we knocked them back. And I'm confident that we can do so again this time.
Guy Taylor: I think the campaign has got every chance of success. I've mentioned earlier the campaign against the multilateral investment agreement and the WTO. And there are campaigns that happen in the States. These are local campaigns, these are the organizations, like the Public Citizen, which are doing a great work against the TTIP. And if we look at what’s happened in Europe, a year ago no one had heard of TTIP. You might as well be talking Japanese to people and they would not understand what you are talking about. Now more and more people, I'm not saying everyone, by any stretch of imagination, but more and more people are actually realizing what is going on. We are dragging it out into the sunshine.
I was at a meeting in Brussels earlier this week and someone said – we've got to give it a Dracula’s treatment. Once people see it, once it is out of the shadows and people see what it is like, they will surely let it die. And that is what is happening. There is more and more awareness being raised. Even the EU has agreed to release many of the documents which they were trying to keep secret before because of the pressure put on by the people from below. And I think there is a growing movement there.
The best example of it is the European Citizens Initiative. The ECI’s idea is that we have the right to petition the European Commission to rethink the policy. They denied the right to do this and we needed a million signatures across Europe, reaching a certain threshold in seven different countries. And we've done that in less than three months. This is incredible! As fast, as it’s ever happened. We haven't done it officially, because they will refuse to implement it for us. But that’s the impression of the growing tide of opposition to the TTIP and I think it is a very powerful tide. And I think we are going to win.
Is TTIP being overshadowed by the global security situation?
Guy Taylor: Yes, obviously, there is so much going on politically. You know, domestically we have the austerity measures in many different countries. And you have the huge conflicts which are happening, which is, to be honest with you, is almost a permanent state of affairs. It is ongoing and basically they try and joggle the media to kind of concentrate on one thing they’ve got the upper hand and in a moment over another. So, basically, it is a question of making sure our voices are heard and making sure the awareness is raised.