I’m very pissed off.
Today I found out about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Have you heard of it?
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you haven’t. It’s another one of those shocking attacks on democracy that’s just being quietly pushed through without alerting the public, a bit like the Gagging Law.
It’s this new and very big trade deal that’s being discussed between the EU and the USA. I can’t totally grasp the details, (the EU trade press release was so full of jargon and propaganda) but the gist of the plan seems to be to weaken regulations between the two markets and give even more rights to corporations, in order to increase the ease of free trade, boost economic growth and create millions of jobs.
Okay, right. Boosting economic growth is an exercise in futility but it’s hardly surprising that it’s the overall goal here. What does need to be noted is that by ‘economic growth’ what’s really meant is ‘more cash for millionaires’. When an economy grows by say £10 billion, only a small fraction of that trickles down to the everyday citizen. Most of it’s consolidated in the upper class.
The ‘millions of jobs’ just seems to be plucked out of thin air, with no clear breakdown of where and how they’ll be created. Corporations tend to just use the promise of jobs to get away with anything they like. They don’t have to stick to their promise, it’s not a contract, it’s just empty words to get people on board.
Now the really crucial part: the weakening of regulations and empowering of corporations. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) seeks to ease free trade by making regulations standardized between the whole US and EU. These regulations aren’t crafty recession-loving pointless hoops for corporations to jump through for our amusement, their protecting us from corporate greed. These regulations are there for health and safety reasons. They protect consumer health and the environment. They’re already a a bit on the peaky side, they need to be much stronger, not weaker! Also it’s important to note that the US has much weaker consumer-safety regulations than the EU does, so standardizing would almost certainly be a loss for European citizens. The legal and severe pollution of drinking water caused by fracking in America springs to mind.
George Monbiot sounds the alarm about this on the Guardian’s website, and raises an even more unsettling point. He says that an aspect of the TTIP called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ could allow corporations to sue governments that try to protect their citizens with health regulations, and even demand they change certain laws. Here’s an example:
In El Salvador, local communities managed at great cost (three campaigners were murdered) to persuade the government to refuse permission for a vast gold mine which threatened to contaminate their water supplies. A victory for democracy? Not for long, perhaps. The Canadian company which sought to dig the mine is now suing El Salvador for $315m – for the loss of its anticipated future profits.
George Monbiot, The Guardian.
Shocking as that is, it’s far from a one-off case. There are many other examples cited in Monbiot’s article, such as Australia being sued by a tobacco giant for selling cigarettes in plain packets and a pharmaceutical company suing Canada for withholding patents for medicines that might not work – and even demanding that the patenting laws be changed. Plus there’s hundreds of other cases that go unmentioned every day.
The way I see it, this ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ is code for “corporations can override governments”.
As if we don’t already have enough of that. These so called disputes are ‘judged’ (haha) by a board of corporate lawyers – I kid you not -which don’t answer to any government so are completely undemocratic. The excuse for using a board of corporate lawyers instead of national court, is that ”national courts are at risk of bias”.
Oh, do me a favour.
A bias towards the safety of their citizens and moderate sanity? That’s the f***ing point of a justice system!
This represents another nail in the coffin of democracy. In many ways corporations already run the show. But this free trade agreement, and especially the investor-state dispute nonsense, is outrageous because it shows corporations are so comfortable and confident that they no longer feel the need to hide their power.
The worst bit is that in the UK there’s pretty much a media blackout about this. All I can find is George Monbiot’s article and Ken Clark’s response to it, both on the Guardian’s website. I don’t think it’s even in their print newspaper. The EU and USA have just finished the second stage of talks, and yet I can’t find a single news article telling me what the result of the second stage was. All the major newspapers and TV channels seem to be ignoring the story (please tell me if I’m wrong), probably because their corporate owners can’t wait to benefit from the TTIP.
The UK government haven’t told the public, let alone consulted us. The Conservatives have always been pro free trade so of course they’re totally keen for this deal.
The streets should be filled with protest, but instead it seems hardly anyone knows about it.
The only good news I have is that Monbiot’s anti-TTIP article got loads more shares than Clark’s sappy pro article, which did not address any of the key issues and simply said that the deal would boost economic growth therefore it was great. Plus, the latest page of comments on Clark’s article were all slamming him for assuming economic growth is more important than health and civil rights.
That cheered my up a little bit. But it’s not enough.
We really need a proper campaign started against this high-grade corporate bullshit.
UPDATE: I was wrong about there being a media blackout, the Telegraph has been writing about the TTIP on their website. Of course they’re making it sound wonderful and completely ignoring the problems. They say the main reason for this trade agreement is the rise of China. They say we need extra Western solidarity because China is growing really fast while the US is only achieving moderate growth and much of Europe is in recession. Urrgh. More positively, it seems that France has been very suspicious about this free trade deal, worried that it could have a negative impact on their culture. This article dated June 2013 says France wanted the film and digital media industries exempt from the deal – anxious to protect French media and language from a Hollywood invasion. The EU Trade Minister wasn’t keen to compromise, but the article also noted that “under EU rules, trade deals touching on cultural issues need unanimous support” (Rachel Cooper, The Telegraph). This will have been discussed in the talks this month, but I haven’t yet found any news reporting on what was decided.