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Are secret negotiations further tipping the balance in favour of corporate power? And what your MEPs think.

Words: Fred Fulford
Illustration: Rosie Carmichael

The Transatlantic Trading and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed trade agreement between the European Union and the United States.

Negotiations are ongoing, with an official aim to implement the treaty by 2017.

TTIP’s stated aim is to boost economic growth by creating a free-trade area that lifts barriers to commerce and investment. However, since a proposed draft was leaked in 2014, opposition to TTIP has gained momentum due to controversial elements of the proposed treaty.  As well as cementing privatisation of public services, TTIP seeks to ‘harmonise standards’ between the EU and the US, in areas including workers rights, environmental and food safety legislation.

Opponents expect EU regulations to be weakened in order to match the US’s less vigorous standards, to remove perceived ‘obstacles to free trade’.

The inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) has caused further alarm. ISDS is an instrument allowing multinational companies to sue governments for future loss of profits, in secret tribunals arbitrated upon by corporate lawyers. Tobacco giant Philip Morris launched ISDS claims (under similar international trade agreements) against Uruguay in 2010 and Australia In 2011 after their respective governments legislated to introduce plain packaging and large health-warnings on tobacco products.

The TTIP negotiations remain secretive. But we know that of the 597 meetings the European Commission’s trade department held with lobbyists in the early days of the talks, 88% were with business lobbyists compared to 9% with public interest groups. These lobbyists include US pesticides firms calling for reductions to EU regulations which protect our environment and food safety.

If TTIP were to pass, Bristol’s economic, social and environmental priorities would be equally vulnerable to ISDS litigation, as would the local priorities of other cities in the EU. In 2009 Swedish energy firm Vattenfall launched a $1.4 billion ISDS claim against Germany after permits for the firm’s coal-fired power plant were delayed due to Hamburg’s local environmental regulations. These regulations, introduced by Hamburg‘s Environmental Authority to combat pollution, were dropped as a result.

1

Number of ISDS cases initiated in 1993


58

Number of new ISDS cases initiated in 2012


$1.77 billion

The highest ever ‘compensation’, paid by Ecuador to Occidental Petroleum Corporation in 2012.

 

While supporters of TTIP argue the agreement will bring vast economic benefits in terms of growth and jobs, similar claims in the past have proved unfounded. As of 2012, 18 years after the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico has almost the same national poverty rate as in 1994 (down from 52.4% to 52.3%), and has experienced much slower growth than many Latin American neighbours.

In the US, NAFTA is frequently blamed for job losses and downward pressure on wages across the country’s ‘Rust Belt’ region.

That this agreement is being drawn up by corporate interests, behind closed doors, has caused many to question whether the agreement is designed for the benefit of normal citizens or for big business. The overhanging threat of ISDS on policy-makers has also sparked fears regarding our democracies’ ability to legislate in the public interest.

YOUR representatives in the negotiations
South West Members of the European Parliament’s respond to the Cable’s questions on TTIP.

Produced by: Adam Cantwell-Corn

Green Party

Molly Scot Cato, Green Party

“Greens have consistently opposed and voted against TTIP. ‘Harmonisation’ of standards between the EU and US threaten to weaken hard-fought-for EU regulations on the environment, workers’ rights, public services and consumer standards.”


UKIP-logo

William Earl of Dartmouth, UKIP

“The people interested in the protection of the NHS, in consumer rights and a legal system fair to small businesses will be angry with this decision of the European Parliament to pass TTIP….The only way that citizens can defeat TTIP now is to vote to leave the European Union.”


conservative

Julie Girling, Conservatives

“I am not against the TTIP agreement in principle but I do not support free trade at any price, particularly not at the expense of the EU’s comprehensive food safety and environmental standards. I am assured that these are not on the negotiating table. I voted in favour of this legislative resolution overall as I am in favour of free trade and market completion.”


UKIP-logo

Julia Reid, UKIP

“I promised my constituents that I would vote against the Lange Report on TTIP on the basis that trade policy should be decided by our own democratic government and not the EU. I also promised to vote to exclude ISDS from TTIP.”


Labour logo

Clare Moody, Labour

“I am supportive of trade and how it can create jobs in the UK. TTIP has the potential to open up trade for smaller businesses and this should be encouraged. However, we must ensure that TTIP does not mean diminished workers’ rights or environmental standards.”

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