Public Affairs

TTIP: an undemocratic deal

ttip protest ICTU’s Macdara Doyle warns that the TTIP free trade agreement will prioritise profit over democracy.

The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP) is an affront to democracy that will do nothing to deliver sustainable jobs and growth. The deal – as currently constructed – represents little more than a charter of corporate rights that could see existing labour standards and protections eroded and driven down to the lowest common denominator

In addition, key elements of the proposed TTIP could effectively freeze the capacity of European governments to act decisively and progressively to raise living standards – by increasing the minimum wage, for example – for fear of being sued by corporations claiming any such move might jeopardise their potential profits.

Under the provision known as the investor state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), multinational corporations would be free to parse any government initiative in terms of how it might impact on potential profits, and sue according for huge sums in compensation. And sue not before a court of law where arguments might be heard in public, but before a secretive arbitration panel comprised of corporate lawyers, whose decisions would not be subject to judicial review.

Nightmarish and Orwellian as this might sound, corporations have already undertaken such actions globally, utilising similar provisions from existing trade deals. Thus:

• tobacco firm Philip Morris is suing governments in Uruguay and Australia for discouraging people from smoking;

• Swedish company Vattenfall is suing the German Government for shutting down its nuclear power programme;

• an Australian firm is suing El Salvador for refusing permission for a gold mine over concerns that it would poison the drinking water.

Currently such actions are limited because the dispute mechanism in question exists in a limited number of agreements. The proposed TTIP would make all EU governments subject to this stricture.

This, in turn, could render democratic politics entirely meaningless as no elected government could ever again afford to take any action that offended the ‘right’ of corporations to accumulate profit.

Although the TTIP negotiations have become mired in difficulties of late, the goal remains to have the talks completed “sometime in 2015”.

Not that openness and transparency are exactly hallmarks of these negotiations, with access and knowledge limited and highly restricted.

Yet those who support the deal – including the Irish Government – have advanced no convincing case as to the benefits that might flow from this proposed and all-embracing EU-US trade deal.

Thus far, all we have heard are vague numbers relating to the ‘employment potential’ of such a trade deal, with figures of 400,000 new jobs being cited, with no supporting evidence.

Yet recent research carried out in Denmark suggests the opposite scenario, with TTIP resulting in the possible loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, lower state revenue and even larger deficits.

The real worry is that the European Union has so ensnared itself in its self-imposed austerity straightjacket, that it now sees TTIP as the silver bullet which will somehow magically deliver what the failed policies of the last eight years have so conspicuously failed to produce.

Is the future of the European Union now to be decided on the basis of wishful thinking? Moreover, on the basis of an accord negotiated in secret by corporations, highly-paid lobbyists and European institutions that now seem desperate to find a way out of a deepening mire of their own making.

That’s not a healthy combination.

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