Sign Away Your Freedom Here

January 27, 2014
0 Shares Facebook 0 Twitter 0 Google+ 0 Pin It Share 0 0 Shares ×

Part One of a series by Henry Vespa looking into The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership introduces us to the controversial initiative…

The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership – what a lovely innocuous name. So dull and corporate and bland that it’s guaranteed to attract almost zero attention. Until you know what it is. Then you might legitimately begin to worry…

You might have seen the TTIP mentioned in the European press recently, although probably only publications that lean a little to the left. You might have received a few requests to sign online petitions against it on the grounds that it will destroy democracy and national sovereignty. And maybe it will but who really cares about that in the 21st century? Well, actually, I think I do.

So what is it?

Well, it’s a trade agreement. Nothing to worry about there, surely? They happen all the time. They’re handy because different countries have different laws and taxes and tariffs and ironing out some of the differences and agreeing a common set of terms can boost the trade between them. And we all thrive on free trade, don’t we? After all, what would we do if we couldn’t find out-of-season fruit in the supermarket? So why worry about this one? Well, for a start it’s big. It’s being negotiated between the U.S. and the European Union so that means there are effectively 29 countries looking to sign up, including some of world’s biggest economies and trade empires.

The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership

According to the EU’s website, the TTIP will drive growth and create jobs; it will boost the EU economy by 120 billion euros and the U.S. economy by 90 billion euros (that’s around 122 billion dollars); even the rest of the world allegedly stands to benefit to the tune of 100 billion euros. Everybody’s richer, who can complain about that? But wait, why will all this extra trade be taking place?

Because the agreement will remove tariffs and flatten out “differences in technical regulations, standards and approval procedures”. In other words, standards and procedures put in place by legislation for the protection of citizens (for example, to prevent the market being flooded with cheap unsafe products) can be swept aside in favor of shifting more units, making more sales. What’s the phrase? Cui bono? Not us.

The bit I really love is the independent report the EU quotes that says, “…every year an average European household would gain €545.” Wow! That sounds like, as a citizen of the EU, I will have more money every year – why on earth would I sign a petition against that? (And I’m sure there’s a similar figure for U.S. households.) But hold on. Let’s not get carried away. That figure is based on a projected increase to the GDP, which is effectively a measure of the prosperity of a country, not me as an individual. The actual cash will be in the government’s coffers, any personal benefit to me will be indirect at best.

But the real problem, the bit the EU website doesn’t really mention, is the set of provisions designed to protect the investments of the poor, vulnerable global corporations and businesses who will be taking advantage of this relaxed trade bonanza. Let’s say a country wants to change its laws. Maybe it’s a change to how certain products are advertised (e.g. tobacco health warnings on packets) or some environmental protection stuff (like phasing out nuclear power). New legislation like this could have a big impact on the profits of large corporations investing in or trading with that country. The TTIP allows the corporation to effectively take the country to court for loss of earnings. It gets worse. The case isn’t heard by a court or tribunal operating under the country’s own legal system; it’s judged by a commercial arbitration tribunal with separate offshore rules. Now the tribunal is unlikely to force a country to repeal its legislation (they’re not so powerful, besides, that would be undemocratic). No, it’ll just order the country to pay millions in damages. And where does the country’s government get the money? Think about it…

To be continued…

Rate this post

0 Shares Facebook 0 Twitter 0 Google+ 0 Pin It Share 0 0 Shares ×



Adult-oriented material ahead!
Do you wish to proceed?


No thanks.