TTIP UNDERMINES THE CONSTITUTIONAL STATE
By Lea Susemichel
[This article published on 7/2/2014 in an.schlage is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.linksnet.de/de/artikel/31399
The TTIP involves more than chlorine-washed chicken. Lea Susemichel asked Alexandra Stricker from Attac Austria about dreaded effects of the agreement, especially on women and how it can still be prevented.
An.schlage: Advocates of the TTIP, the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” argue with economic upswing and more jobs. However other free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, Canada and the US show that they in no way bring more prosperity to the broad population. NAFTA has had many disastrous effects. What do you expect for Europe?
Alexander Stricker: The advocates of TTIP in Europe – led by the European Commission and the governments of member states – advance these arguments for the agreement on very thin ice. A glance at the studies shows there will hardly be any positive economic effects of the TTIP. An additional economic growth of 0.05 percent annually is predicted. Around 400,000 new jobs should arise across the EU in the first 15 years after implementation of the agreement. However these studies do not include the possible costs of this agreement. With the current 26 million unemployed in Europe and the knowledge that TTIP is a de-regulation agreement (the goods trade between the US and the EU is already liberalized as far as possible), we expect for Europe an intensification of the trend to precarious and atypical forms of paid work. European employers will swing the modification club to enforce worse working conditions.
In a position paper, WIDE (Network for Women’s Rights and Feminist Perspectives) warns that TTIP is a great redistribution project benefiting mammoth corporations at the expense of women. What are the gender specific aspects and effects of the TTIP?
TTIP in itself is a great redistribution project in favor of big corporations and the one percent at the expense of the 99 percent in Europe and the US. If one glances at the list of those belonging to the one percent, proportionally few women are found there. Therefore I entirely agree with this judgment. The leaked negotiation document suggests possible gender-specific effects of TTIP. The whole service sector should become part of the TTIP agreement. Existing liberalizations in the areas of energy, public transportation, nursing etc. should be codified.
TTIP will give businesses the right to sue in arbitration courts. What is problematic in this? What precedents are there?
In the TTIP – as in the nearly completed EU-Canada agreement – the possibility of businesses suing states is codified if they see themselves treated unjustly or expropriated indirectly. This instrument of the investor-state-right to sue has already existed for a long time and was also sanctioned by many western European countries and the US in bilateral investment agreements with countries in the global South. This instrument exists in the North American Free Trade zone. NAFTA stipulates that businesses can sue states and these lawsuits will then be litigated before an international court of arbitration. This court consists of three persons nominated by the petitioning and defending parties. No appeal can be made against their decision. Up to now neither the public nor other parties could comment on this procedure.
Past experiences show that corporations use this instrument more and more to sue against environmental or social legislation that reduces their profit possibilities. For example, Vattenfall brought an action against Germany for 3.7 billion Euros compensation for the decision to opt out of nuclear power. Veolia has sued Egypt for raising the minimum wage. These lawsuits are still pending. Attac and many other movements and NGOs reject the investor-state-right to sue states in general because it creates a legal system outside the existing legal systems. Thus the possibility is created for transnational businesses to shift their private investment risk to the general public and set their profit interests above other social interests.
Resistance against the TTIP is growing. Are there real chances of stopping the TTIP or at least preventing it in this form? What concrete possibilities of meaningful protest exist?
The TTIP negotiations began in 2013. Since then a monkey wrench has been thrown in the works. The original goal was to complete the negotiations in 2014. At the beginning of February, EU trade commissioner De Gucht was prompted to remove the instrument of the investor-state-right to sue from the negotiations on account of increasingly loud criticism and stage a public hearing which is still underway. The more people and organizations know about the TTIP, the more aspects of the agreement are discussed, the stronger will be the pressure to publish the negotiation documents and the more difficult it will be for advocates of the agreement to tell their story of TTIP’s brave new world. Even now the EU commission no longer argues for positive effects of the agreement. More effective protest needs many elements. One of these elements is to make alternative and critical information available and inform other people about the agreement and its effects. Another is to participate actively in days of action or campaigns directed at delegates or political representatives. We are linked with other actors in Europe and the US to work together so our goal “Stopping TTIP” is realized.
“Alternative Trade Mandate,” December 2013, 20 pages, by 50 NGOs
John Hilary, “TTIP: Deregulation, Attack on Jobs and End to Democracy,” 42 pages http://rosalux.gr/sites/default/files/publications/ttip_web.pdf
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a comprehensive free trade and investment treaty currently being negotiated - in secret - between the European Union and the USA. As officials from both sides acknowledge, the main goal of TTIP is to remove regulatory 'barriers' which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet these 'barriers' are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations, such as labor rights, food safety rules (including restrictions on GMOs), regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and even new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis. The stakes, in other words, could not be higher.
TTIP – THE PURCHASED DEMOCRACY
By Katya Kipping
[This article is translated from the German on the Internet. Katya Kipping is a spokesperson for The Left Party (Die Linke) in Germany.]
The free trade agreement takes power from governments and legal systems. Caution is always commanded when big companies come to understandings with politics. The interests of giant businesses are very clear: removal of all obstacles to profit maximization with as little responsibility as possible for the consequences of their business activity. The planned free trade agreement TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) between Canada, the US and the EU is not an exception. It is also the most extensive dismantling of existing legal standards of member EU states and therefore goes along with the greatest possible non-transparency and mystery. The elected representatives are systematically outside like the media. They know nothing about the contents of the planned agreement. If the text with the negotiation guidelines were not leaked out, the public would not know much about this today.
FREE TRADE AGREEMENT UNDER CRITICISM – AN ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY
Free Trade as a Secret Matter
Who Benefits from the Transatlantic Agreement?
[This article published 5/21/2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.zdf.de
This will be “the most massive economic deal of history,” rave top managers in Germany and EU officials in Brussels. Washington is also certain. The planned free trade zone between the EU and the US will bring more jobs, growth and prosperity for 800 million. However the further the negotiations advance, the more alarmed and unnerved are many observers. The trade agreement between the economic giants is negotiated behind closed doors. The influence of the economy and particularly big businesses grows enormously through the giant deal.
Managers say it will be “the greatest economic deal of history.” However the more discussions on the free trade zone continue, the more unnerved many become.
The transatlantic free trade agreement – TTIP – only marginally reflects what was understood classically under free trade: the abolition of trifling tariffs. Standards concern all consumers: how cars should be equipped in the future and how foods are produced. For a long time worlds separated the US and the EU on agriculture. With the investor-protection, US corporations can sue European states in the future and exert pressure on their legislation as soon as they seem themselves disadvantaged in competition by new national laws.
Nevertheless the EU trade commissioner campaigns for the agreement and sees there an historical chance for Europe. However for critics the price is the most massive pruning of democracy and consumer protection. What is trivialized as a harmless trade agreement, one prominent voice said, is nothing less than a “coup de etat in slow motion” (source ZDF).
In a shocking way, this broadcast makes clear the enormous democracy deficit of the EU. The European Commission carries on negotiations on the TTIP with an incredible ruthlessness toward the interests of unions, consumer protectors, social organizations, literally the large majority of citizens. The interests of transnational corporations have absolute priority here. The arrogance of trade commissioner Karel De Gucht speaks for itself. The negotiations of an agreement that will have massive effects on the lives of people in the EU occur without any participation by those representing their interests. Neither the national parliaments nor the European Parliament are directly involved in the negotiations. The EU Parliament may only accept or reject at the end of the negotiations but cannot offer any changes or amendments. National parliaments have no possibilities of participation. For this reason alone, the TTIP should be rejected.
GABRIEL AGAINST THE EU COMMISSION
The planned free trade agreement ensures differences of opinions between the EU commission and German minister of economics Sigmar Gabriel (SPD). If the EU commission tries to eliminate national parliaments, the planned Transatlantic Free Trade agreement between the European Union and the United States “will crash.” Gabriel said this in an interview for the ZDF zoom documentary “Free Trade as a Secret Matter – Who Benefits from the Transatlantic Agreement?”
The envisioned investor-protection is passionately disputed by critics of the free trade agreement. It provides that businesses will have the possibility in the future of suing against new laws as soon as they see themselves disadvantaged in the competition – before private arbitration courts, without the public, without controls and without revocation. Any compensation must be paid out of tax funds.
Sigmar Gabriel disassociated himself from the attitude of the EU commission on the planned investor protection. “I do not believe we need it between Europe and the US. These are two democracies with developed constitutional states. There is no reason to introduce a special jurisdiction. I do not want legislators neutralized by a special agreement and then in the final result consumer protection and protection of the atmosphere neutralized.
What is regarded in Germany as a nightmare of consumer protection is possible beyond the Atlantic – for example that use of growth hormones and toxic chemicals up to genetically-modified animals. The hurdles for the export of many of these products in the EU are still high. However the officials in Brussels and Washington are negotiating intensively over ways to abolish trade barriers to standardize the transatlantic market as much as possible. With investor-protection, US corporations will sue European states in the future and exert pressure on their legislation as soon as they see themselves disadvantaged by new national laws.
Nevertheless the EU trade commissioner campaigns for the agreement and sees there an historical chance for Europe… The US negotiates in the current discussions from a position of strength, the head of a transatlantic think tank in Washington explains. If Europe is not ready for such an agreement, they will turn to China.
FREE TRADE AGREEMENT FACES CRITICISM
More Protection for Consumers Demanded
[This article published on 5/20/2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.zdf.de
Advocates speak of the greatest economic deal of history; critics of the nightmare for consumers and the repeal of our quality standards. The transatlantic trade agreement between Europe and the US now negotiated behind closed doors causes quite a stir. What is behind all this?
The transatlantic trade agreement between Europe and the US now negotiated behind closed doors affects all of us.
TTIP is an English abbreviation meaning “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”
In the middle of May 2014 the negotiations between the EU and the US on the controversial free trade agreement, the so-called “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” entered the next round. A breakthrough in any of the central points is not expected. The question of standardized production standards is much contested. Critics fear a dilution of the stricter European protective measures for citizens and the environment.
The worries of Germans about chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef are baseless, according to the statements of EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht. The EU will not support any agreement that would lower consumer standards. “German politicians and opinion-makers can only bring about a mood swing or change in mood if they demystify the agreement,” the EU negotiation leader added.
NO SIGNING BEFORE THE END OF 2015
Conversations about a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership began in the summer of 2013. The new round should continue until May 23. Technical details may be discussed like questions of competition or small and medium-size enterprises. The negotiations are not expected to be concluded before the end of 2015. If a pact is signed, it will be the largest free trade zone of the world with around 800 million people.
WHAT IS CENTRAL IN THE TTIP?
The goals of the negotiators are promotion of economic growth, creation of jobs and guaranteeing international competitiveness. In addition the TTIP should serve as a “blueprint” for future free trade agreements, the European Commission declared.
This should happen concretely by making access to the market easier for firms (by abolishing tariffs). Mutual standards should be recognized. Businesses should have access to the “public necessities and a certain scope for entrepreneurial investments. Consumer households should also profit from these and other regulations – with a savings of 545 Euros per year. This sum came about through model calculations. Experts are critical about everything falling in place.
DUBIOUS CONSUMER PROTECTION
National associations of consumer protection criticize the TTIP. In a comment published on the official website, the intended harmonization of standards and regulations is decried along with the non-transparency of the negotiation process. The negotiators expect the greatest growth effect from the agreement. The European Commission insists the protective standards achieved in Europe will not be abandoned. Whether and how far the higher European consumer protection level can be maintained is uncertain. European and American protective- and regulatory approaches are structurally very different. Trade agreements are based on compromises, on the giving and taking of both negotiating sides…
FREE TRADE AGREEMENT TTIP: ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY?
[This broadcast summary from 5/22/2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.wdr.de/tv/monitor/sendungen/2014/0522/ttip.php5
Georg Restle: “In three days the European Parliament will be elected in Germany. While the election campaign here is rather boring, Europe’s future is negotiated elsewhere. In a Washington suburb, the negotiators of the TTIP free trade agreement are in dialogue and everything is strictly secret. Much more is involved than whether our cars in the future will have yellow or red blinkers. Our hospitals, universities and local public transportation are up for discussion. Critics of the agreement fear a huge wave of privatizations and a stripping of power from our parliaments.
Protests are occurring against the TTIP free trade agreement alongside the European election campaign in Hanover. While demonstrations are staged in Germany, Europe’s future is negotiated on the other side of the Atlantic in a suburb of Washington. The exact location is strictly secret.
More is involved than chlorinated chicken. Goods and services, investments, regulatory questions, protection of health and plants are at stake… The Bundestag, German states and the German government all have no access to the negotiation documents. In the meantime there is spirited protest on all planes…
Hans-Jurgen Blinn, EU Bundesrat delegate: “I have never witnessed anything similar in the last years. There are no interchanges or discussions. The German government and the Bundesrat are constitutional organs. While the general public is left out, politically responsible institutions do not know what the Commission and the Americans are negotiating at the moment.”
The chemical industry is a business in the billions. Many chemicals on the US market are not allowed in the EU, e.g. toxic materials that make textiles water-repellent or carpets and upholstery fireproof. Michael Braedt is responsible for chemical security in the Lower Saxony ministry of the environment. He fear chemicals not allowed in Germany could arrive in Europe through the free trade agreement.
Michael Braedt: “The standards in Europe could be evaded by the TTIP. As one example, there is a total Europe-wide prohibition on asbestos. In the US, asbestos is only prohibited in schools. There are a great number of chemicals about which we do not know in Europe through the tests whether they are dangerous or not. In the US they come on the market without tests and then could also come to Europe in the round-about way of the TTIP.”
US industrial associations have long urged that the American licensing process should be in force, not the European. In a Christmas list of the US industry lobby, we read:
“Science-based decision-making, not the precautionary principle, must be the defining principle…” Instead of the “precautionary principle” sounds harmless. For the chemical expert Braedt, a core of European consumer protection is involved.
Michael Braedt, expert for chemical security in the Lower Saxony ministry of the environment: “The precautionary principle is the philosophy that a firm must show that the material put on the market is not dangerous for persons and the environment. In the US, the substances are allowed partly without texts. Then when the child falls in the well, people keep the costs out of legal processes. I say very openly, what happens in the US compared to Europe are human experiments with chemicals.”
MONITOR presents several documents from the secret negotiations – including the report of the fourth round of negotiations. “Science-based risk-evaluation” competes here with the “precautionary principle.” Are central European values sacrificed for free trade? The EU Commission tries to calm down critics.
Frank Hoffmeister, head of the EU trade commission: “The American position will not be accepted. I do not need to speculate about this. The legislation on genetically-modified organ isms that exists in Europe and presupposes clear rules will survive. These rules will not be undermined.”
Will no toxic chemicals and no genetic corn be allowed?...
The precautionary principle is also at stake with the controversial fracking method. It has long been used in Canada and the US. Chemicals are pumped into the ground to produce natural gas. The consequences cannot be foreseen. The precautionary principle holds in Europe. The environmental ministers of all German states fear this could change with the TTIP.
Franz Untersteller (B’90/ Greens), chairperson of the environmental ministers conference: “We are critical of fracking in Germany and in Europe and say we do not want this applied in Germany. In Baden_Wurttemberg, four million people are supplied with drinking water from the Bolin Sea. We are very critical since this could be introduced through the backdoor so to speak because fracking is allowed in the US. With acknowledgment of mutual legal systems, it will be easier in the future to introduce fracking among us through the backdoor.”
In May 2014 water cannons were used against protestors in Brussels. Around 250 demonstrators were arrested. Many protestors fear a wave of privatizations in public services. The “highest liberalization level” is emphasized in the negotiation mandate – for “all sectors and kinds of production.” All sectors implies all public services, city hospitals for example, garbage disposal, schools and universities, and even the drinking water supply, even if the commission denies this. Ulrich Maly who represents 3200 communes all over Germany is also worried. They could come under enormous privatization pressure, he believes.
Ulrich Maly (SPD), president of the German City Day alliance: “Free trade is also freedom of service transfer. The EU has always been a thorn in the eye of the public services, the German tradition of vital necessities. A new liberalization threat through the backdoor could be looming with the TTIP.”
The commission plays down the issue. It is completely normal that everything first comes on the negotiation table and later the exceptions are defined.
Frank Hoffmeister, head of the EU trade commission cabinet: “Saying this and that are excluded before the negotiations begin is not the approach chosen by the European Union and the US. Our 28 member states that mandated the commission made this clear.”
This means the German government supports the comprehensive negotiation mandate. From the beginning, it could have championed exceptions and more transparency.
Ulrich Maly (SPD), president of German Day of Cities: “This is unfortunately not a very beautiful example of how a political process runs well but rather a frightening example for that. It calls itself free trade but the negotiation is completely unfree. No one knows what is wrong, deficient transparency, no democratic control and those who are affected are not heard. What a dubious process!”
Still the negotiations over Europe’s future will continue – behind closed doors.
TTIP – NO THANKS!
Transatlantic Partnership is Different
Position Paper on the Planned EU-US Free Trade and Investment Agreement (TTIP)
By German NGOs
[This position paper published on April 24, 2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://ttip-unfairhandelbar.de
The governments of the EU and the US are planning the “Transatlantic Free Trade and Investment Agreement” (TTIP). BMW and Monsanto are happy, as well as Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase, BASF and Google, Bertelsmann and Exxon Mobil. But do the people in the EU, the US and the rest of the world really need an enormous deregu9lated transatlantic market? TTIP does not answer the real questions: how do we want to live? What is a good life without the exploitation of humans, animals and the environment? How can we do economics in the ecological limits of the planet and protect good, fairly paid work? How can we attain food sovereignty for everyone?
We are now mired in ecological, social and economic crises. We experience much too little – not too much – democracy, social justice, protection of the atmosphere and financial market controls. We experience too little – not too much – solidarity economics, protection of rural and public-interest-oriented agriculture and effective consumer-, data- and legal protection over against the bus9iness interests of international corporations.
Economic representatives in the EU and the US promise more growth with the TTIP agreement. They want more trade streams and more market freedom for businesses. But that can mean in reality: genetically engineered food and hormone beef land unlabeled on our plates. The latest advances in financial market regulations will be cancelled. Worker rights will be undermined. The thwarted ACTA agreement on copyright law comes through the backdoor – freedom of expression and data protection fall by the wayside. Only lower consumer protection- and environmental standards remain. The German government and the EU commission rely on secret negotiations with far-reaching exclusion of the public and the parliaments.
Democracy and transparency: Instead of secret negotiations, a broad public discussion about a social and ecological negotiation mandate is needed on both sides. Comprehensive and current information and complete access to all negotiation documents must be guaranteed for the public and the parliaments. The influence of economic lobbyists must be pushed back. Moreover the commission must allow an extensive sustainability test to be carried out by an independent side.
Legal protection for people, instead of privileged rights to sue for corporations: We oppose international corporations being given special rights to sue states. The so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement avoids fundamental principles of the constitutional state.
Preservation and development of European environmental policy instead of its subordination under the free trade logic: The precautionary and causal agent principles are core principles of protection of the atmosphere and the environment as laid down in 1992 in Rio. These principles are elements of European environmental law. If risks can come from products or technologies, these risks must be avoided with foresight. However present and planned rules that follow these principles are declared trade barriers in the TTIP on pressure of US export interests. Slow approval and labeling of genetically-engineered foods in Europe are a special thorn in the eyes of US lobby groups. However the further development of the EU chemical law REACH, the Euro-norm for auto-emissions and the EU strategy for limiting the environmental dangers from plastics run against US export interests.
Therefore the precautionary principle must be considered in every case in political decisions. This is especially true for risk technologies like gas production by means of “fracking.” This process uses enormous quantities of land and water, hides new risks for groundwater and thwarts the politically-resolved goal of protecting the atmosphere. We need a more just economic mode on both sides of the Atlantic that is climate- and resource sparing. To that end, prohibitions are just as necessary as taxes and tariffs on harmful processes. That is not consistent with the TTIP free trade logic. The lowest standards cannot become the guiding principle.
Protect Rural and Environmentally-just Agriculture: TTIP brings no advantages to farmers and consumers in Europe. These farmers and consumers are only subordinated for more trade with the TTIP. The agricultural industry on both sides of the Atlantic will implement industrial standards through the TTIP. Thus cloned- and hormone beef can be sold in the US as well as the milk of cows treated with genetically-engineered growth hormones. Chicken is treated with chlorine in the US. There are no stringent approval processes or labeling obligations for genetically-modified plants. Genetically-altered salmon is allowed. The patent- and liability law is also different in many regards in both trading zones. All these themes are probably on the secret negotiation list. Small farmer and ecological agriculture should be protected instead of more “grow or make way.” A rural future-friendly agriculture needs a fair trading system that considers the interests of farmers and does not serve the interests of agro-industry.
High Consumer and Health Standards: The stricter European standards are not negotiable. They cannot be either lowered or avoided by a mutual recognition of US and European standards. A comprehensive labeling-obligation is necessary for materials, methods of production, treatment and also for manufactured products.
Protect Labor- and Human rights through clear and enforceable regulations: The TTIP is sold to the public as a motor for creating jobs. Existing free trade agreements like the NAFTA agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico brought about the opposite. Unions criticize job losses in industry, falling wages, dodging minimum labor standards and growing income differences as a consequence of free trade since labor standards are adjusted at the lower level. In the EU, mass unemployment, pressure on wages and the expansion of precarious employment are results of weaker social standards in the liberalized free trade zone.
International Solidarity and Cooperation instead of more and more competitive pressure. The EU and the US want to ensure their global hegemony with the TTIP. Up-and-coming threshold- and developing countries will lose market shares through the agreement. Development policy is thereby undermined.
Protection and Development of Public Services instead of a further deregulation offensive. Essential vital services – for example in education, health, water, energy or transportation – may not be privatized. They must be accessible for everyone and satisfy high qualitative social and environmental standards. The TTIP negotiations threaten to whittle down the necessary creative possibilities on the national and communal planes. More pressure in the direction of privatization should be expected.
Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions instead of more liberalization. For example, the UNESCO Convention n protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expression ensures film-, theater, orchestra- and further cultural promotion and public legal radio with its national program. This creative space is up for disposition through the TTIP negotiations.
Regulation of the Financial Sector and Dismantling Economic Imbalances instead of more deregulation and free trade. The deregulation of the financial markets and economic imbalances with the EU as results of wage competition are essential causes of the European economic crisis. With the TTIP, financial services should be deregulated again. The political power of the financial industry would be strengthened. Wage- and tax dumping and falling revenues of public budgets would be the consequences.
Innovations, Education and Information Freedom instead of more sole exclusive rights to “intellectual property” of corporations. “Intellectual property” needing protection is found in many sectors – technologies, pharmaceuticals, seeds, films and music. Under the pretext of protecting the creators, the big publishers, labels and media corporations lead the users of culture and information by the nose ever more intensely. Science and education are hindered; more and more works are abandoned and lost because their digitalization is not allowed. We need a fair balance of interests between creators, users and commercializers! In 2012 the ACTA agreement was stopped by a wave of public indignation. The media industry would have been given extensive monopoly rights and control of the Internet. TTIP is a new attempt at introducing these monopoly rights.
Strengthen Economic Regionalization: The EU presses for far-reaching deregulation of public employment and seeks to remove regulations of many American states and cities on local shopping. European regulations on sustainable or regional employment would be endangered. Strengthening one’s region or considering social and ecological goals must be possible.
We call all interested persons and organizations to participate actively in the debate over this new agreement! Together with our friends in Europe and the US, make clear to politicians and economic captains that free trade- and investor-protection prescriptions from the 20th century are not solutions for our present-day challenges. A transatlantic partnership for the social-ecological transformation that we need do urgently in the 21st century would look very different!
Resistance is rising in the US and other countries of the EU against this planned agreement! Together we will stop it!
PEOPLE, ENVIRONMENT AND DEMOCRACY BEFORE PROFIT AND CORPORATE RIGHTS
Common Declaration of European Civil Society Groups against the TTIP Threat, May 2014
[This common declaration published in May 2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.attac.de.]
1. WHO ARE WE?
We are an EU-wide union of civil society organizations that are very worried about the different threats by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP (also known as Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement or TAFTA – Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement). We represent a huge number of public interests in the areas of protecting the atmosphere, the public health system, agriculture, consumer protection, safeguarding food- and agricultural standards, animal welfare, social standards, industrial safety, employee rights, development, access to information, digital rights, essential public services including education, stability of financial systems and others.
We are resolved to question the current negotiations on the TTIP agreement and ensure a transparent and democratic debate. All agreements must serve the public interest and the future of everyone.
2. WHAT IS TTIP?
TTIP is a far-reaching agreement that is negotiated by the European Commission (in the name of EU member states) and the government of the US. Trade is hardly involved since the tariffs between the EU and the US are already very low. Regulations, standards, corporate rights and investment guarantees are central.
The proposed TTIP agreement allegedly facilitates direct investments for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic and removes unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles to market access.
According to signs from the economy and industry, the focus on non-tariff barriers and standardization of rules will be used to speed up deregulation, higher investment guarantees, enforcement of intellectual property rights that could lead to monopolies and the race to the bottom. Even in the best possible case, the predicted but unproven economic advantages for the whole society are very trifling. Everything suggests the goals of the agreement threaten important democratic rights and social interests of society in the EU, the US and worldwide gained in long struggles.
The negotiations are occurring behind closed doors without a comprehensive and effective public consultation. The parliaments of individual states also do not know any details from the negotiation texts of the commission. The little information that has been published or seeps through reinforces our considerable objections.
3. WHAT ALARMS US?
• The lack of transparency and democratic procedures that make it impossible for citizens and civil society to observe the negotiations to ensure that the public interest is safeguarded. The negotiations are not particularly well-balanced. Lobby-groups of the economy are given a privileged access to information and influence the negotiations.
• The proposed chapter on protection of investments, especially the provisions on “Investor-State Dispute Settlement.” ISDS-mechanisms grant investors a special right to sue states when democratic decisions – carried out by public institutions in the public interest – allegedly have negative effects on expected corporate profits. These mechanisms are based on decisions outside the national courts and thus undermine our national legal systems and those of the EU, our democratic structures for legislation and measures in the public interest.
• The creation of new undemocratic governance structures and procedures that should “harmonize regulations.” These include the proposed “Regulatory Cooperation Council.” These structures would make the TTIP into an open agreement that would be revised constantly and secretly by unelected bureaucrats and representatives of big business. These undemocratic structures would endanger important standards and rules protecting public interests and could even block future improvements even if they are necessary and desired by the citizens.
In addition the intention of strengthening the protection and enforcement of “intellectual property rights” alarms us. This could negatively harm our right to health, cultural education and free expression of opinion.
4. OUR COMMON DEMANDS AND GOALS:
Grounded on the values of international solidarity, social justice, ecological sustainability and respect of human rights, we cooperate with our allies in the US and other parts of the world.
a) Immediate transparency: The negotiation texts of the EU commission and all other negotiation documents must be published so an open and critical public debate over the TTIP agreement is possible.
b) A democratic process including a careful analysis and assessment of the negotiation texts to ensure the measures serve the public interest. This process must include the EU parliament, debates in national parliaments, civil society organizations, unions and pressure groups
c) No investor-state dispute settlement: all rules that include the ISDS mechanisms must be permanently removed from the negotiations.
SUMMARY – TTIP: ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY
By John Hillary, Rosa Luxemburg foundation
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is an extensive free trade- and investment agreement presently negotiated between the European Union and the US – under exclusion of the public. President Barack Obama announced the intention to take up the TTIP negotiations in his State of the Union address in February 2013. The first round of negotiations between the European Commission and its US negotiating partners occurred in July 2013. The discussions should be completed as quickly as possible without the public learning the details in the hope of winding them up before people in Europe and the US recognize the extent of the threat by the TTIP.
Representatives of both sides acknowledge that TTIP does not primarily promote trade by reducing import duties between the EU and the US because the tariffs are already at a minimum. Rather the main goal of TTIP is the removal of regulatory “barriers” that limit the potential profits of transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic, However these “barriers” involve some of our most valuable social standards and environmental regulations like labor law, regulations on food security (including the restriction against genetically-modified organisms), laws on the use of toxins, rights of digital data protection and new rules on bank security introduced to avoid a repetition of the 2008 financial crisis. In other words, more could not be at stake.
In addition to the deregulation efforts, new markets should be created through TTIP since transnational corporations will be able to compete for public services and employment contracts. A further wave of privatization threatens. The TTIP intention is to grant foreign investors the right to sue sovereign governments before ad-hoc arbitration courts when lost profits occur as a result of political decisions. These “investor-state-dispute-settlement procedures” raise transnational capital to the same practical level as the nation state and so threaten to undermine the most fundamental democratic principles in the EU and the US.
Therefore TTIP should be understood as the attempt of transnational corporations to force open and deregulate markets on both sides of the Atlantic, not as a negotiation between two rival trading partners. Worries about threats through the TTIP grow among citizens of the EU and the US. Groups of civil society join forces with scientists, parliamentarians and others to keep economy-friendly government representatives from abolishing our central social- and environmental standards with their signature. We are all called to support this resistance by joining local counteracting campaigns – or starting our own.
INTERNATIONAL RIGHTS FOR CORPORATIONS?
A Free Trade Swine Runs through the Global Village
By Stefan Schoppengerd
[This article on the TISA published in express 05/2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.linksnet.de.]
While negotiations on the Transatlantic Free Trade agreement TTIP ignite greater and greater protest, negotiations on a multilateral agreement on trade with services advance robustly. The goal of this initiative of a national German group called initially “The True Friends of Services” is obvious: to secure regulations for service providers according to the rules of the “free market” going beyond GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services).
Largely unnoticed by a great public, a so-called free trade agreement in favor of service companies has been negotiated since the spring of 2013. The Trade in Services Agreement, in short TISA, should bundle understandings of liberalization of services outside the cumbersome World Trade Organization. The European Commission is a principle actor. If the EU member states are counted individually, 50 countries are now involved worldwide and affected by the consequences.
The sixth round of negotiations took place in Geneva from April 28 to May 2, 2014. The details of the discussions are kept secret as in the negotiations on a “free trade” agreement between the European Union and the United States. However there is clear circumstantial evidence where the trip is headed. The US lobby organization Coalition of Services Industries (CSI) rejoices that the “unfair competition by businesses in state ownership” will soon be ended. On the Internet pages of the Australian government, we learn that all kinds of services are themes of the negotiation. New rules for national legislation are formulated “to ensure the regulatory framework does not act as an obstacle for trade with services.” Whoever senses dangers for worker rights, protection of the atmosphere and the last non-commodified public services has a good nose.
An analysis of the Canadian scholars Scott Sinclair and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood in the commission of the “Internationale of Public Services”  published at the end of April 2014 explains the significance of the TISA negotiations. The discussions aim at agreeing on the “greatest common denominator” for the deregulation of all kinds of services. A “negative list” is worked out. What sectors fall in the authority of the agreement is not clear. Only what is explicitly left out is mentioned. Everything else is subject to “internal negotiation.” Foreign investors must be treated like domestic businesses. “This means every financial subsidy of public services must be explicitly cancelled or made available in the same way to private profit-oriented service providers” (p.11). The threat for public “health services” or the communal water supply – to name only two examples – is manifest.
Democratic institutions and procedures are undermined. In the 1990s Stephen Gill described this as the “new constitutionalism of disciplining neolilberalism” on the occasion of the WTO’s founding. Action- and decision-making possibilities in nation-state parliamentary democracy are further reduced. Capital interests are given the quality of international law… The “free trade” agreements set the points toward privatization and rule of the market. Opposing this on the local or national planes is increasingly hard when the accountable politicians shrug off international obligations and unfortunately with all understanding for the anxieties of citizens see no alternative.
The permanent reinforcement of corporate power is central with the European-American agreement TTIP. On the eve of the European election, German social democracy sees itself obliged to react to the widespread criticism of anti-globalization organizations. Sigmar Gabriel asks skeptically whether the sought-after regulations on “investor protection” are sensible. The controversial arbitration courts would only accept complaints of corporations that imagine themselved victims of discrimination. Among the top candidates for the European election Martin Schulz, criticism is reduced to the “non-transparent” form of past negotiations. However these negotiations were also anti-democratic in their content. The negotiations do not give a damn about protection of the constitution.
1) According to the Austrialian foreign- and trade ministry, these are beside the EU member states: Australian, Chile, Costa Rica, European Union Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Canada, Colombia, Lichtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Switzerland, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and the US.