TTIP, or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a group of trade negotiations being carried out between the United States and EU, all behind closed doors. Basically, TTIP is reducing the regulatory barriers for big business to trading between the US and EU. Environment, Banking, Food safety, and the individual powers of EU nations are all what’s being agreed upon. Some have called it “An assault on European society by multinational corporations.”
The accusation is that the TTIP process has been undemocratic and covert. Any information you tend to hear comes from unofficially leaked documents and legally required Freedom of Information requests by interested parties.
But us TTIP as bad as people say? Is it a disaster waiting to happen or of real benefit to the EU.
Opinion 1: TTIP needs to be stopped!
TTIP is a dangerous, divisive, threatening agreement, unmetioned in the media and voted on by absolutely no one, yet it will massively effect our way of life in both the EU and US, jeopardising the very essence of what we believe democracy and security means. It will do this in the following ways.
Food and environmental safety
TTIP will try and bring EU standards on food safety closer to the US. US regulations are a whole lot less strict, more than 65% of all processed foods in US supermarkets now containing GM ingredients. Instead of which, in the EU almost no Genetically Modified foods are permitted. The United States is also much more relaxed on the use of pesticides. They use growth hormones in beef that are restricted in Europe owing to cancer links. United States farmers have been trying for years to have these restrictions overturned and will likely try to keep this up with TTIP.
The EU has already admitted that TTIP will very likely result in mass unemployment with jobs moving over to the US, traditionally where labour and union standards are far more lax. TTIP has advised EU countries to use European support funds so they can compensate people for the expected unemployment.
Other bi-lateral trade agreements around the world seem to suggest job losses are on the cards. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico, instead of the hundreds of thousands of extra that were promised, caused the loss of more than one million US jobs over thirteen years.
America’s financial rules are actually tougher than in Europe so the City of London is believed to be after a loosening of US banking regulations to accommodate their needs. American regulations were fixed in place after the financial crisis to help avoid a similar disaster reoccurring. TTIP will try and remove those barriers and reempower the bankers to do as they will.
All public services, especially the health services across Europe, are under threat. Among the biggest goals of the TTIP is to free up the EU’s public services, including education, health, power and water services to large US multinationals. This couldeasily mean the privatisation of the health services across the EU.
Claims from the European Commission have said that all public services will definitely be kept out of TTIP but according to the Huffington Post, health services are still up for grabs.
TTIP is a huge threat to society. A main goal of TTIP is Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow individual companies to sue whole governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profit to the company. In effect it means multinational businessess will start dictating government policy in individual EU nations.
Vattenfall has already brought the German government to court looking for billions of dollars in compensation over the policy of phasing out nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. A decision about public safety by an elected representative government being jeopardised by a huge power company because of lost money. This is the reverse of everything the hundreds of years of democracy in Europe were about. There are hundreds of similar cases of businesses suing governments at the moment and they are all taking place in front of corporate lawyers appointed by unaccountable and faceless, unelected vested interests.
ACTA was where internet service providers would be required to monitor people’s online activity to supposedly prevent piracy. It was thrown out as an idea after a huge public and media backlash against what was deemed an invasion of privacy. The thinking now is that TTIP will be trying to bring back the central idea of ACTA. Data privacy laws are set to go the way of the Dodo too.
I’m sure after reading all of this, you’d probably vote against TTIP. But that’s the thing. You can’t. You’ll never be able to either. It will just slide into existence on the back of empty promises and public handshakes and it will be your future and that of your children sold down the line. Remember hearing about it on the news? Yes, that’s right, it’s never, ever discussed. Millions are protesting TTIP in Germany and across Europe, but it’s being steadily ignored. It’s not too late to do something. Let your local government representative know. If there are elections coming up, make it an issue. It might just be the most important one.
Opinion 2: You’re so wrong. The TTIP is for everyone’s benefit
So here are the facts. The US economy is essential for the health of both the German economy and all the other EU nations around it. TTIP is an opportunity to develop the potential of a world now more connected than ever at an economic level. Lowering financial barriers, bringing regulation into line, and opening markets to businessess of all sizes on both sides of the Atlantic means these companies will be able to both grow and to create employment in a far wider geographical area. It’s essential that we agree on trading standards and rules across the board in w world where a market ripple in one place causes catastrophe in another. It’s fairy tale thinking to believe we aren’t all massively connected already. Moreover, this helps formulate government policy jointly on things like third world debt, global warming and other crucial issues.
Plenty of people seem to be steadfastly against TTIP with many NGOs naming the defeat of TTIP their primary policy goal. The concern is that the welfare and freedoms of individual citizens in sovereign nations will suddenly be threatened by huge multinational companies looking to erode their rights.
Let’s look at the facts.
Everyone involved – the EU, the United States and the German government have stated time and again that TTIP is not about deregulation or threatening standards. German industry would not allow that, with high quality production standard being a key selling point. It would be very backward thinking if the EU lowered safety standards. And, looking back, the EU has taken part in many trade agreements with countries with far lower standards than the US. Can we see how these have lowered standards and endangered freedoms in the EU? Precisely because they haven’t.
It’s important that EU and US regulators come closer in terms of their thinking on many issues, we all know that. We need to break down barriers to successful trade negotiations which are a vestige of a bygone era. Conversations between regulators is key to achieving this. But the sovereignty of governments and regulators to create national policies should never be threatened. No one wants that. Cooperation and conversation don’t mean new laws are created. Elected parliaments and public services are essential for the prosperity and security of citizens.
Here’s how it comes into play. Take Braun, for example, a German company which manufactures for markets both in the EU and the United States, following two different licensing requirements, testing processes and safety standards, even though the requirements in both areas are pretty similar. Braun have now to manufacture many products which do the same jobs for different markets, which is very costly. That’s Braun, a huge company. Imagine how much more difficult it is for a smaller business, even a local one. Most of the time, costs like this make it impossible to enter the US market. If TTIP could open this up, companies would be able to grow their business and even make jobs.
TTIP will deliver growth opportunities for small businesses as well as large ones and the benefits will be felt by ordinary consumers when jobs are created and prices fall. At the very least, EU countries with less stable economies should be allowed prosper as a result.