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Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Dangers of TTIP

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. Firstly I'd urge everyone to watch the Youtube video below:

The ‘barriers’ that TTIP is being designed to reduce are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations, such as labour 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.
As far as the Green Party and wider green movement is concerned, we need to join those groups such as 38 degrees who are shouting loudly and lobbying about the dangers of TTIP. For one thing, there is much talk amid the green movement at present about whether to emphasise our 'environmental agenda' or our 'social justice' agenda. To me such talk is misleading as it carries an implication that the two approaches are divergent or distinct. In fact they are convergent and inter meshed and no current issue illustrates this more clearly than that of TTIP. This deal has the potential to remove both environmental and social protection in one shot. Some voters may be non too bothered about the UK losing the ability to block fracking companies, but may be very bothered about  NHS privatisation. Others may be more concerned about deregulation of animal welfare than inability to easily raise the minimum wage. Obviously I'd like to think that voters were equally concerned about all these issues, but that misses the main point which is that the threat posed by TTIP unites our core concerns as a movement and as such is something we can all rally round to oppose.

Supporters of TTIP, such as the Liberal Democrats, claim it will create jobs and wealth on both sides of the Atlantic. However, in reality it will simply place more power in the hands of the corporate sector. One of the key concerns here is the future of the NHS. The danger is that the NHS and other public services could be sold off to US investors and that if the NHS is not open to investors, they may be able to sue the government, using the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause which could be included in the free trade agreement.

At the moment, ISDS is off the agenda, after the EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht temporarily removed it in January, pending the results of a public consultation, which are currently being analysed. However, he has since told this publication that he wishes the clause to return to the discussions. Obviously the government has issued certain reassurances about this issue. However I think people need to ask themselves whether or not reassurances from this government are of any real value. The government told IBTimes UK earlier in August that the NHS is not an area that is up for discussion during TTIP negotiations.
A Department of Health spokesperson said:
"We have no intention of allowing the TTIP to dictate the opening up of NHS services to further competition; and it will not do so. The NHS will always be free at the point of use for everyone who needs it."
However the problem with this is that David Cameron has so far refused to confirm that the government's veto will be used to remove public services from the agenda. Given the position of the Conservative and Lib Dem Parties on privatisation, which boils down to 'the more of it the better' , I rather suspect that believing that the government would stand up for our public sector against both the USA and EU is rather like believing that the moon is made of cream cheese and Santa Claus will be climbing down your chimney on Christmas Eve.

Despite these government claims that public services will be protected from the EU's free trade agreement with the US, 42% of British people don't trust them to protect the NHS from privatisation.
A new survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of 38 Degrees, found that a further 39% think the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) "would be bad for the UK", with just 13% saying it would have a positive effect.
When asked specifically about the NHS, 24% said their trust in the government to shield the NHS from privatisation has fallen over the course of a year, with just 4% saying it has risen.

Unfortunately, the negotiations leading to TTIP are taking place with hardly any publicity, you could almost say in secret. Partly this is due to the media believing that a news item about a complicated EU trade treaty is about as interesting to the public as watching a kettle boil, however it is also because government politicians are keeping deliberately quiet about it. The less the public know about a deal that threatens our countryside, our NHS and our wage levels the better, in the eyes of the coalition. Therefore the green movement needs to both help to publicise this deal and also to get those voters who the above poll suggests are worried about the implications to vote for the Green Party.


Some voters may be tempted by UKIP and see the whole TTIP issue as an EU one. However a UKIP government, with their pro-privatisation, neo-Thatcherite economic position, would simply pull out of the EU then sign their own UK-USA bilateral version of TTIP as quick as lightening. We need to shout this loudly.

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