Losing control: Liam Fox brings despised TTIP back to life
TruePublica Editor. I always said that TTIP was never dead. It was merely taking a rest from the scale of mass public protest that reached fever pitch on both sides of the pond two years ago. Make no mistake though, TTIP is back. It is making its way through the back door and some are finally onto Liam Fox and his next desperate plan. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was a series of trade negotiations carried out in secret between the EU (UK included) and US, which seemingly died a death because what it sought was regulatory barriers to trade for big business – things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations to be reduced. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the same deal, just a different region.
And let’s not forget why TTIP really failed. It was an unprecedented protest movement of a scope not seen since the Iraq war all over Europe and America that pushed negotiations over the TTIP trans-Atlantic free trade agreement to collapse.
Surely, if Brexit has any legs to stand on at all it was about ‘taking back control’. TTIP does exactly the opposite. Any nation-state that signs a TTIP style deal loses control – that is fundamentally its raison d’être in the first place.
So what would TTP end up doing? Just for a start, its biggest threat to society is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect, it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.
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As numerous commentators, economists and even the mainstream media ended up agreeing – it was all bad. Here are just some points made by The Independent back in 2015 – and nothing has changed:
- Public services, especially the NHS, are in the firing line. One of the main aims of TTIP is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could essentially mean the privatisation of the NHS.
- TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients.
- Remember ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)? It was thrown out by a massive majority in the European Parliament in 2012 after a huge public backlash against what was rightly seen as an attack on individual privacy where internet service providers would be required to monitor people’s online activity. Well, it’s feared that TTIP could be bringing back ACTA’s central elements, proving that if the democratic approach doesn’t work, there’s always the back door.
- TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower. It has even advised EU members to draw on European support funds to compensate for the expected unemployment.
TTP, it also feared, will remove many restrictions that the banking industry has had to deal with as a result of their criminal behaviour that led to a global crisis, effectively handing all those powers back to the bankers once again.
MPs are set to debate four post-Brexit trade deals on Thursday, in a move likely to launch formal trade negotiations with the USA and Britain’s application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But campaigners have warned MPs that the debate shows the almost complete lack of power which they will have to guide, scrutinise or stop trade deals after Brexit.
The debate follows a Government consultation on the deals which provoked what is believed to be the biggest public response in history, with 600,000 individuals and organisations expressing concerns about the impact the deal could have on food standards, the NHS and the introduction of ‘corporate court’ systems which could lead to the British government getting sued in secret tribunals by some of the biggest companies on the planet.
Campaigners are warning that the government has failed to put into practice any framework for replacing the current scrutiny and accountability mechanisms which exist in the EU for dealing with trade deals. In effect, this hands the government very substantial powers to make sweeping social and economic changes outside of normal parliamentary processes. The Trump administration has already made clear that any trade deal with the US would need to substantially alter British food standards and increase medicine prices.
Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now said:
“This debate simply highlights the woeful lack of democracy governing Britain’s post-Brexit trade policy. Following a pretty meaningless public consultation, which nonetheless showed how concerned we all are about the government’s trade plans, the Secretary of State is expecting to simply start negotiating these deals in six weeks’ time. Neither parliament nor the public are allowed to stop Liam Fox negotiating away our food standards or our public services. This must change before it’s too late.”
David Lawrence of the Trade Justice Movement said:
“Despite his previous promise, that MPs will be given “the opportunity to consider… the Government’s approach to negotiations and the potential implications of any agreements”, Liam Fox has yet again demonstrated that he does not take Parliamentary oversight of trade deals seriously. Trade deals with places like the US could have massive impacts on social rights, the environment, food and health standards in the UK. The current process for agreeing trade agreements give MPs very little say. Thursday’s debate could be the only chance for MPs to debate these deals, and does not offer any assurances that MPs will be able to influence negotiations, access texts or get a meaningful vote on the deals.”
Jean Blaylock of War on Want said:
“We know the Secretary of State has a lot riding on doing a deal with the US but we don’t know what he is prepared to offer to get it. Thursday’s debate may be the only chance to find out. But more than that, it may be the only chance for parliament to have any say before an eventual deal is implemented. Trade officials can start negotiations, do the deal behind closed doors, finish and sign it, and parliament isn’t even guaranteed a vote on the final deal.”
(The four are deals with the US, Australia and New Zealand and joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The latter, now known formally as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, incorporates 11 Pacific nations, and remains a far-reaching trade deal with potentially serious impacts for regulations, public service and medicine prices: Read more – http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/resources/trans-pacific-powergrab)