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Why the EU should avoid a Transatlantic Trade Partnership

Meadhbh discusses the harm that the TTIP could cause if it comes into effect


Written by Meadhbh Bolger and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


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The EU and the US are currently negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This trade deal is set to be the biggest bilateral free trade agreement in history, and will act as a template for future global trade agreements. The key focus of the TTIP – “harmonising regulations” – could seriously dilute hard-fought regulations that provide social and environmental protection, reduce the ability of governments to implement similar regulations in the future, and hand over more power to corporates.

Now, many of us tend to switch off when we see phrases like “investment partnership” and “harmonising regulations”. Perhaps we’re thinking “what has this got to do with us? Let’s leave it to the experts; they know what they’re doing”. However, when we break down the technical lingo, it is clear that this trade agreement will have huge consequences for all levels of society and will set a worrying precedent. The damage it could cause to our planet and its inhabitants greatly outweighs the modest potential for economic gain.

“Secrecy enables corruption. So also does an inattentive public enable corruption” (Robert David Steele)

The negotiations surrounding the TTIP have been conducted at high governmental levels in a secret manner, with access to talks dominated largely by big business and industry. The interests of these groups are generally not in line with the everyday person, so why are they being given access to key decision makers while the broader public is left out in the cold? It’s time we level the playing field and demand truth and transparency.

A poster against the TTIP.

A poster from the recent Day of Action on March 12th.

Through an examination of global trade relations over the past 250 years it becomes evident that industrialised countries have become rich often at the expense of developing countries; it is a system which appears to only benefit rich countries. There is a very probable risk that the TTIP will serve to reinforce this unjust system.

Even within rich countries, the TTIP could establish undemocratic procedures resulting in excessive corporate power. There are clauses included that would make it necessary to examine at a very early stage of any legislative procedure whether the new law being proposed will have a “material” impact on trade relations. This would allow large and powerful EU and US companies to drastically expand lobbying activities, because they would constantly have to be consulted, giving them substantial influence.

Further Causes for Concern

Investor State Dispute Settlement clause (ISDS): Simply put, if this measure is included in the agreement it would allow foreign investors to sue their host country if their investment potential and profits are affected due to decisions taken by that government. There are hundreds of existing cases where countries have been sued millions for introducing socially and environmentally protective legislation. For example, under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which includes an ISDS clause, a US energy company is suing the Canadian government over its moratorium on fracking in Quebec. The TTIP ISDS clause will reinforce this power of corporations to sue, so if passed we’re set to see a large increase in cases. Not only does this place huge burdens on states’ public funds, particularly damaging for poorer countries, it also directly infringes on a states’ responsibility to implement adequate protection for its citizens and environment.

Precautionary principle: in the EU the precautionary principle is enshrined in law stating that a product or process must pose no risk to environmental, social, or animal welfare before it can be approved for retail. In contrast, the US operates in the opposite way whereby a product or process must be proven to be hazardous before it can be removed from the market. This means that hazardous products can be sold until they are irrefutably proven to be harmful. Through the TTIP, the US are pushing to remove this precautionary principle to allowing investors greater ease of access to markets with products and processes that are possibly damaging to the health of people and the planet.

Climate justice: the level of complacency evident in the TTIP negotiations with regard to climate justice is extremely worrying. The Fifth report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that 80% of existing fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground, and that renewable energy must be scaled up to avoid catastrophic climate change. However, in spite of this call for commitment, the TTIP snarls in the face of making the necessary global commitments. An examination of the European Commission’s official Impact Assessment analysing different scenarios for EU-US trade, predicts that the most ambitious TTIP scenario (maximum regulatory dilution) would serve to increase greenhouse gas emissions by 11.8 million tonnes in just 10 years. TTIP also seeks to make it easier to export gas and crude oil from the US which would result in more fracking for fossil fuels.

We can beat the TTIP

It is possible to beat the TTIP! Back in the 1990s, due to huge public outcry, the international investment agreement, MAI, was dropped. Let’s be part of a movement that will apply the same pressure so that the TTIP, and other damaging free trade agreements, are dropped. Together we can transition to a sustainable, happy and truly democratic society.

There has been a growing movement of concern and public outcry about the TTIP agreement in the EU and US. A number of Irish civil society organisations working for the causes of social and environmental justice, have come together to share information and to stimulate greater public awareness regarding these negotiations. We marked the beginning of this road to success with a Day of Action on Saturday 12th July in parallel with the World Development Movement’s day of actions throughout the UK. The day was a huge success and drew much needed attention to the issue. More actions and awareness building are coming up so keep an eye out.

Young Friends of the Earth are a group of young environmental activists who campaign for a more socially and environmentally just society. For more information and to get involved, contact youngfoe@foe.ie You can follow them on Twitter or check out their Facebook for more information. 

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Published July 29th, 2014
Last updated May 10th, 2016
Tags ttip environment
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