I recently wrote to all of my MEP candidates about TTIP. What on earth is TTIP I hear you all say. Well I am not surprised you haven’t heard of it because the media hasn’t shown an interest in it and the major political parties are all keeping very quiet about it. Only the Green Party is making the necessary noise to try to get this stopped. I want people to call it “The BAD Law”, which stands for Business against Democracy.
The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a treaty currently being negotiated in private by the Government of the USA and the Commission of the European Union. It envisages the creation of a single market/ free trade area comprising the USA and the countries of the EU, the largest such area in the world. I believe it is the biggest threat to our democracy since 1939. Instead of the threat of Nazi jackboots we are in danger of giving away power to unaccountable multi national corporations.
The US and British Governments are key proponents of this proposal. Greens from both countries have agreed to issue this statement of their shared concerns about the potential impact of the TTIP.
For me the most worrying aspect of TTIP is that it envisages permitting companies to sue national governments and, by extension, their taxpayers and citizens in the event that laws adopted for the common good compromise business opportunities and/or effects profits. This has already occured in cases against Costa Rica over gold mining, India over food safety and Australia over health regulations. The TTIP envisages such cases being heard by secret unelected bodies outside of the court systems. This shows TTIP favours corporations over citizens, and profit over people.
You can read more about TTIP and take action yourself on the WDM website. This short video from the European Greens is a good introduction.
My letter concluded by asking the candidates to sign this pledge.
So how did my Euro candidates respond?
Well, most of them didn’t! This does not bode well to how they will operate if elected to the Euro Parliament. I did get replies from
Jaqueline Bell (Lib Dem), Richard Corbert (Labour), Linda MaCavan MEP (Labour) , Joe Otten (LibDem) and Timothy Kirkhope (Conservative). They all had one thing in common. They all would not sign the pledge. There was not a single response from the UKIP candidates, who one would think might be concerned about this, but it seems not. There were positive responses though from all 6 Green Party Candidates, who have all signed the pledge. Councillor Andrew Cooper the lead candidate speaks about it here. (you can skip to 13 minutes)
Here is the joint statement from the British and American Greens.
Speaking together as Green Party activists, our concerns are:
1. Profit not people
That, in line with other multi- and bi-lateral free trade agreements, the TTIP is focussed first and foremost on profit generation to the benefit of the owners and shareholders of large multinational corporations through expanded geographical markets, lower labour costs and the removal of tariff charges. This does little to the long term benefit of citizens. TTIP will bring substantial reductions in tax revenues at a significant cost to the public good, greater job insecurity and a “race to the bottom” in labour standards, safety and environmental regulations and consumer protection.
2. Labour and environmental protection: a race to the bottom
Free trade agreements have rarely created the numbers and quality of jobs originally forecast by their proponents. Where employment has been generated it has tended to involve substantially lower terms and conditions than those that have often been lost. For example, the massive transfer of jobs from the USA to Mexico as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement devastated whole sectors of the US economy but led to comparatively little in the way of social gains to the areas of Mexico these economic activities transferred to. Similarly, we are concerned at the record of Apple’s record of employee conditions in China and in turn the prospect of tax breaks for Foxconn Technology Group’s operations in Arizona in spite of its adoption of extremely poor conditions and low pay for its Chinese workers. This exemplifies the impact of free trade arrangements on ordinary workers, who are all too often exploited, in return for substantially increased profits for owners and dividends for shareholders.
3. Big business trumps democracy
The TTIP envisages permitting companies to sue national governments and, by extension, their taxpayers and citizens in the event that laws and regulations adopted for the common good compromise business opportunities and/or impede profit-making. This has been manifest in cases against Costa Rica over gold mining, India over food safety and Australia over health regulations. It is all the more concerning that the TTIP is understood to envisage such cases being determined by secret determinations carried out by non-judicial appointees outside of the normal court systems. To us, this reveals a deep imbalance in the fundamental purpose of the TTIP in favour of corporations over citizens, and profit over people.
4. Increase of environmental impacts
We welcome the beneficial aspects of globalisation such as knowledge sharing and cultural exchange. We are deeply opposed to trade agreements that seek to exponentially increase the volume of trade in goods and services without regard to the impact of these on communities and the environment. Greater traffic in the movement of goods and people will substantially increase the carbon footprint of human activity at a time when the scientific debate on global warming has conclusively identified human activity as the main driver of increasingly dangerous climate change. Creation of a resource efficient and circular economy should be a priority in the face of various resource shortages.
5. Standards harmonised downwards
While we welcome in principle the objectives of common standards in technical specifications and other areas such as consumer protection envisaged by the TTIP, we remain deeply sceptical that these in practice will lead to anything other than an overall reduction in these to the benefit of corporations’ costs and profits, but at a cost to the common good of our own and other countries.
Greens seek a world which is sustainable in its economic and social activities, shares its resources equitably and seeks to use them wisely for the good of both current and future generations. Whilst welcoming many aspects of globalisation in terms of the opportunities this provides for greater mutual co-operation and understanding between the peoples of our planet, we reject deregulated, unrestricted free trade. We reject the focus on ever higher volumes of resource exploitation and consumption, disregard for equity and community and pursuit of profit over people and planet – at present levels consuming three or four times what is sustainable.
We therefore call on our respective Governments to veto any further work on the TTIP as currently envisaged .
As Greens, with shared values and objectives transcending international borders, we seek a new form of globalisation for the true common good and pledge ourselves to work for this to replace the sterile, short-term thinking behind the TTIP and similar “free” trade agreements around the world.
Cynthia McKinney, 2008 Green Party U.S. Presidential Nominee
Councillor Andrew Cooper, Lead European Candidate 2014, Yorkshire & The Humber Green Party