Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/825/19231
Oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
TTIP is a multi-billion dollar agreement between the US and EU guaranteeing access to public services for giant corporations to make vast profits - irrespective of the destructive impact on these services - as Vladimir Bortun explains.
Multinational corporations are about to strike another major blow to the limited democracy we have and to people's fundamental rights: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union (EU) and the US.
Little known to the general public, the TTIP has been under negotiation behind closed doors since July 2013 and could be concluded by the end of 2014.
The European Commission (the executive body of the EU) initiated 'public consultations' on TTIP only after a draft of its text was leaked this year in March.
According to the European Commission website, TTIP "aims at removing trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US".
Despite its alleged boost to economic growth, the TTIP would further deregulate finance, genetically modified organisms and fracking, and also harden copyright laws. But probably the most dangerous aspect of the TTIP is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).
The European Commission defines ISDS as a system that "allows an investor to directly bring a claim against the authorities of the host country in front of an international tribunal".
Corporations could bring claims against states whenever they feel that their business interests have been affected by national laws or policies.
It means, for example, that the Tories' NHS privatisation agenda would be accelerated as US private healthcare companies demand access to run NHS services and be entitled to legally claim against a government if denied.
As Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, puts it: "US health companies will even have the right to sue a future UK government in secret courts if politicians try to reverse privatisation."
EU commissioner negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero says the NHS would be "fully safeguarded". This is probably sufficient for the Labour Party to endorse TTIP. However, Bercero adds: "Although health services are in principle within the scope of these agreements".
Investor-state disputes are settled by international 'arbitrators', who have become increasingly important in the last two decades.
ISDS cases are currently carried out by panels composed of three people, who make crucial decisions behind closed doors, away from the communities ultimately affected by them, while the cases themselves cannot be appealed.
Moreover, these arbitrators tend to be a "small group of elite lawyers" that has been characterised as "an inner circle", or even an "arbitration mafia". Only 15 arbitrators have decided 55% of all 450 investor-state disputes up to 2012.
The pro-business orientation of many of these arbitrators is also quite blatant. As shown in a 2013 report by the Democracy Center. Some of these arbitrators "switch from being (supposedly impartial) arbiters in one case, to being corporate lawyers in the next, and many also double as both corporate and government advisers".
Some actually "have been members of the board of major multinational corporations, including those which have filed cases against developing nations".
This might explain why in 2012, according to a United Nations report, in "70% of the public decisions addressing the merits of the dispute, investors' claims were accepted, at least in part".
Even if they win, states - usually from the developing world - end up spending millions of dollars on legal defence.
TTIP could therefore constitute the fatal blow to the remnants of 'state sovereignty' in Europe.
Juan FernŠndez-Armesto, an arbitrator from Spain, sums it up very well: "Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament."
Given such dark prospects, fighting the TTIP should become a vital concern for socialists everywhere as part of our wider struggle against global capitalism.
In The Socialist 17 September 2014:
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