50,000 people marched in Berlin on Saturday in opposition to the proposed TTIP treaty and new farming technologies.
TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) has been ringing alarm bells among the public on both sides of the Atlantic, long before secretive negotiations began between the European Union and the USA in February, last year.
Readers will be hard pressed to think of any benefit to ordinary people that comes from secret government negotiations. On the other hand a list of very bad things to emerge from negotiations shrouded in mystery (contracting out torture to dictatorships, cyber spying, IMF ‘bail-outs’, etc) is both easy to compile and depressingly long.
The official spin from big business backers of TTIP is that the treaty will create prosperity for all. Tory Lord Livingston, minister for trade and investment, has claimed the average family could be £400 a year better off. What few details have emerged however has certainly justified the alarm being raised, mostly by workers’ organisations and the environmental movement.
Under the guise of “regulatory convergence” European employment rights and health regulations, already under assault from the Tory/Lib Dem government in the UK, will be levelled down to US standards where much looser rules apply.
Worst of all, TTIP will allow multinational corporations to sue governments for laws that harm their profits. There have already been examples of this under existing international trade treaties, such as Dutch health insurer Achmea seizing €30 million in foreign assets belonging to the Slovakian government after they renationalised their health insurance scheme.
In effect, governments will be punished for implementing the democratic wishes of their voters if it affects corporation’s profits.
There must be clear opposition, including trade union action, to any trade deals that lowers living standards and workers’ rights on either side of the Atlantic. Any negotiations must be to bring labour and environmental standards up to the highest level, not a race to the bottom.
However, this will never be the aim when such negotiations are conducted in secret by global corporations and their political allies in government. Only by workers’ governments nationalising big business, as part of a democratic socialist plan of production, can genuine economic negotiation and cooperation begin between different parts of the world.