TTIP Undermines the Constitutional State
By Lea Susemichel
[This article published on 7/2/2014 in an.schlage is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.linksnet.de/de/artikel/31399.]
The TTIP involves more than chlorine-washed chicken. Lea Susemichel asked Alexandra Stricker from Attac Austria about dreaded effects of the agreement, especially on women and how it can still be prevented.
An.schlage: Advocates of the TTIP, the "Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership," argue with economic upswing and more jobs. However other free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, Canada and the US show that they in no way bring more prosperity to the broad population. NAFTA has had many disastrous effects. What do you expect for Europe?
Alexandra Stricker: The advocates of TTIP in Europe - led by the European Commission and the governments of member states - advance these arguments for the agreement on very thin ice. A glance at the studies shows there will hardly be any positive economic effects of the TTIP. An additional economic growth of 0.05 percent annually is predicted. Around 400,000 new jobs should arise across the EU in the first 15 years after implementation of the agreement. However these studies do not include the possible costs of this agreement. With the current 26 million unemployed in Europe and the knowledge that TTIP is a de-regulation agreement (the goods trade between the US and the EU is already liberalized as far as possible), we expect for Europe an intensification of the trend to precarious and atypical forms of paid work. European employers will swing the modification club to enforce worse working conditions.
In a position paper, WIDE (Network for Women's Rights and Feminist Perspectives) warns that TTIP is a great redistribution project benefiting mammoth corporations at the expense of women. What are the gender specific aspects and effects of the TTIP?
TTIP in itself is a great redistribution project in favor of big corporations and the one percent at the expense of the 99 percent in Europe and the US. If one glances at the list of those belonging to the one percent, proportionally few women are found there. Therefore I entirely agree with this judgment. The leaked negotiation document suggests possible gender-specific effects of TTIP. The whole service sector should become part of the TTIP agreement. Existing liberalizations in the areas of energy, public transportation, nursing etc. should be codified.
TTIP will give businesses the right to sue in arbitration courts. What is problematic in this? What precedents are there?
In the TTIP - as in the nearly completed EU-Canada agreement - the possibility of businesses suing states is codified if they see themselves treated unjustly or expropriated indirectly. This instrument of the investor-state-right to sue has already existed for a long time and was also sanctioned by many western European countries and the US in bilateral investment agreements with countries in the global South. This instrument exists in the North American Free Trade zone. NAFTA stipulates that businesses can sue states and these lawsuits will then be litigated before an international court of arbitration. This court consists of three persons nominated by the petitioning and defending parties. No appeal can be made against their decision. Up to now neither the public nor other parties could comment on this procedure.
Past experiences show that corporations use this instrument more and more to sue against environmental or social legislation that reduces their profit possibilities. For example, Vattenfall brought an action against Germany for 3.7 billion Euros compensation for the decision to opt out of nuclear power. Veolia has sued Egypt for raising the minimum wage. These lawsuits are still pending. Attac and many other movements and NGOs reject the investor-state-right to sue states in general because it creates a legal system outside the existing legal systems. Thus the possibility is created for transnational businesses to shift their private investment risk to the general public and set their profit interests above other social interests.
Resistance against the TTIP is growing. Are there real chances of stopping the TTIP or at least preventing it in this form? What concrete possibilities of meaningful protest exist?
The TTIP negotiations began in 2013. Since then a monkey wrench has been thrown in the works. The original goal was to complete the negotiations in 2014. At the beginning of February, EU trade commissioner De Gucht was prompted to remove the instrument of the investor-state-right to sue from the negotiations on account of increasingly loud criticism and stage a public hearing which is still underway. The more people and organizations know about the TTIP, the more aspects of the agreement are discussed, the stronger will be the pressure to publish the negotiation documents and the more difficult it will be for advocates of the agreement to tell their story of TTIP's brave new world. Even now the EU commission no longer argues for positive effects of the agreement. More effective protest needs many elements. One of these elements is to make alternative and critical information available and inform other people about the agreement and its effects. Another is to participate actively in days of action or campaigns directed at delegates or political representatives. We are linked with other actors in Europe and the US to work together so our goal "Stopping TTIP" is realized.
"Alternative Trade Mandate," December 2013, 20 pages, by 50 NGOs
Pia Eberhardt, "Investment Protection at a Crossroads," 16 lawsuits summarized
John Hilary, "TTIP: Deregulation, Attack on Jobs and End to Democracy," 42 pages
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a comprehensive free trade and investment treaty currently being negotiated - in secret - between the European Union and the USA. As officials from both sides acknowledge, the main goal of TTIP is to remove regulatory 'barriers' which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet these 'barriers' are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations, such as labor rights, food safety rules (including restrictions on GMOs), regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and even new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis. The stakes, in other words, could not be higher.