TTIP Stumbles

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(Source: DW.com)

On May 6, French President Francois Hollande stated that in its current version the TTIP agreement could not pass. France’s trade representative stated “that there cannot be an agreement without France and much less against France.” Public opposition and outcry across Europe has threatened to halt negotiations especially after leaked documents confirmed fears that the US was demanding the EU lower or circumvent its environmental and public health protections.

3.5 million across the EU have signed an online petition calling on the European Commission to abandon the deal. In Germany (the EU’s economic powerhouse), 250,000 marched in Berlin last October, and another 25,000 in April of this year. 17% of Germans believe the TTIP is good, down from 55% two years ago.[ref]http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-usa-trade-idUSKCN0XI0AT[/ref] Given the importance of France and Germany in the EU, without the consent of both countries an agreement cannot pass.[ref]http://www.nftc.org/default/trade/European%20Union%20and%20TTIP.pdf[/ref] The Obama Administration and European Commission’s attempt at negotiating and signing a deal in secret, which weaken regulations and threaten national sovereignty, have stumbled in the face of public opposition across Europe.

Since World War II, tariffs between the US and EU have been low, most of the barriers being [ref]https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/03/ttip-has-been-kicked-into-the-long-grass-for-a-very-long-time[/ref]targeted are not duties: they are regulations such as on GMOs and car safety standards.[re] This means that the EU’s more stringent regulations would be circumvented by the treaty. The EU’s approach to safety is based on a “precautionary principle” where an item can be banned even if there is no scientific consensus – the item must be proven safe; the US is the opposite, an item must be proven unsafe to be banned. In particular, this means that the EU would have to significantly lower its regulations on items such as genetically modified food or beef with bovine growth hormone.

There has also been great opposition to controversial provisions such as the Investor State Dispute System which would establish extrajudicial special tribunals that favor corporations. In exchange for sacrificing its health, labor, and environmental regulations and national sovereignty, the deal is expected to bring a paltry one-time 0.5% increase in GDP growth by 2027. To illustrate, if a country’s GDP was 100 in 2017, it would be 100.5 in 2027.[ref]http://www.atlantic-community.org/-/ttip-exaggerated-benefits-and-shaky-estimations[/ref]

Given the great controversy, the negotiations (which began in 2013) between the EU Commission (with a mandate from the EU Council) and the Obama Administration attempted to pass the agreement in secrecy by the end of 2015. Thus, while corporations have been closely consulted and given great access to the negotiating documents, the public has been denied access-- even the EU Parliament has very limited access. Furthermore, to further evade accountability, public disclosure of the negotiating documents would be banned for 30 years. While the EU Parliament will have to ratify the deal, after the agreement’s terms are finalized, they cannot be changed: The EU Parliament will simply be able to vote yes or no.

Bilateral agreements have become a powerful weapon for multinational corporations to ravage the environment, exploit workers, adulterate food, and limit regulations in their pursuit of profits. As the French President has noted, the TTIP cannot pass in its current form, and faced with public protest, the TTIP has stumbled. Given the great corporate influence, and the danger to democracy and national sovereignty, the people must escalate their opposition and make sure the TTIP is put down.

written by Song, Dae-Han (chief editor, World Current Report)