The 18th of April marked the global day of action against TTIP and TTP – the transatlantic trade deal that is currently under secret negotiation in the European council. Corporation representatives are mainly carrying out the negotiations, with little input from elected Members of European Parliament. However, once negotiations have concluded, the proposed agreement will be passed on to the European parliament where the elected representatives from countries within the EU can either accept, reject or amend the agreement. The day of action saw hundreds of demonstrations across Europe and North America.
A beautiful bright Saturday afternoon, with around 150 supporters, many speakers – several from Swedish political parties – and plenty of good music, ensured that the day was enjoyed by all present. We managed to get interviews with a few of the organisers, performers and speakers.
Max Andersson, Green Party MEP, came out to show party support against TTIP. Swedish government is currently very much in favour of the “Midas touch” TTIP fallacy. The belief is that TTIP will bring huge amounts of GDP growth to Sweden, currently projected at anywhere between 15 – 20%. The rationale behind these projected growth rates relates to the removal of trade barriers under TTIP, and the related huge potential for increased export from Sweden to the US.
Those who argue against TTIP claim that it is a trade off between growth and strict regulations designed to protect the environment, the population, health standards, employment regulation and much more. The growth projected by TTIP advocates, has short-termism written all over it; what happens once the tide of trade (thanks to lower barriers) ebbs away, and the growth surge seen for maybe a decade or so plateaus? Are we then back to mere point percentiles of growth (as Europe is currently experiencing) in the US and Europe?
If this is the case, then once again, both regions will be faced with another financial crisis, which (using current crisis management strategies) would require yet more growth to get out of – but where do you grow, when all your “grow cards” are out on the table? There’s the big question…
To put it simply, it seems that the growth argument doesn’t stick. Growth in Europe and the US will not necessarily be long-lasting (and exponential). It’s a short-term solution to get Europe out of the financial crisis, and create some big growth numbers to encourage further investment and generate confidence in European markets and financial liquidity, promoting lending – and maybe more growth – built again on borrowed money and debt. Going on a different path, some have even said that the TTIP deal is a geopolitical move by the US and Europe to show enough GDP growth on the books to still be seen to seemingly rival the growing economies like China and India… this is a complex claim and one which needs significantly more analytical time than this article can provide.
Once the growth on both sides of the Atlantic peters out, the same cycle begins again (assumedly). The difference this time is that thanks to the TTIP deal, environmental protection standards would have been lowered, power would have been handed over from the State to Corporations – in the form of ISID courts, designed under TTIP to allow corporations to sue governments on the ground of loss of profits – and labour deregulation would have occurred: basically handing greater power to corporations and lowering labour rights, weakening trade unions etc.
Obviously what is described above is quite a Doomsdayscenario, and it may not turn out that way at all –but what if it does? What if it’s worse? What if it’s not? It doesn’t really matter, because what matters is the direction we choose to follow. Regardless of whether the scenario will be as bad as that, deregulation of standards designed to protect the consumer, labourer and citizen (and whose terms and conditions are being decided in secret between unelected officials and corporation representatives who by nature are profit driven) is never a good thing.
Creating secret courts, giving corporations the power to sue governments over loss of profit is also not a good direction. Under this term of TTIP, it would be lawful for a company to sue a government if they were to decide, for example, that mining was not allowed in a certain area due to environmental and public health concerns. Funnily enough (or not), this is exactly what happened in El Salvador when Pacific Rim (recently acquired by Canadian Australian mining company OceanGold) decided it would sue the country on ground of loss of profit. The government decided to place a moratorium on new gold mining requests given the colossal environmental damage the country has faced at the hands of gold mining over the past decades (click here for more). The mining company was not happy at the “trade barrier” and is currently suing the country for $301 million in damages.
The US recently passed a “fast track” TTIP negotiation, the EU is vying for the same –it’s only the people of Europe who can really put pressure on their governments and MEPs to vote against this. Democracy, and freedom of speech, however marginal it may feel right now, are some of the only tools we have left if we want to protect our rights and planet.
By: Mel Rideout