TTIP: We Were Right All Along

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By Thomas Fazi. Originally published at Social Europe

Throughout the crisis – and ostensibly as a response to it – Europe has increased its focus on external competitiveness as a means to transform both the EU and eurozone into a huge German-style, export-led economic machine (as emphasised by the Global Europe strategy). Various experts and economists have pointed out that this is a fundamentally misguided strategy.

In recent years, however, the EU has negotiated numerous bilateral trade agreements. This has been topped by the announcement in early 2013 that the EU and the US had agreed to enter into negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement, the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The European Commission has always argued that the agreement is aimed at ‘help[ing] people and businesses large and small, by opening up the US to EU firms; helping cut red tape that firms face when exporting; and setting new rules to make it easier and fairer to export, import and invest overseas’. Furthermore, it contends that the TTIP, will ‘kick-start’ the EU economy by ‘generating jobs and growth across the EU’ and ‘cutting prices when we shop and offering us more choice’.

These assertions have been strongly challenged by European (and American) civil society organisations, which have maintained that the proposed agreement is not primarily intended to reduce the few remaining tariffs between the world economy’s two biggest trading blocs, but that ‘its central objective is to dismantle and/or harmonise regulations in areas such as agriculture, food safety, product and technical standards, financial services, the protection of intellectual property rights, and government procurement’. Since the EU-US negotiations are notably taking place behind closed doors, though, civil society organisations have had little to back their claims in terms of hard evidence (though the European Commission agreed last year to publish a long list of documents, the most important TTIP documents remain secret), and have had to rely mostly on historical precedents (the well documented nefarious social, economic and environmental effects of previous trade agreements, such as NAFTA), leaked documents relating to the other major trade deal being negotiated by the US, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), signed on 4 February 2016, and, well, good sense. This has allowed politicians in the EU and US – who have paradoxically stated that the purpose of keeping a tight lid on the negotiations is precisely to prevent vested interests to apply pressures – to accuse critics of the TTIP of fear-mongering.

Until now, that is. On May 1, Greenpeace Netherlands released 243 pages of leaked secret TTIP negotiation texts, which offer an unprecedented glimpse into the far-reaching implications that the agreement would have for climate, environment and public health – and, crucially, prove that civil society organisations were right all along. According to Greenpeace, the documents raise four aspects of serious concern from an environmental and consumer protection perspective:

  • Long-standing environmental protections appear to be dropped. None of the documents received by Greenpeace refer to the General Exceptions, a 70-year-old rule enshrined in the GATT agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that allows nations to regulate trade ‘to protect human, animal and plant life or health’ or for ‘the conservation of exhaustible natural resources’. The omission of this regulation suggests both sides are creating a regime that places profit ahead of human, animal and plant life and health.
  • Climate protection will be harder under TTIP. There is no reference in the texts to the need to keep global temperature increase under 1.5 degrees, as stressed in the Paris climate agreement. Even worse, the scope for mitigation measures is limited by provisions of the chapters on ‘Regulatory cooperation’ or ‘Market access for industrial goods’. As an example, these proposals would rule out regulating the import of CO2-intensive fuels such as oil from tar sands.
  • The end of the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle, enshrined in the EU Treaty, is not mentioned in the chapter on ‘Regulatory cooperation’, nor in any other of the obtained 12 chapters. On the other hand, the US demand for a ‘risk-based’ approach that aims to manage hazardous substances rather than avoid them, finds its way into various chapters. This approach undermines the ability of regulators to take preventive measures, for example regarding controversial substances like hormone disrupting chemicals.
  • Opening the door for corporate takeover. While the proposals threaten environmental and consumer protection, big business gets what it wants. Opportunities to participate in decision-making are granted to corporations to intervene at the earliest stages of the decision-making process. While civil society has had little access to the negotiations, there are many instances where the papers show that industry has been granted a privileged voice in important decisions. The leaked documents indicate that the EU has not been open about the high degree of industry influence. The EU’s recent public report has only one minor mention of industry input, whereas the leaked documents repeatedly talk about the need for further consultations with industry and explicitly mention how industry input has been collected. Yet, Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Trade, had the nerve to respond to the leak by stating that ‘the EU industry does not have greater access to EU negotiating positions than other stakeholders. We take into account submissions by industry, but exactly the same applies to submissions by trade unions, consumer groups or health or environmental organisations – all of which are represented in the advisory group that regularly meets our negotiating team’ (my emphasis). This is the same person that stated, when asked how she could continue her persistent promotion of the TTIP in the face of such massive public opposition, replied: ‘I do not take my mandate from the European people’.

As is well known, one of the most controversial aspects of the agreement is the inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), an instrument common to many trade agreements that grants investors (i.e., multinational corporations) the right to use dispute settlement proceedings against foreign governments. Critics argue that ISDS would give foreign investors the right to sue states in private arbitration courts for any actions that could damage their profit expectations. It has been noted that investors have used similar agreements to sue states and demand millions, even billions of euros in compensation, privileging investor rights over public policy autonomy and threatening public health, labour rights and consumer protection. One example is the lawsuit of Swedish energy company Vattenfall against Germany for introducing environmental requirements for coal-fired power stations. Another example is Canadian gas and oil company, Lone Pine, suing against a fracking moratorium in the state of Quebec. ‘Such cases show that ISDS can be used to undermine environmental standards, to prevent regulation or to pocket taxpayers’ money’, says Karl Bär, a spokesperson of the Stop TTIP alliance.

After strong initial criticism of ISDS, the European Commission called for a public consultation on this issue. The three-month consultation ended on 17 July 2014 and received almost 150,000 online submissions, with 97 per cent of responses opposing ISDS. The large number of replies is a result of forceful public campaigns orchestrated by NGO networks in Britain, Austria and Germany. Apart from the general discussion on the lack of transparency and accountability of the negotiations, the topic that mobilised most of the support was the threatened liberalisation of public services. The Commission, whilst acknowledging the profound scepticism of European citizens towards ISDS, refuses to abandon it, and has instead proposed (in September 2015) an Investment Court System (ICS) with the scope for investor challenge much reduced and with ‘highly skilled judges’ rather than arbitrators used to determine cases. While these reforms represent a welcome acknowledgement of some of the fundamental flaws of existing panels to resolve disputes, the proposal sidesteps the essential problems with ISDS: the ability of corporations to sue governments and in doing so attack rules adopted democratically to protect the public interest. In February 2016, a large coalition of non-governmental organisations led by the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) published a critical report on new proposals for the revised ISDS mechanism. The activists called the ICS a mere ‘ISDS zombie’. The report states that:

[T]he proposed ICS does not put an end to ISDS. Quite the opposite, it would empower thousands of companies to circumvent national legal systems and sue governments in parallel tribunals if laws and regulations undercut their ability to make money. It would pave the way for billions in taxpayer money being paid out to big business. It could curtail desirable policymaking to protect people and the planet. And it threatens to lock EU member states forever into the injustices of the ISDS regime.

Greenpeace states:

‘The European Commission has tried to improve something that simply cannot be fixed. Its Investment Court System institutionalises a privileged judicial system for foreign investors, which bypasses national courts. Fundamentally, the system is very similar to ISDS.’

The Commission’s proposal also fails to address many of the fundamental concerns raised by the European Parliament in its resolution of 8 July 2015, where it says it wants ‘to replace the ISDS system with a new system for resolving disputes between investors and states.’

The bottom line is that the TTIP cannot be ‘improved’. As Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has stated, it is little more than ‘an attempt to increase the power of corporations to control economies and societies’ – and for this reason should be, quite simply, thrown into the dustbin of history. This is not an impossible feat. Recent events – in October 2015 more than 150,000 marched in Berlin against the proposed trade deal and tens of thousands last month in Hannover – show that TTIP has become a strongly contentious issue. 45 per cent of Germans opposed it in 2015, compared to 25 per cent in February 2014; recent polls are even more negative (see also here). A broad range of social forces have declared their hostility to the treaty, including trade unions, NGOs, consumers associations, among others. A large and increasing number of local authorities claim to be ‘outside TTIP’. In September 2015, 54 per cent of French people lived in ‘outside the TTIP’ zones.

Furthermore, even government support for the deal is faltering. US presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump all expressed concerns about the deal. In Europe, a growing number of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) – which, according to the EU, would be the main beneficiaries of TTIP – are joining coalitions opposed to TTIP and raising concerns, in Germany, Austria or the UK, that an agreement would discriminate against SMEs. Public resistance has been successful in slowing down the negotiating process, and the latest leak might very well prove to be the TTIP’s coup de grâce. Thus, let’s seize the day and bury this deal forever – and may that be the beginning of a wider counter-offensive against the self-serving elite that has taken our continent hostage.

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  1. Michael C.

    One can sound like a conspiracy theorist if one talks about a world, shadow government, Bush I’s “New World Order,” but when reading this article the implications of these trade deals directly lead to that occurring. We are installing a corporately run and unaccountable oligarchy over the democratically elected will of the people of many nations that will hold citizens hostage to the demands of the god of profit–all at the expense of a variety of rights, all of which points to an environmentally unlivable and disastrous dystopian world run by the gated 1%, and backed by the bloated U.S. military budget. It may sound alarmist and fantastic, but if one looks at the trend it seems that this will be the inevitable conclusion unless, of course, if the people of the world stand up against this takeover of democratic principles and self-governance. Pass out the pitch forks, the tar and feathers. We have work to do.

    1. Ulysses

      “We have work to do.”


      The pressure to ram through at least the TPP part of the new TPP/TTIP/TISA regime during the lame duck period in D.C. at the end of this year will be enormous. I expect a lot of effort will be put into a kayfabe “debate,” that will let some politicians preserve the illusion they care about something besides the interests of the transnational kleptocracy.

      We must not be lulled into thinking traditional, national electoral politics will save us from the imposition of the TPP/TTIP/TISA regime. The hopes raised by the election of Syriza in Greece were based on the false premise that oligarchs may be resisted on a merely national level.

      The ruling kleptocracy today is a transnational regime, and must be resisted simultaneously throughout the entire world. Disruption in Brussels will matter little if the usual suspects still get their way in D.C., Tokyo, New York, and London, etc..

    2. fresno dan

      If the me of 30 years ago could see me now, the past me would think the present me is a tinfoil hat wearing kook…..but the reality is that what is done in the sunshine is equivalent to advertising and branding and is even less meaningful – the world is run from the shadows by institutions you and I don’t have access to and can’t influence even if we did…

      1. ChrisA

        Even 10 year ago me would think present me is nuts. Imagine if we didn’t have the internet, still stuck with nightly network news and “newspapers of record”…

    3. Fiver

      The transformation you identify has been in the works for some time, and forms the core agenda of the US elite, which is already a fusion of private and State power. Perhaps the leading ‘theorist’ and proponent of the global version of this new form of social organization he terms the ‘Market State’ is a fellow named Philip Bobbitt, one of the most elite-credentialed people I’ve ever come across in my readings.

      He spends hundreds of pages of effort to convince the reader that a global corporate State is both inevitable and desirable – and it certainly will be for the 1% and that portion of the population they cannot do without. It’s a view from the top crafted for the very top – and it is such an ugly portrait of humanity’s ‘next step’ every single person on this planet ought to do everything possible to ensure such a hell never comes to pass.

    4. Erwin Gordon

      Michael C, It’s not about conspiracy theories. It’s about following the facts. It sounds like you have difficulty accepting the facts even when they are right in front of you. This is consistent with the new world order agenda that has been talked about for years. Amazing that you didn’t realise the connection from the previous leaks.

      What’s even more amazing is that here in Europe or specifically in the UK, those who are for remaining part of the EU don’t invoke not one logical argument for remaining part of the EU. Especially when it is pointed out to them the recent events such as the Dutch parliament ignoring the referendum results on Ukraine’s association with the EU or even more egregious is the fact that an unelected EU bureaucrat, Vytenis Andriukaitis who is head of the EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner ignored the European Parliament, scientists, the fact that the World Health Organisation defined glyphosate as probably carcinogenic and EU citizens to renew glyphosates’ license to be sold in the EU for the next 15 years. You would think that such egregious examples of how undemocratic the EU is as an institution would make them think twice, but they continue to support the EU without ever contemplating the ramifications of such issues.

      But even on the leave camp, they never talk about these matters nor that the EU is an inherently undemocratic institution which was defined to be so (see declassified papers showing EU is a creation of the CIA in article from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Telegraph back on September 19, 2000). They don’t seem to recognise that even in areas where the European Parliament have a vote like in trade policy (i.e. TTIP), the European Commission still retains the ability to override their veto of any trade deal. The level of democratic deficit is massive but none of the Brexit campaigners make any mention of it!?!

  2. Brooklin Bridge

    I can just imagine the sorts of reservations Hillary has about the TTIP or the TTP. They don’t even relate to the 180 degree turn she will do once this dreadfully messy coronation is complete – that’s the easy part. Instead, they relate to how to get the damn things passed in spite of any and all resistance. Or, how to make a big public splash of dumping them only to quietly revive and secretly pass them under different names.

    Can treaties be made top secret like the document allowing the CIA to vet which journalists will be allowed to cover the Republican and Democratic conventions? That’s a neat and increasingly popular trick for policies that are patently unconstitutional. We fleas can say it’s unconstitutional but no one can touch it because it’s top secret and any breach of that secrecy automatically makes the “leaker” a traitor and a terrorist.

    1. Ulysses

      “That’s a neat and increasingly popular trick for policies that are patently unconstitutional.”


      Our kleptocratic overlords have gone further beyond the Rubicon– of openly ignoring constitutional restraints– in the last few years than ever before, here in the U.S.. That fateful morning in September, nearly fifteen years ago, has certainly proved to be a “Reichstag burning” moment in U.S. history.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        That was a nasty time. We knew all sorts of abuse “in the name of” was going to go down, but I don’t think many (any?) realized how far or that it just wouldn’t stop. The corruption of the judicial system (in the courts) at the same time is another leg in the disaster that is simply hard to wrap one’s mind around.

        1. TVA

          It was always apparent to me that the judiciary was Anglo society’s Achilles heel–it was the skyhook that held up everything else and kept it from collapsing into the morass of corruption that seemed to prevail most elsewhere. The whole edifice was predicated entirely on the assumption that it would work correctly. It looked like the ultimate case of security though obscurity.

          The Federalist Society noticed that too, long before I did…and the rest is history.

    2. fresno dan

      Brooklin Bridge
      May 7, 2016 at 8:58 am

      I am POSITIVE Hillary does have reservations to TTIP – to give a speech for 250,000$

  3. ke

    That empire is a collateral black hole and voting with anything other than your work is a waste of
    Time should be of no great surprise.

    The majority farms itself, with peer pressure seeking competitive advantage to overcome shared insecurities. The ” elite” simply exploit the product, simulated intelligence in an artificially complex construct, at one derivative out, which is why an empire can only devolve. The point of public education separated by age is to reinforce the linear thinking, which is why the majority never sees “it” coming.

    That running dialogue in the public headed is an amalgamation heuristic, the gravity of memory, history repeating itself. Mostly either accept what they have been told, competing on compliance, or fight, competing on noncompliance, like holding out a rock, and living in a world of competing media narratives doesn’t help. If you think geometrically, the Pavlov psychologists in Austria are powerless. That’s a step.

    Oil shorts out photosynthesis, increasing co2 and decreasing o2/o3, from the ports out. Germans know all about genetic m err methylation and still subject themselves, in a race to nowhere. DNA is as bank, but the psychologists have eliminated the input, so focussed on manipulating the output, as a means of extortion, which is why they see stem cells as an exit.

    You can’t buy an amplifier that works for you. I am better than most at building and wiring up amplifiers, but I have no idea what is best for you, other than netting out time. All systems built on fear collapse, some sooner than others, and are replaced by another.

    1. different clue

      One may pursue “greater photosynthesis” at any level . . . from the individual to the national. More photosynthesis per whatever would set people just-that-much free to displace just-that-much fossil carbon energy from amenable elements of their daily survival energy budget.

      I read in a book about photosynthesis that plants “see” the same wavelengths of light that animals “see”. But whereas we “see the world” with these wavelengths, plants “make their food” with these wavelengths. I also read that plants can net-net use 5% of the visible light that they “see” for making food with. What are the barriers stopping plants from using the other 95% of the visible light that they “see”? What if we could remove those barriers? What if we could remove even just SOME of those barriers?

      If we could just remove just enough barriers to plant-based solar foodmake to enable plants in general to use 10 % of the light they see as against 5% of the light which they see, we would increase the net-net photosynthesis all over the world by 100% over what it currently now is. So . . . how do we do that?

  4. myshkin

    There is a rationalization for TTIP TPP & NAFTA type treaty agreements. In the ivory tower, think tank and offices of non elective bureuacratic technocrats a belief is constructed that they are necessary in order to solve regulatory issues in a global trade system. These treaties are advanced as an ethically responsible way to rebalance extreme wealth inequality, standardize regulation that deals with treatment of labor, environment, agricultural practice, intellectual property and avoid by ‘harmonization’ the race to the bottom results where sovereign nation states attract business by creating a deregulated atmosphere that destroys liberal reform in the rest of the interconnected world.

    What we get with TTIP et. al. is the result when the participants have already been captured by the 1%. Greenpeace and other NGOs are resisting complicit governments, of course the problem is the many well funded NGOs on the other side of the issue.

    The many levels of this debate about globalization, soveriegnty and representative government make it nearly impossible to put a point on a solution. Yanis Varoufakis having exited from the recent Greek experience dealing with the EU is calling for a European democratic union. His narrative is that the EUs genesis was in a 1950’s industrial coal and steel cartel that sought to stabilize prices and restrict competition. Brussels and the common currency grew out of that cartel and Nixon de-linking the dollar from gold resulting in free floating currency and all leading to de-politicizing the region and implementing rule by a techno bureucratic elite and de-democratizing by treaties like the TTIP.

    The dilemna is what to do? Rather than retreat to the nation state, already captured by elite interests, is Varoufakis correct in aiming toward a pan European democratic movement? Is that consistent with the idea of thinking globally and acting locally?

  5. will

    Oh ha ha, this is adorable:

    Furthermore, even government support for the deal is faltering. US presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump all expressed concerns about the deal.

    And one of them was even sincere about it!

  6. nycTerrierist

    The first item on the list alone is tragic, indecent and really, it’s beyond comprehension that
    people can be this greedy and short-sighted. Obama pushes for this as his ‘legacy’?
    For shame.

    “Long-standing environmental protections appear to be dropped. None of the documents received by Greenpeace refer to the General Exceptions, a 70-year-old rule enshrined in the GATT agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that allows nations to regulate trade ‘to protect human, animal and plant life or health’ or for ‘the conservation of exhaustible natural resources’. The omission of this regulation suggests both sides are creating a regime that places profit ahead of human, animal and plant life and health.”

      1. different clue

        Indeed. Obama hopes to become America’s first billionaire ex-president.

  7. ke

    Democracy is just latest fashion in human farming, freedom and slavery in a bait and swap, with the humans being farmed building their own prisons, waking up to a nightmare.

    You take your credit from work and buy insurance against future poverty, social security. You pay the administrators double what you make and the equivalent of 3 pensions on double your income. And you allow them to use the fund to make additional investments for themselves, replacing your work for credit with their debt for credit. You also want healthcare at retirement, and you go to the same people, who tell you that they will raise your children too…If you vote to enforce the system on everyone.

    A basic income would be far more effective and a whole lot cheaper, but the majority finds itself in a MAD prison, demanding equal rights, eliminating all the exits. Agreeing to liquidate natural resources until they are scarce, with demographic acceleration, is the easy way, and it always ends badly, with deceleration as the false choice. Once you enter the casino, where most are born, you can’t even help yourself, unless you choose to see it for what it is.

  8. Patrick

    911 victims can’t sue Saudi Arabia for terrorism because sovereign immunity is *so* important, but then we sign these trade agreements that let any corporation sue a government. I call shenanigans.

  9. Fiver

    I think it is imperative for people to realize how crazy these corporate elites really are. Consider for just a moment the consequences of removing the precautionary principle for the likes of Monsanto, Big Pharma, finance, genetics, artificial intelligence, biological weapons – every demented wizard with access to stupid big money – to undertake pretty much anything they want regardless of consequence. We are to believe these people will behave themselves just as Alan Greenspan claimed to believe banksters would never do something so silly as blow-up the US and global economies.

    It’s absolutely insane given, oh, our record over the past century, for instance. As I’ve noted years ago here and elsewhere, without so much as one word of discussion, we as a civilization have in the space of 20 years totally committed ourselves to the proposition that the Internet, let alone other telecommunications systems, will never go down for more than few days or possibly weeks. What would a once-in-a-hundred years solar storm do to our now-vital virtual world? A once-in-200? How smart was it to go so completely off paper that fast? We have in several respects never been more vulnerable than we are now as the result of several core technologies we’ve deployed with virtually no discussion. So what do we do? We get rid of liability altogether.

    We need to seriously re-ground ourselves in a way of thinking that does not place us above commission of error or evil.

    1. redleg

      They aren’t crazy. They are driven by ruthless, remorseless avarice and lust for power, and they are winning. Their weakness is hubris, and we must exploit it.

      1. different clue

        We must figure out how to Hide In Plain Sight.

        If you bring a ten ton elephant to the Washington Monument and have the elephant push on it forever, it will never fall over.

        If you bring ten tons of protesters to the Washington Monument and have them march around it waving their little signs and screaming their screamy little screams at it till forever, it won’t fall over. It won’t even respond to them. It don’t gots no ears, you dig?

        But if you bring ten tons of moles and gophers to the Washington Monument and have them dig all the soil out from under one side of the Washington Monument, and give them enough time . . . it WILL fall over.

        We have to become those moles and gophers.

  10. cassandra

    I think there’s a good chance the TTIP will go through. On the one hand, the EU has shown acquiescence to what the US wants in the agreement. In addition to the disregard of democratic process in the TTIP itself, the EU has demonstrated disregard for democratic opinion; there are the uxi vote in Greece and the recent Ukrainian Association Agreement vote in Holland, not to mention continuing to force (now under possible penalty) ill-advised immigration policies on countries trying to inject some moderation and planning into the process. No doubt the “technocrats” are looking for a way to marginalize all this pesky opposition, but in the end the EU Council might just have to ignore the opposition and vote it in. (Certainly Hillary, and probably Trump, won’t put up much of a fight on this either). The only silver lining is that the fiasco might tip the Brexit vote into positive territory.
    Please surprise me, please surprise me…

  11. jawbone

    Any chance letters (actual written on paper letters using envelope and stamp) to our elected officials and their challengers, stating the writer will never again support or vote for any politician or candidate who supports these dreadful treaties, will have any effect?

    Fax storms? Picketing outside pols’ local offices?

    I realize we’re ignored once voting for a particular election is over. I realize most attempts to make the PTBs pay attention to us are met with 1) little media coverage and 2) little effect on politicians’ votes.

    So, what to do? I feel passage of these treaties will mean game over for us and total corporatization of governments or, as was noted, real World Government with no citizen input (unless part of the PTB.

  12. different clue

    The personalitical is politicalersonal.

    Think globalocally. Act localobally.

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