By Emma Husband, Staff Writer
(First published for Bristol Women's Voice http://www.bristolwomensvoice.org.uk/let-talk-about-ttip/)
TTIP is triggering large scale protests and petitions, alongside accusations of deliberate secrecy and anti democracy. Despite this, chances are you haven’t heard about it. That’s something that needs to change. And fast.
What is it?
TTIP stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and consists of numerous trade negotiations between the EU and the US, ultimately aimed at loosening trade regulations between the two.
So far, not obviously controversial. However the devil’s in the detail, and the details (shrouded in secrecy though they stand) will be exceptionally damaging for democracy, public services and the environment if they are allowed to pass. Not to mention a huge step backwards for workers’ rights.
If TTIP goes through as it stands, corporations would be able to sue governments if their policies inhibited the corporation’s growth. This has already happened in countries where similar deals have passed; the German government is being sued by Swedish multinational company Vattenfall for phasing out nuclear power, meanwhile French company Veolia is suing Egypt for introducing the minimum wage.
This undermines the democratic process by serving the neo-liberal agenda of free trade to the limit. This in turn puts corporations ahead of people; a corporation’s ‘right to profit’ will stand above the individual’s voting power. Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South-West, who was allowed to view TTIP documents on the promise that she would not report her findings to her constituents, said that she was left with no sense of reassurance “either that the process of negotiating this trade deal is democratic, or that the negotiators are operating on behalf of citizens. It is a corporate discussion, not a democratic one.”
What about women?
The trend of corporations being able to exercise more rights than people is repeated when it comes to workers. TTIP would allow corporations to exploit poor working rights in order to increase trade and profit. In the US, trade union and labour standards are much less regulated. Women get little, or for the most part, no paid maternity leave. TTIP would likely exploit this, either by moving work to the US, hence massive loss of EU jobs, or alternatively standardising these conditions across the board in line with the lowest common denominator. Women are also more likely to use the NHS which would at risk of being privatised under TTIP.
Furthermore, measures, and any future efforts to prevent climate change will also be undermined in favour of boosting the profits. As we know, climate change will have a disproportionate effect on women living in poorer countries. Hilary Saunders, speaking on behalf of Greater Bristol Alliance asks, “how can governments seek to control carbon emissions by regulating, taxing and penalising companies which produce or make heavy use of fossil fuels, if this inevitably triggers thousands of huge compensation claims?” This is crucial given that the International Energy Agency has warned that if we do not get our emissions under control by 2017, our fossil fuel economy will ‘lock in’ extremely dangerous global warming.
But how does this affect me?
TTIP matters to people who care about guarding against the NHS being privatised. It matters to parents who want their children to grow up in a world without the catastrophic implications of climate change. It matters to people who care about the safety of our food and being able to regulate it as such. It matters to everyone who thinks that the rights of real people are more important the ‘profits at any cost’ of corporations. Which should be all of us.
What can we do?
Half of the battle is making people aware of what’s going on. Do some research, tell your friends, sign a petition. TTIP has been kept secret for a reason: because it is immoral and undemocratic. Taking away the power of the secrecy is the first step.