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The TTIP Trojan Horse joins Green / EFA MEPs and hundreds of citizens from across Europe protesting against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), February 2015. Photo: greensefa via Flickr (CC BY).
The TTIP Trojan Horse joins Green / EFA MEPs and hundreds of citizens from across Europe protesting against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), February 2015. Photo: greensefa via Flickr (CC BY).
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TTIP is on the rocks. Let's defeat these toxic trade deals!

Guy Taylor & Nick Dearden

4th May 2016

The TTIP EU-US trade deal has finally hit the rocks with massive popular opposition on both sides of the Atlantic gaining serious political traction, write Guy Taylor & Nick Dearden. There's now a good chance that TTIP will be defeated - but first we must make sure that CETA, the equally toxic EU-Canada 'Trojan Horse' deal, bites the dust.

What now has TTIP and CETA in trouble is the continent-wide resistance of ordinary people in both Europe and North America. It is this transatlantic movement of peoples that can - and we believe will - defeat both of these toxic trade deals.

Could things get any worse for TTIP?

On Monday the hugely damaging leak of consolidated texts confirmed exactly what everyone had feared about the deal, with all its massively pro-corporate provisions on display for everyone to see.

And then the following day the French government launched one of the most high profile attacks on TTIP that's ever been seen. Whether TTIP survives these body blows is debatable, but it is almost fatally wounded.

Francois Hollande, the French president, is lagging in the polls and his threat to block TTIP could be seen as a gambit to shore up some votes. But it is a reflection of the popular mood in the country, where the media's negative reporting on TTIP has soared in the past fortnight.

Hollande said at a conference that he could not accept "the undermining of the essential principles of our agriculture, our culture, of mutual access to public markets."

France's lead trade negotiator, Matthias Fekl, now thinks talks will be halted. He argues that the EU has bent over backwards to offer the US what it wants but the generosity has not been reciprocated.

TTIP backers must be livid - including Cameron!

This follows similar recent comments from Germany's Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel: "Whether we can reach a deal this year really depends on whether we can create trust in the process. And unfortunately, we are very far from creating trust in the process."

These growing French and German concerns reflect the current state of negotiations, as revealed by the May Day leaks which indicate that the EU's precautionary principle (not allow things on the market until proven safe) may be sacrificed in favour of the US so-called 'scientific principle' (don't ban anything from sale until it is proven dangerous).

The news from France is already causing arguments and tension in the European Commission. The UK's pro-'free trade' camp must be livid, with David Cameron having previously claimed that TTIP was his own idea.

Last year he announced he wanted to put rocket boosters under the negotiations. But now he'll be wanting to fit stabilisers. Because these latest developments follow a series of disasters for TTIP.

We released papers last week that show that the UK government isn't taking the corporate courts too seriously. In fact, the only risk assessment they've carried out on TTIP strongly advises the government that there are lots of risks and no benefits.

CETA - a Trojan horse for US corporations' attack on Europe

Events have also been moving rapidly last week on CETA, an EU-Canada 'free trade' deal similar to TTIP that's a lot closer to being ratified. CETA risks becoming a Trojan horse for TTIP, with many of the same provisions, including the infamous corporate court system.

Although the EU Commission has created a reformed version of this system in CETA, all the most notorious cases we cite would still be a problem under this 'new' system. So CETA is effectively a backdoor to TTIP, with any US corporation operating in Canada able to exploit its provisions to sue EU governments should they take decisions that may impact on expected profit margins.

In June the EU Council will see European governments come together to ratify CETA. Although final government approval is expected in September, the June meeting is the last chance for European governments to raise serious objections. It will then go to the EU parliament, where we expect a vote next January or February.

One problem with EU trade deals is that they can come into effect even without a vote in member parliaments. Under something known as 'provisional implementation', the European Commission could bring CETA into effect before national parliaments have had the chance to debate - and reject - an international treaty.

This includes the now infamous corporate court system. In other words, a corporate case could be brought against the British government before Parliament has even ratified CETA. In fact, even if the British parliament voted CETA down, the corporate court system would still stay in effect for three years! The June meeting is the last chance governments have to block these processes.

Although we didn't expect to win any victories at the Council, that's all changed. First up, Romania, in dispute with Canada over visa issues, has threatened to veto CETA at the June meeting. Next, the Walloon parliament voted a critical motion on CETA that could tie the hands of the Belgian government and force it's abstention. The Dutch parliament also voted last week in support of a non-binding motion to reject provisional implementation. The Netherlands might yet hold a referendum on CETA too.

With TTIP on its knees, we need to double our efforts to prevent this similarly toxic deal from being ushered in through the back door. With the EU referendum approaching, is David Cameron really going to attend an EU meeting and support the idea that CETA come into effect without a parliamentary vote?

We have two months to convince him that that's a terrible idea.

It's not EU versus US - it's corporations versus people

There is a danger, however, in framing TTIP as a battle between the squabbling components of the EU and the US.

What is now clear is the sheer scale of opposition to 'free trade' deals in the US. All leading presidential candidates have expressed some opposition to the current free trade agenda, with even free trader Hillary Clinton saying she's deeply uneasy. A new opinion poll shows only 18% of Americans support TTIP, down from 53% in 2014.

This matters because Obama only has eight months left in office and it seems unlikely that substantial progress will be made in that time. After that, the future is anyone's guess. That's a key reason Obama came to Germany last week - to speed things up.

But the US President was met by tens of thousands of protestors in Hannover - making clear that in Europe too, TTIP is toxic. The same opinion poll already quoted found 17% of Germans support TTIP - down from 55% two years ago. TTIP campaigning is reporting to have accelerated substantially in France, and it's growing as an issue throughout Europe.

The truth is that TTIP and CETA are essentially means for the corporate world to impose its agenda on the rest of society. Negotiators on both sides are doing the bidding of a highly effective and well-resourced corporate lobby.

What now has TTIP and CETA in trouble is the continent-wide resistance of ordinary people in both Europe and North America. It is this transatlantic movement of peoples that can - and we believe will - defeat both of these toxic trade deals.

 


 

Action: Tell David Cameron that at the Council of Europe meeting in June, he must insist that the UK gets the chance to decide on toxic trade deals before they are implemented.

Guy Taylor is trade campaigner for Global Justice Now.

Nick Dearden is Director of Global Justice Now.

This article combines two original articles published by Global Justice Now.

 

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