TTIP and ISDS: A trade agreement that wants to change the world

EPA/KAY NIETFELD

A general view of several thousand protesters gathering for a rally against TTIP and CETA in Berlin, Germany, 10 October 2015.

TTIP and ISDS: A trade agreement that wants to change the world


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This article is part of New Europe’s: Our World in 2016

Belgium – Brussels The Transatlantic Agreement on Trade and Services between the EU and the US, is one of the biggest challenges for our continent and civil society. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP as we use to call it, aims to create a free trade zone between the US and the EU, in which products and services will move freely without economic and/or regulatory restrictions.

According to the neoliberal economic devotees, the full liberalization of trade between EU and US -liberalisation from the “shackles” of different labour, environmental, social and other regulatory standards- will allow the maximum exploitation of the commercial opportunities offered by the two largest economic powers of the planet.

However, criticism on TTIP, apart from political, has also an economic basis.

First of all, the economic models themselves, as used by the initiators of TTIP estimate that the benefit of the full liberalization of trade between the US and the EU, will provide -according to the most ambitious scenario- 10 billion euros a year for all 28 EU member States.

This estimated benefit is quite small, compared to the size of the two participating economies and the extent of the particular agreement.

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Secondly, the agenda of the negotiations between EU and US is multi-levelled and affects dozens of economic aspects, but also the everyday life of European citizens. What raises concerns to hundreds of millions of citizens is the fact that this negotiation is not being made among two institutional partners, but also includes large-scale multinational corporations that attempt to open their own business into new markets, through the deregulation of the legal framework that protects public services and public goods.

The degradation of key regulatory barriers and rules on environmental protection, including labour rights, rules on food safety and the abolition of laws on personal data protection, are just some of what has leaked from the formal negotiations. Negotiations that take place, once more, behind closed doors, under a regime of absolute secrecy, without any public information or access to information to the European political parties, without substantial involvement of the European Parliament and last but not least, in locations and at times that remain unknown.

At the same time, while the “opening up” of public services to the international market and to other countries’ private companies seems to be the main point of these negotiations between the EU and the US, what hides behind the curtain is the major institutional changes in Europe and in US.

More specifically, the “Investor State Dispute Settlement”, known as ISDS, provides legal possibilities to private investors, equivalent to those of a member-state. The threat for democracy is huge.

The legal protection and the power that TTIP offers to major business interests, is expected to create a new “road map” in Investor-State disputes settlements. Major international corporations will acquire the legal right to raise barriers against the democratic decisions of sovereign states or supranational associations, when they consider that such decisions jeopardize their profits.

Seven years after the outburst of the financial crisis, it is obvious that the international corporations and the neoliberal political elite in Europe and the US, drive their interests in the same ”familiar” direction, pursuing a beyond limit liberalization of the global economy, against common interest and environment.

However, the strategy of the neoliberal forces could not be limited only to the   financial institutions or the trade agreements; Neoliberalism’s greatest enemy, is the Democracy itself.

What is called into question here is something extremely important while the outcome of this battle will determine the balance of power between democracy and the protected interests of the few. We, the forces of the European Left, are active part of this battle, along with the progressive voices and other political forces, in the EU and the US.

We stand by the social movements and NGOs around the world, and anyone who wants to put on the table the agenda of Democracy and civil rights, of social cohesion and equality, of environmental protection and sustainable development.

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