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The Transatlantic Trade and Investor Partnership (TTIP) - INTA
Transcript of The Transatlantic Trade and Investor Partnership (TTIP) - INTA
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a free trade and investment agreement which is currently being negotiated between the EU and the US. Its main target is to remove tariffs and regulatory 'barriers' which restrict trade and potential profits made by transnational corporations of both parties.
These 'barriers' include some of the EU's most prized social standards and environmental regulations, for example labour rights, food safety rules, regulations on toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and banking safeguards.
Watch this video to see how the benefits of the TTIP for both parties are advertised:
However there is a growing movement against TTIP on both sides of the Atlantic. Public health, environmental and social justice campaigners together with trade unions and consumer groups in the EU as well as the USA are forming an opposition to the negotiations.
What is being criticised?
The entire TTIP negotiations are taking place in secret. The European Commission (EC) is strongly restricting the most significant documents. Even government officials from EU member states can only access those in designated reading rooms from which nothing can be removed or copied. The fact that elected parliamentarians from the member states are not allowed any sight of the written decisions being negotiated between their countries and the US is considered undemocratic.
'Prolonged and substantial'
threat to jobs'
The commission is optimistic that through TTIP the EU's economic output could rise by 0,5% by the year 2027 . This hypothesis builds on the by the EC authorised impact assessment from the Centre for Economic Policy research. However, some independent researchers claim the study is "misleading". They rather predict a high loss of jobs as a result of free trade deals the EC has confirmed TTIP is likely include since companies would be encouraged to source goods and services from the US states where standards are lower than in the EU. Considering current unemployment rates in Europe, and especially youth unemployment, which is reaching over 50% in some member states, this would have a devastating effect on the EU’s economy.
Foot safety deregulation
The EU has very strong regulations on food safety including restrictions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, hormone-treated beef and growth promoters. The 'regulatory convergence' agenda of TTIP seeks to bring US and EU standards closer together with the result of many EU regulations being removed.
The following examples displays what is at stake:
Over 90% of US beef is produced under the use of bovine growth hormones that has been linked to cancers in humans. Since 1988 EU restrictions forbid the import of such beef. The WTO has already been challenged to lower these restrictions by the US government and corporate lobby groups call for their removal in the TTIP agreements as they consider them 'unnecessary' trade barriers.
Under TTIP, production, consumption and transfer of goods will significantly increase internationally. Even the EC admits that this means "dangers for both natural resources and preservation of biodiversity". Considering greenhouse gas emissions, the EC indicates that its preferred outcome from TTIP will add an extra 11 million metric tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS):
a threat to democracy?
One of the most complex and criticised parts of the negotiations is the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).
To get a better idea of what ISDS actually is, watch this video:
"ISDS is a mechanism provided for in international agreements on investment. Countries sign such agreements in order to set out ground rules when foreign companies invest on their territory, for example by building factories. ISDS allows an investor from one country to bring a case directly against the country in which they have invested before an arbitration tribunal."
Factsheet on ISDS by the European Commission:
ISDS is considered an important tool to protect EU investors abroad. Since the US has a strong and complex legal system, it is necessary to guarantee adequate protection of foreign investors. It gives a company the right to take concrete action against e.g. a law that bans the product made in a factory owned by a foreign investor whilst not banning a similar product produced by a domestic company.
However, TTIP is also widely criticised for a number of reasons. TTIP would enable EU and US corporations to question democratic decisions made by sovereign States, and to demand compensation where those decisions negatively impact their profits.
Under ISDS foreign companies/investors have the right to bring claims for damages against the host country even though they might not have any contract with its government. Apart from that investors can legally skip domestic and national courts and take their claims directly to an international arbitration tribunal.
ISDS has already had considerable effect on public policy and democracy where it has been included in bilateral investment treaties or other free trade agreements:
A famous example is the one of the Swedish energy company Vattenfall which sued the German government for €3,7 billion due to the country's decisions to exit nuclear power step by step and replace it by more sustainable sources of energy after the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Vattenfall has already succeeded in a previous case. The new environmental regulations of the city of Hamburg were watered down after the company's attack.
An arbitration tribunal is a tribunal constituted for resolving a dispute by way of arbitration. Arbitration is a process by which the parties dispute while submitting their differences to the judgement of an independent person or group who has been appointed by both parties based on mutual consent.
These tribunals are often criticised however, as arbitrators are not tenured judges with a public authority, but a group of corporate lawyers who are appointed by the arbitrators on a temporary basis. Critics compare them to lobbyists and fear that they will favour corporations.
The use of ISDS by transnational corporations has been increased drastically within the last 10 years. Over 500 known cases have been filed against at least 95 countries . The real number is likely to be larger as a lot more are likely to have been initiated in secret without public record.