Fears mount over TTIP trade treaty

The European Union is on the brink of signing a transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) with the US which risks giving more power to large transnational corporations. 

A public meeting was held at Lewes Town Hall on Thursday 2nd October to discuss concerns with the TTI partnership organised by local campaigner, Ann Cross.

EU trade standards and markets are threatened by a trade treaty with US

The treaty could threaten standards of the food industry and increase the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies across the EU.

Linda Kaucher, researcher into international trade at the LSE, explained that the treaty could result in regulatory harmonisation, that is: “a boiling frog.” 

If health services are already in the commercial sector, it would be more difficult to exclude US companies.  The impact of TTIP on services that are not already privatised is not yet clear.

The purpose of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership is to open up the European Union markets to the US and stimulate economic growth. 

It will also serve to simplify the large number of bilateral trade agreements between countries and could become a gold standard.    

Dr Peter Holmes who attended the meeting said: “every trade agreement is not a neoliberal conspiracy.” 

Dr Holmes is a Reader in Economics at the University of Sussex.  He believes that the negotiations will continue for some time because they have to be approved by the European Parliament, individual governments in the EU Council of Ministers, Parliaments across Europe and the US Congress. 

However, the US bans eight chemicals, the EU bans 1300.  Up to 70% of processed food produced in the US is genetically modified. 

Ms Kaucher said: “the European Union needs regulatory cooperation, not harmonisation.”   

Corporations would also be allowed to challenge governments for any discriminatory measure through arbitration known as the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS.) 

The taxpayer will have to meet the legal costs which will make regulation even more difficult.  

For example, Vattenfall, the Swedish energy company is taking legal action against Germany because of a policy change to phase out nuclear power.     

Campaigners fear that transatlantic corporations will monopolise EU and US markets.  Although it is impossible to predict the future, Dr Holmes said: “multinational companies on both sides are likely to find life more convenient.” 

This article was first published in the Argus in October 2014.