TTIP over the edge
WE JOURNALISTS need to write about TTIP and give it a good kicking. That was War On Want Executive Director John Hilary's message when he spoke at NUJ PR & the Communications Branch December gathering.
But first he checked how many of the audience had a clue what he was talking about. TTIP: what? About two and a half of the 20 present professed knowledge anywhere on a scale from expertise to just being able to spell out the acronym - the "Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership".
It's a deal the European Commission and the USA are negotiating behind closed doors which, by Hilary's account, if concluded and ratified, could crush economic and political democracy beneath the weight of free-market moneybags.
Even so, "it's struggling to get coverage in the mainstream media," he said, although the negotiators' stated objective is to dig Europe and US out of present economic difficulties by:
- lowering standards of regulated minimum pay and conditions for workers, and of safety controls on food and medicines; and
- both pushing denationalisation in all spheres and making those changes very hard to reverse. For instance, if all or any part of the UK's National Health Service is privatised (as some of it has been already under the Health And Social Care Act), a subsequent government trying to renationalise could be sued by any multinational already involved, not just for any current loss but for hypothetical loss of profits in the future.
So any government democratically elected on a "renationalisation" platform could find their plans and promises scuppered by corporate muscle backed up by a binding treaty - although Hilary did allow that this is happening to a degree already, with a Swedish nuclear power company suing Germany over their post-Fukushima nukes ban, Philip Morris suing Australia and Uruguay over anti-smoking regulations, and a French company suing Egypt over minimum-wage increases.
Asked about the effect on media, he said that, so far, France had secured some protection by pressing for the continuation of the EU "exception culturelle" under TTIP (against UK and German opposition). If sustained, this could help guard non-commercial outlets such as the BBC against corporate litigation.
However, Hilary concluded with "the good news" - that "a fantastic resistance movement across the world, especially among trade unions" has begun (the latest UK TUC Congress passed a motion of opposition to TTIP), and that whatever the final draft of TTIP included it would have to come before the European Parliament and it could be defeated there if enough pressure is brought to bear on the social democratic bloc (to add to, in this case, aligned if not allied left and right opposition).
Which is why the whole subject could be an open goal for some well-informed, investigative journalism...