TTIPing the balance how?
WHAT'S HAPPENING with the
Transatlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership (TTIP), the planned
bilateral EU-US trade agreement?
How will it affect us? Jude Kirton-
Darling, MEP for the North East of
England, briefed the NUJ's Freelance
Industrial Council on this.
The European Parliament only
has a scrutiny role in TTIP and this
is a very blunt power - MEPs can't
amend TTIP, but they can vote to reject
the whole thing.
The Parliament resolved in July
to delineate "red lines" that TTIP
must not cross. The trade agreement
should not stop EU member
states from "re-organising" (that is,
nationalising) public services such
as the NHS "according to the will of
the electorate." But TTIP can "lock
in" privatisation once it's started, by
giving investors in other countries
access, making it more difficult to
"re-organise" public services.
There's also a red line on labour
rights, which like many minimum
standards are very different on each
side of the Atlantic. All EU states
sign up to International Labour Organization
rules on labour rights,
while half of US states have "right
to work" strike-busting legislation.
In Tennessee, the State governor
overruled Volkswagen's attempts at
collective bargaining with the United
Auto Workers union.
One threat is from "Investor State
Dispute Settlements", which would
be private tribunals arbitrating between
corporations and governments.
The theory is that these are
written into such agreements to
protect investors from "expropriation"
in foreign markets. In practice,
tribunal decisions - behind closed
doors - are based on commercial
law. One alarming detail is that just
one London law firm currently providing
a third of all arbitrators. The
European Parliament has agreed that
for ISDSs, everything will be in the
The UK government is the biggest
cheerleader for a neo-liberal version
of TTIP. It wants to keep healthcare
and adult education on the table,
while other EU countries want to
keep these out of it. US Democrat
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton
has said some "very negative things
already" about TTIP. The countries
are about a third of the way to a
deal on TTIP. US President Barack
Obama has to initial a deal by November
2016. Jude feels the most
likely outcome is that TTIP becomes
a "building blocks" agreement, setting
in motion subsequent deals on
the specifics of pharmaceuticals,
manufacturing and so on.
Some of journalism is covered by
existing GATTS deals. There is talk
of "broader trade in digital services".
Jude says "audio-visual services" -
such as film-making - have been excluded,
but "written digital services
are a bit of a grey zone - it's hard
to tell what's in and what's affected."
What can we do? We need to
demonstrate now to MEPs and to
Westminster that "people outside
the room care about it." The more
public debate there is, the more
MEPs can "open the box" about the
backroom deals the "corporates"
and their allies in governments are
trying to pull off. So at the least
write to your MP and MEP now.