The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade agreement between the European Union and the United States, aimed at cutting tariffs and barriers to trade between the US and EU countries, which will essentially make it easier for companies to access each other’s markets.
Despite claims that it will create jobs and economically benefit EU countries, the deal has come under wide criticism due to the worryingly large amount of power it grants to US companies, the erosion of regulatory barriers to trade, and its inherently undemocratic nature.
TTIP aims to cut tariffs – currently at a mere 3% – which will boost trade between the US and EU countries and allegedly benefit consumers due to the removal of EU import tariffs on popular goods. Whilst this may sound beneficial, the deal (which is generally being negotiated behind closed doors) also aims to remove trade regulations that act as barriers to corporate profits; such barriers include, but are not limited to, food safety rules (including GMOs), digital privacy laws, environmental regulations and labour rights.
Harmonisation of Regulations
David Cameron, a strong advocate of the free trade deal, claims, “The opportunities for Britain of trading more with the United States of America are clear … Two million extra jobs, more choice and lower prices in our shops”. It is therefore argued that consumers will benefit by the removal of EU import tariffs on goods, and that the reduction of regulation will allegedly help UK businesses export to the US, with small businesses in particular expected to benefit.
However, this ‘harmonisation of regulations’ – which will potentially see the EU adopting US-style standards and regulations – will open up the EU to cheaper products of poorer standards, primarily because US regulations, especially on issues such as GM foods and pesticide usage, are much more flexible compared to the EU. Reducing “non-tariff barriers” to trade and bringing in common standards under TTIP is claimed to reduce costs incurred by companies when testing their products. However, the EU also bans cosmetics tested on animals, to which the US has no such regulations, therefore, with the creation of TTIP, our “most prized social standards and environmental regulations” will be eroded.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
According to the UK government, an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is being negotiated under TTIP. The ISDS aims to grant both EU and US companies the power to sue any government if it believes they have been responsible for the loss of company profits. The dispute settlement has been widely criticised on the basis of its undemocratic nature, as it undermines the basic powers of governments to act in the interest of their citizens. For example, US company Lone Pine threatened to sue Canada for the ban on fracking in Quebec. If negotiations regarding TTIP and specifically the ISDS are accepted, large companies primarily concerned with the creation of profit will prevent governments from passing laws to protect the environment. The inclusion of ISDS within the TTIP will basically grant large companies international legislative power, essentially giving them the ability to block unfavorable laws and potentially dictate legislation to governments in their favour.
Unsurprisingly therefore, there has been widespread opposition to TTIP, which has predominantly emerged from within European countries. 3 million people, for example, signed an online petition against the deal, 500,000 being Britons, and in October 2015, 250,000 people took part in an anti-TTIP protest in Berlin. As negotiations between the EU and the USA are being held behind closed doors, little information about the trade agreement has been disclosed. The Investor State Dispute Settlement – which is still under negotiations according to the UK government – is not only undemocratic in itself, but so too is the way the partnership is being discussed and negotiated.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will fundamentally erode regulatory barriers to trade that protect the EU from products of poor standard and essentially transform large, powerful companies into tyrannical international legislators.
TTIP is an unaccountable, secretive, elitist and profoundly undemocratic agreement between the US and the EU – it needs to be stopped.
Bry studies International Relations and Politcs at The University of Sheffield.
Follow Bry – @Bryvince