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May 14, 2014
May 14, 2014

What is hidden in the Transatlantic Partnership (TTIP)?

Translator: Gustavo Roxo
This article is also available in: elesfrhrpt-pt
What is hidden in the Transatlantic Partnership (TTIP)?

The TTIP, TAFTA or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a free trade and investment agreement between the EU and the USA which is now under negotiation.

The EU and the USA together represent 60% of the world’s GDP, 33% of global goods trade, and 42% of the global services trade.

The European Commission estimates that the TTIP will stimulate the EU’s economy by 120 billion euros, and the US economy by 100 billion euros.

However, the Commission’s studies are based on unrealistic variables and they do not consider for the cost-benefit relationship between the eventual profits and the impact of the harmonizing regulations; additionally the cost of litigation procedures by investors against the states is not accounted for (see argumentations here).

Even with the procedures that are set in place for consulting the civil society, the negotiation process of TTIP is opaque, undemocratic, and it is ongoing between EU and USA companies, out of sight of European citizens.

The European Commission advises member states to promote a “radically different” dissemination strategy of the TTIP, “that should focus on the analysis of the positive aspects of the partnership for each Member-State”.

Given the fact that the customs taxes between the EU and the USA are already low, the objective of the negotiations is to harmonise legislation between the EU and the USA.

The harmonisation of regulation is process by which the EU and USA coordinate their regulations to the lowest common denominator, for a more permissive regulation.

For such purpose, the creation of a Counsel on Regulatory Cooperation that is composed of unelected members is being discussed. This Counsel will be able to create and replace EU legislation, giving way, to a “living agreement” of who will keep legislating in the future.

At the moment, the main objective is creating the structure of the TTIP; however, all of the measures requested by the participants will not be included in the agreement description, these demands will be decided at a later time by the Counsel on Regulatory Cooperation behind closed doors.

The TTPI will also include mechanisms for conflict resolution between Investor and State, allowing for multinational companies to sue governments (outside their national courts) for loss of profits precipitated by government actions, for example, a new national law that was democratically enacted.

The opposition against these types of mechanisms has been increasing, and several countries have abandoned them, due to the fact that the impartiality of the judges is not assured. Apart from having big international lawyer offices and very well paid one involved in the cases, there is no code of ethics, and they are able to defend a case in a country while being the lawyer of the opposite side in that same country. It is common that the number of times the company wins the case is significantly higher than those the country wins the lawsuit.

The previous agreements show that this mechanism leads to either large monetary settlements given to the multinational companies by the states or to discouragement of legislative procedures.

The European Parliament will only have the right to say yes or no to the partnership, without the possibility of amending the terms. The TTIP can be provisionally enacted, even before ratification in the parliaments of the Member States.

All of the existing evidence comes from announcements or from documents “leaked” by NGO’s. The summary below refers to some international cases where either the EU or the USA are involved.

Some of the consequences of the TTIP are not new.

In countries of the EU that have undergone structural adjustment measures from Troika, such as Portugal, most measures have been applied.

Negotiations have started in July 2013 and they are predicted to finish in the middle of 2016.

Here is what is at stake for countries in the European Union:

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: Lowering of the environmental protection standards, authorisation for schist gas exploration (fracking), selling of products with untested chemicals, deregulation of emission levels in the aviation sector.

FOOD SAFETY: Aggressive competition by the agro-industrial companies from the USA, authorisation of Genetically Modified Organisms, chlorine treatment of meat.

EMPLOYMENT: False promises of increase in labour demand, rise in unemployment in several sectors, no mitigation of the negative effects of the TTIP foreseen, decreased salaries and labor rights, increased precariousness.

HEALTH: Increase in the duration of patents of medical drugs, making it impossible to sell generic medicine at a lower price, potential privatisation of emergency services, selling of products with untested chemicals.

FREEDOM AND PRIVACY: Attempt to bring back the ACTA, violation of privacy and freedom of expression, turning Internet providers in a private surveillance police force for the private sector, blockage of investigation projects, strengthening of Intellectual Property Rights.

FINANCIAL SERVICES: Liberalisation and deregulation of financial services, increased participation of the financial sector in the legislative process, more freedom to create new financial instruments, incentives in banks to relocate to countries with lower taxes.

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