Not many people have heard of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP. But the TTIP, if enacted, will have major consequences for social justice, the environment and indeed democracy itself. The TTIP involves a set of free trade negotiations between the EU and the USA. According to the European Commission, the TTIP is about driving growth and creating jobs by removing regulatory differences between EU member states and the USA. Sounds good, one might think, but there are dangers lurking below the surface. A key component of the TTIP is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS. The ISDS may sound mundane but its implications could be far reaching. It would allow for example US companies investing in Europe to bypass European courts and challenge national governments at international tribunals if they felt that laws on environmental protection, public health and social policy posed a threat to their commercial interests.
For example, the ISDS could be used by large energy corporations to bring legal proceedings against national governments who attempt to regulate or ban fracking. Sounds alarmist I hear you say. In fact it is already happening. Under a trade agreement between the USA and Canada (involving an ISDS) the US company Lone Pine Resources is suing Canada for $250 million after the Quebec regional government introduced a precautionary moratorium on fracking in the St Lawrence river basin. In El Salvador, local communities successfully lobbied the government to block a large gold mine which threatened to contaminate local water supplies. The Canadian company which applied to dig the mine is suing the government of El Salvador for the sum of $315 million! So much for democracy and people and planet!
As the full implications of the TTIP have started to sink in the controversy has started to grow on both sides of the Atlantic. In the USA, the trade union organisation AFL/CIO has called for the scrapping of ISDS. In addition, the European Commission has temporally halted negotiations and announced a round of public consultations.
The EU trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht (Karel.DE-Gucht@ec.europa.eu) says he is committed to listening to a wide range of range of views and wants to set new levels in transparency. Let us take him at his word and send him our views now! In addition Caroline Lucas MP has a submitted an early day motion EDM 793. The EDM argues that there is a real risk that the provisions in the TTIP could overturn years of laws and regulations agreed by democratic institutions on environmental and social policy. So far only 37 MPs have signed the EDM. Contact your own MP and lobby them to sign the EDM
The TTIP is nothing short of a full frontal attack on democracy, social justice and environmental sustainability. It represents a grab for power by global corporations with vested commercial interests and needs to be firmly resisted. Rather, the international community needs to build on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) by agreeing to a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) to build a more socially just and environmentally sustainable world.
Hugh Atkinson, London South Bank University
*The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and are not designed to reflect the position of the PSA Specialist Group on Environmental Politics. The Group encourages thoughtful and respectful reflection on the content in the comments section of the post.*