TTIP versus democracy

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Photo: Dominic Alves, Dominic's Pics, Creative Commons
  1. How would you like it if you and others voted a party into government, only to find that once it got into power it could not introduce the policies you’d voted for because big business would sue the government for millions or billions if it did?
  2. What if policies that protect the environment, health or employment conditions or the public sector (like the NHS) were particularly likely to trigger such lawsuits? What if the government were sued for billions for refusing an energy company permission to drill for oil or shale gas, or for trying to impose employment protection measures?
  3. And what if your government were ‘tried’ in a secret international court consisting of corporate lawyers, with no democratic accountability to anyone?
  4. And what if all this were brought about by a new international trade pact that had been negotiated between corporate lawyers and government officials in secret, with no democratic input from your elected representatives, and all with the aim of allowing a race-to-the-bottom in standards regulating corporate power?
  5. And what if, in response to leaks of details about the trade pact, members of the public protested to their government, only to be either dismissed in a patronising ‘don’t-you-worry-your-little-heads’ manner or shouted down aggressively.

It sounds like a nightmare. But it will become a reality if governments ratify the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. 1 -3 haven’t happened yet in Europe, but will. 4 already is happening, and 5 has already happened. 1-3 have already happened where similar trade pacts are already in existence.

  • In Australia the Philip Morris tobacco company is suing the government for attempting to make plain packaging compulsory.
  • In Argentina, in the financial crisis, the government responded to popular anger about rising costs of living by freezing energy and water prices, only to find itself hit by over 40 law suits issued by the private companies involved, and had to pay $1.15 billion in compensation.[1]
  • In Ecuador “Occidental faces a range of allegations in Ecuador in relation to abuses of the country’s human rights, social and environmental laws. The corporation was found to have breached contract terms in relation to a share transfer deal, as a result of which its contract was cancelled. Occidental immediately retaliated by filing a billion dollar ICSID [International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes] claim. In October 2012 the Ecuadorian state was ordered to pay $1.7 billion plus interest in compensation, the equivalent of fifteen years worth of social welfare payments for the country. The Ecuadorian government is attempting to appeal the ruling.”[2]

democracycorporatocracy

              Photo: Byzantine_K, Creative Commons

As for 4 (above), government dismissals of protests, you can read Tory grandee Ken Clarke here. And you can listen here to a shocking attempt by MPs (on the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee) to silence David Babbs, a representative of the online campaigning group 38 degrees, putting questions about TTIP. Funny isn’t it – how, in the UK, the Conservatives and UKIP fret about the power of the EU in Brussels, but refuse to talk about the impending loss of sovereignty to TTIP (also being negotiated via Brussels). And whereas we at least have a European parliament, there won’t be a TTIP parliament: it will be a no-go area for democracy. Neoliberal economic doctrine is anti-democracy.[3] So is neoliberal politics, only covertly. If TTIP is accepted it will be a huge victory for the global plutocracy over democracy. Some anti-TTIP campaign links:

George Monbiot article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/11/eu-us-trade-deal-transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership-democracy

Wikileaks on TTIP: https://wikileaks.org/tpp/pressrelease.html.

Stop TTIP (This is a pan-European campaign): https://stop-ttip.org/

SumOfUs: http://action.sumofus.org/a/tpp-lawsuits/

38degrees https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/vince-cable-fix-ttip#petition

UK HM government petition https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/56884/signature/new

 Please make your voice heard!

[1] Corporate Europe Observatory (2013) ‘A transatlantic corporate bill of rights’, 3 June, http://corporateeurope.org/trade/2013/06/transatlantic- corporate-bill-rights. [2] McDonagh, T. (2013) ‘Unfair, unsustainable and under the radar’, San Francisco: Democracy Center, http://democracyctr.org/new-report- unfair-unsustainable-and-under-the-radar/. [3] See Mirowski, P. (2013) Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste, London: Verso Fishsmall

Photo: Dominic Alves, Dominic's Pics, Creative Commons
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