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Speech to 38 Degrees on TTIP

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The following is a transcript of a speech given to 38 Degrees on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

1. Why should we believe that TTIP will be different from other trade deals and create jobs rather than displace them? 

First up – and this goes to the heart of tonight’s debate - we shouldn’t have to BELIEVE anything we’re told about TTIP

It’s our collective, democratic right to make informed choices based on facts, not speculation, leaked details and re-assurances from EU Commissioners.

Commissioners, of whom many are already known to be supportive of demands from European business’ for increased labour market flexibility. In plain English that means our rights at work reduced and our wages suppressed.

And these are the people supposedly negotiating on our behalf.

The secretive nature of these negotiations is an affront to any semblance of democratic accountability.

So let’s look at the facts rather than the propaganda.

Historically trade deals like this haven’t created jobs, they’ve destroyed them. Here I’m at odds with my own Party’s position which is to support TTIP “as long as it isn’t ‘a race to the bottom”. Unfortunately as we’ll see, I believe that is exactly what it is.

Just as with TTIP, back in the 1990s US trade unions were persuaded to support NAFTA  - the North American Free Trade Agreement – with the promise of thousands of new jobs.

The reality? Well according to the Economic Policy Institute’s study of the first 12 years of the agreement, NAFTA has caused the net loss of more than one million US jobs and a major decline in the value of wages for millions of workers.

So no, we shouldn’t believe TTIP will be any different from other trade deals when it comes to job creation.

2. Where standards between the EU and the US differ, will the tougher or the lower standard be agreed? 

I’m afraid to say the facts say lower standards not higher ones.

Let’s look at each in turn:

Food Standards:

From the outset, the US government, incl Barrack Obama, have explicitly stated that it will use the TTIP negotiations to target EU regulations that block US food exports, in particular the food safety regulations that we in Europe have fought to defend over many decades.

On the Environment:

The European Commission’s own impact assessment on TTIP and the increased production it will generate will in turn create

“dangers for both natural resources and the preservation of biodiversity….and will add an extra 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.”

That will contradict the EU’s own emission reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol

Workers’ Rights:

These are less clear cut but there are real concerns that TTIP could see our rights at work challenged as ‘impediments to trade’. Considering the US has refused to ratify international conventions on basic workers’ rights, and understanding the Thatcherite free-market economic philosophy underpinning TTIP, again lower standards should be expected.

3.TTIP, Public Services and the NHS

On public services, Labour is calling for an exemption of the NHS. This is good news and should be warmly welcomed.

But my reasoning is this – if exemption is good enough for the NHS then it should be good enough for all our public services. Further still should a future Labour government want to bring back into public ownership energy, water and public transport, as I think it should, then why should we lock ourselves in to TTIP’s perpetual drive for privatisation? Simply put, we shouldn’t.

4. On TTIP’s Investor State Dispute Resolution/Settlement:

Where do you begin?

ISDS is by far the greatest threat posed by TTIP to our democracy. It is a blueprint for a dystopian nightmare of Orwellian proportions.

It seeks to elevate transnational capital and corporations to a legal status equivalent to that of the nation State. Under TTIP, US and EU corporations would be granted the power to challenge democratic decisions made by sovereign states and to claim compensation where those decisions have an adverse impact on their profits, both now and in the future.

It is wrong and it should be scrapped.

5. What would an ISDS look like that puts the needs of people and the environment ahead of corporate profits? 

I first wrote a blog about TTIP last September:

http://www.clivelewis.org/labour_and_ttip

In it I referenced some of the demands made by groups such as War on Want and the Alternative Trade Mandate.

That’s because I see TTIP and ISDS as they currently are, as proposals that embody so much of what is wrong with our current political and economic situation.

The neoliberal consensus of the past 40 years has failed us all. It’s failed working people, it has failed the environment and it has failed the world’s poorest.

Therefore an ISDS that challenges that orthodoxy and puts people, planet and social justice first would have my backing.

That means trade that supported human rights, guaranteed decent, well paid, secure work and increased not decreased global economic, social and environmental well–being.

6. Do elected politicians have any influence on what is happening? If not, who does? 

I think it’s limited and I think it’s indicative of how our society is handing over ever larger chunks of our democracy to unaccountable, vested interests.

Whether handing control of our monetary system to an unelected Bank of England Committee (The Monetary Policy Committee) to suggestions we should devolve billions of pounds of our tax to unelected, unaccountable business people in the form of LEPs – I believe we are sleep walking into handing over our hard won democratic rights.

TTIP is part of that process and we should resist it.

Tony Benn used to have a saying. If ever he met a technocrat or official who seemed to have official power – he’d ask them: “Who are you and how do I get rid of you.”

If they can’t answer that question you’ve got a problem.

I’m therefore of the opinion too many people making decisions in our lives are simply beyond democratic accountability. TTIP as it currently is would only make that situation worse.

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