Holy Grail US-EU trade deal is “probably doomed.”
By Don Quijones, Spain & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.
TTIP, the once super-secret transatlantic trade deal that is now broadly despised on both sides of the Atlantic, may not be alive yet but it could soon be dead. And all thanks to leaks which confirm a longstanding suspicion in Europe that the ultimate goal of TTIP is to pry open European markets for big U.S. corporations, with little offered in the way of reciprocity.
The UK Independent reports that the 248 pages of documents released by Greenpeace show that the “hated” deal would grant US corporations “unprecedented powers” over any new public health or safety regulations to be introduced in the future:
If any European government does dare to bring in laws to raise social or environmental standards, TTIP will grant US investors the right to sue for loss of profits.
It is iron-clad confirmation that many of our biggest fears were well-founded. At long last the treaty that should not be named is being exposed to the harsh light of day, all its darkest intentions splashed across the front pages of Europe’s biggest selling newspapers. As the European Green party notes, “every single publicly voiced suspicion concerning the lack of transparency in these TTIP negotiations has been justified by the revelations stemming from the leak.”
Here’s a check list of other widely held fears that appear to have been confirmed in the last two days:
- TTIP would represent a direct threat to the existence of public health services in Europe — CHECK
- If TTIP is signed, taking proactive steps to protect the environment would be much harder on both sides of the Atlantic — CHECK
- TTIP would almost certainly spell the end of the precautionary principle in Europe, which will be replaced by weaker, corporate-friendlier standards — CHECK
- It would also represent the final victory of Monsanto & Friends, which have faced massive public resistance in Europe and have struggled to overcome many European lawmakers’ aversion to granting their GMO seeds blanket approval for European markets — CHECK
- TTIP would accelerate data flows between the U.S. and Europe, with seemingly little in the way of data protection. Like TPP, it would also lead to much stricter rules on encryption and much stiffer enforcement of intellectual property rules, with serious implications for internet rights and access to medicines — CHECK
- The trade deal would almost certainly sound the death knell of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) “General Exceptions” rule (which allows nations to regulate trade “to protect human, animal and plant life or health” or for “the conservation of exhaustible natural resources). The rule did not even merit a mention in the leaked text.
Most importantly, TTIP, together with its sister deals TPP, CETA and TiSA, would — as I warned in the 2013 article “The Global Corporatocracy is Almost Fully Operational” — usher in a whole new era of corporate dominance that would put the current one to shame.
U.S. negotiators continue to insist on the inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause in TTIP, despite widespread European concerns about the prospect of corporations suing governments (i.e. taxpayers) for damages if they feel that any new laws or regulations introduced in the public interest might impinge on their ability to maximize profits.
To placate the fears of European citizens and MEPs, the European Commission even went so far as to propose a modified approach, the Investment Court System (ICS), which it claims addresses the problems of ISDS. Even though the ICS idea was formally presented to the US last year, one of the TTIP leaks shows that it was not even discussed during the 12th round, something that the European Commission’s public report on the negotiations omitted to mention.
As if ISDS wasn’t enough to worry about, the leaked documents also include a “State-to-State Dispute Settlement” (SSDS) clause, which essentially means that if TTIP is eventually signed, all 28 member nations of the European Union could face the exciting prospect of America “the nation” also filing law suits against them.
In light of all this, it’s probably a good thing, for European and North American citizens alike, that both TTIP and CETA, the EU-Canadian trade deal, have never looked less likely to be signed.
A couple of weeks ago the Dutch parliament passed a motion rejecting provisional application of the EU-Canada trade deal. The country might also hold a referendum on the issue. Opposition to the trade deal is moving inexorably from the streets to parliaments. On April 27, the Walloon parliament (French-speaking Belgium) also refused to sign CETA. Romania has threatened to do the same after Canada rejected offering visa-free travel to its citizens.
Today the stakes were raised further as France became the first major European nation to threaten to reject the huge trade deal, on the grounds that it is “too friendly to U.S. business” and “probably doomed.” French president Francois Hollande warned that France “will never accept” challenges to its farming and culture in exchange for better access to U.S. markets. “That’s why at this stage, France says no,” the Socialist leader said.
Despite all the tough talk from the French government, I have a sneaking suspicion that EU governments could be merely hard balling the U.S. in the hope of extracting better concessions for their own pet corporations, in particular the holy grail of more equal participation in U.S. public procurement processes. Also, as Nick Drearden of Global Justice Now warns, a system is already in place in Europe for trade deals to come into effect even without a vote in member parliaments:
Under something known as ‘provisional implementation’, CETA could take effect in Britain early next year without a parliamentary vote here. In fact, even if the British parliament voted CETA down, the corporate court system would still stay in effect for 3 years!
It is for this reason, together with the Commission’s brazen disdain for democratic process, it’s probably too early yet to begin writing TTIP’s obituary. TTIP, like CETA and TPP, have an enormous amount of political — and financial — capital behind them. For TTIP’s supporters failure is not an option, especially after so many years of tireless scheming in (to quote The Independent) “fanatical secrecy.” By Don Quijones, Raging Bull-Shit
The carefully woven fabric is unraveling. Read… A Torrid Week for the Transatlantic Corporatocracy