Is TTIP ‘Organised Money’?
“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism, because it is a merger of State and corporate power.” Benito Mussolini
You thought the banking crisis and the recession were bad? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – is the latest deal the bankers, corporations and governments don’t want you to know about. But just in case you find out just how toxic it could become, they’ve made sure that voters in the EU and the US will not have any opportunity to vote on it. It’s happening behind closed doors in Brussels and Washington. The politicians and the corporations want to make sure that there is nothing ‘ordinary’ people can do to halt the progress of this capitalist and/or fascist corporatist behemoth.
The essence of TTIP is that the US and EU regulatory systems should be harmonised by dismantling trade barriers. This will lead to additional trade, and we can all live happily ever after. Or more likely not.
TTIP, currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States would have been seen by Mussolini as a logical conclusion of the merger of State and corporate power.
How can governments allow this to happen, and why would they sign a treaty to transfer financial power to faceless unelected corporations that Franklin Delano Roosevelt called organised money? The political system in Britain and in many other parts of the EU has totally fallen into disrepute, and politicians are greedy and want a nice big pension pot when their political life is over. The companies that will benefit from TTIP will always need ex-politicians who know their way around the seats of political power.
TTIP raises many frightening questions, and four of the main ones are outlined below.
Public Services including the NHS:
Neo-Liberalism’s founding commandment is that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector. Therefore it is considered cheaper for corporations to provide public services. Whether this is actually true is, of course, open to debate, but neo-liberal governments and political parties, especially in the UK, are not prepared to allow this debate.
If the TTIP trade agreement is to go ahead it should be based on a ‘positive list’, meaning that there will be a list of the services that are included in TTIP and any not listed are not included e.g. the NHS. The alternative, favoured by most politicians, bureaucrats and corporations, is to have a ‘negative list’, which would mean that any services not specifically listed for exclusion are automatically included in TTIP.
A ‘negative list’ is dangerous for none of us can see the future and it could mean that a future British government might not be able to, for example, re-nationalise services such as the railways, utilities and large parts of the NHS, even though it might be the will of the people.
Natacha Cingotti1, Friends of the Earth Europe, has used leaked documents to show that this dismantling of trade barriers would make it easier for the US to export fracked oil and gas to Europe. We know that to avoid the worst extremes of climate change, we need to keep the planet’s average temperature increase below 2 degrees centigrade. This means that 80% of known fossil fuel reserves have to stay in the ground. So for the EU to import more fossil fuels from the US at the expense of renewable energy is nothing short of insanity.
The threats to EU public services and the environment by US companies are just one side of the coin. The other side is the threat to relax US financial regulation and use the much lighter EU financial regulation.
Melinda St Louis from Public Citizens’ Global Trade Watch2 makes the point that the US reaction to the banking disaster of 2008 was to drastically tighten regulation with the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 that separated investment and retail banking.
The EU and the UK are way behind and in the UK there is no plan to separate the two, just to ring fence retail banking as recommended by the Vickers report. This ring fencing is not due to come into force till 2019 and the UK banks are appealing to a sympathetic government for more time and not to have to implement the full recommendations of the report!
If TTIP becomes law, and a company believes it has been treated unfairly in the awarding of contracts (including contracts for the NHS) then under TTIP, a company will be able to legally challenge any government. But a legal challenge against the British Government, for instance, would not be held in a British court – but under an Investor States Deputes Settlement (ISDS) procedure, which is a tribunal made up of competition lawyers, and there will be no right of appeal.
There are already ISDSs existing under similar trade treaties such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This had led to a number of frightening cases:
- The Egyptian government increased the minimum wage and Veolia, a French corporation, is suing the Egyptian government for loss of profits!
- Occidental Petroleum is best known in the UK for the Piper Alpha North Sea oil rig disaster in 1988. Failure to observe safety procedures led to 167 deaths, and caused the most deadly off-shore oil disaster ever. Now, Occidental has broken the law in Ecuador, but the Ecuadorean government has still been ordered to pay US$1.77 billion in compensation!
- Philip Morris, a US tobacco company, is suing the Australian government for billions over the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes.
- Vattenfall, a Swedish energy company wholly owned by the Swedish government, is suing the German government for 3.7 billion Euro because of Germany phasing out nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Can we stop TTIP? In some ways our best hope is that Obama fails to get TTIP through Congress before he ceases to be president. His opposition is the US Trade Unions and left of the Democratic Party who want guarantees on US jobs not being exported to the EU where labour is cheaper.
What are our alternatives if TTIP is foisted on us? Politicians and corporations would do well to remember that many countries in Europe have a history of violent revolutions and counter-revolutions, when those in power have tried to create a society of unequal extremes. Even the English have executed a King!
Can you hear the sound of the tumbrels rolling towards the guillotines?