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Julia Dance leads a game of pavement monopoly to illustrate the dangers of TTIP (photo: Lesley Shareif).

Julia Dance leads a game of corporate monopoly to illustrate the dangers of TTIP (photo: Lesley Shareif).

Bexhill campaigners take to the streets to warn against TTIP

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and the secretive manner in which it is being negotiated, have aroused widespread opposition, with more than half a million in the UK signing a petition calling for it to be abandoned. Here members of Global Justice Bexhill and Hastings and the Bexhill Fairtrade Group explain why they joined in a day of action against the treaty earlier this month.

Why did local members of Global Justice, Fairtrade and 38 Degrees in Bexhill assemble in Devonshire Square on a cool, windy Saturday morning?

It was in solidarity with a European day of action on 10 October against a secretive treaty – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, which is being hammered out undemocratically between the EU and US. TTIP will affect the freedom of local authorities and governments to make decisions benefiting their citizens when these conflict with the interests of large corporations.

It has taken a year for the EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström to be forced to bring a little transparency into the situation and grudgingly publish some sections of some of the texts!! Proponents claim that the pact will bring £10 billion of job creation. But similar claims were made for Nafta, the North American Free Trade Association between  the US, Canada and Mexico, which in practice led to the loss of around a million jobs in the US. TTIP might produce miniscule benefits but at disastrous cost.

Taking the anti-TTIP message to the streets of Bexhill: from left, Christina Lucey, Alan Bearne, John Cotton and Jack Doherty  (photo: Leslie Shareif).

Taking the anti-TTIP message to the streets of Bexhill: from left, Christina Lucey, Alan Bearne, John Cotton and Jack Doherty (photo: Leslie Shareif).

This is not a normal trade deal based on reducing tariffs and quotas – these are already low. Instead it focuses on non-tariff barriers to trade like environmental health, food, medical and safety regulations. TTIP isn’t about free trade but about increasing the power of big corporations and undermining the capacity of governments, both local and national, to regulate legitimate areas of public policy. Last year private corporates received about a third of NHS contracts (that’s about a 50% increase compared to nine years ago). Under TTIP any Government changes which could interfere with multinationals’ profits – rolling back the privatisation, for example – could trigger large claims to be paid out of the public purse. Multinationals are already pursuing such cases in Germany, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Ecuador and elsewhere. The dispute resolution procedure, which under TTIP is called ISDS – Investor State Dispute Settlement – will intimidate councils and governments as they frame policies. Such cases will not be heard in our national courts but in international tribunals presided over by corporate lawyers.

“This anti-democratic ISDS mechanism must be removed altogether from TTIP,” says Christina Lucey, chair of Global Justice Bexhill and Hastings branch. “The NHS must be declared categorically exempt from TTIP before our health care is diminished in order to enhance the profits of unelected corporates.”

On behalf of Bexhill Fairtrade Group, Jack Doherty says, “The core of TTIP is supposed to be free trade – but there is no evidence at all of any fair trading. It will make the powerful more powerful at the expense of those at the mercy of the market as it seeks to maximise profits. The tariff debacle and lowering of regulations will drive much of the developing world food and clothing producers into further poverty and destroy trading arrangements working towards sustainable development. The inevitable effect will be to create more need for aid rather than just and fair trading.”

At local level there has been no assessment on the potential impact on local councils, no scrutiny of the negotiating texts by local government and no consultation with local government. Even MPs have not been able to scrutinise negotiating documents.

So it is not surprising that almost 40 councils in the country have passed resolutions critical of TTIP, including Oxford, Lancashire, Brighton, Flintshire and, yes, Hastings. But not Rother District Council which last December passed a resolution saying it was “reassured” none of the dire predictions made for TTIP would come about. The vote took place after a very unsatisfactory and at times ill-informed debate when some councillors even claimed all the fuss was no more than Labour Party propaganda.

We now call on Rother District Council to revisit this TTIP resolution. Many hundreds of locals in Bexhill and Rother have signed the petition launched by campaign group 38 Degrees to stop TTIP in its tracks. In the UK more than half a million have signed and including continental Europe the number is a massive 3.2 million.

Many people we spoke to on our day of action said they were worried about losing their hard-fought rights and working conditions and about US corporates dumping foods and medicines produced to inferior standards on Europe. We agree that they are right to be worried – power must not be allowed to eat the powerless.

For more information visit www.globaljustice.org.uk/bexhillandhastings and www.fairtrade.org.uk.

 

 

Posted 16:18 Wednesday, Oct 21, 2015 In: Campaigns

3 Comments


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  1. jack doherty

    Anti TTIP object to the undemocratic secrecy.
    We have gleaned only a small part of the small print and it is only on these elements that informed comments are made.
    Commissioner Malstrom is being forced into a bit of transparency and is publishing some details. This has occurred because of intense lobbying.
    It is the corporates who are negotiating the framework with their own court and giving themselves much more power to trade “freely ” and unencombered by tough and safe regulations.
    Local councils and Council associations are excluded from the negotiations yet they will be impacted by decisions and terms. Isn’t it time to do some impact assessments before it is finalised ?? This will reveal whether there are scares ahead in practice !!
    When it’s finalised and given the nod by the countries in the EU who are obliged to ( not all ) then we will be bound by them and sued under their powers for any breaches of their terms.
    It is not the EU as such but the power imparted and assumed by the unelected
    corporates.

    Comment by jack doherty — Friday, Oct 23, 2015 @ 15:59

  2. DAR

    While I hold no brief for the EU, this TTIP wheeze is what former Tory PM Edward Heath dubbed “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It’s an ugly face consumed with greed, and anything that stops this deal is welcome. I would also say that unfettered free trade is not a virtuous philosophical ideal because it historically (and maybe inherently) results in grotesque wealth inequalities. And I find it rather ironic that those who denounce protectionism often support TTIP which is – if you think about it – a form of protectionism for American corporations!

    Comment by DAR — Wednesday, Oct 21, 2015 @ 17:50

  3. Chris Cormack

    It seems to me that anti-TTIP campaigners want it both ways; first they campaign against the secrecy and then they claim to know the small detail of how the TTIP will adversely affect us and accuse Rother District Council of being ‘ill-informed’ when they address the scare-mongering and ‘dire predictions’ of a treaty negotiation that has not been finalised.

    The negotiation of the TTIP shows up the EU bureaucracy at its worst – its anti-free trade credentials whenever its own bureaucratic power is threatened, the horse-trading among vested interests and the exclusion of democratic scrutiny. A nation state like the UK could negotiate its free trade treaties with the rest of the World far more easily and quickly without the heavy hand of Brussels bureaucracy tying it down; what is more the UK alone could open up such treaties to democratic scrutiny more effectively through parliament.

    Comment by Chris Cormack — Wednesday, Oct 21, 2015 @ 16:34

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