The EU soon intends to sign two far-reaching trade agreements: one with Canada (CETA = Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and one with the USA (TTIP = Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). The official line is that this will create jobs and increase economic growth. However, the beneficiaries of these agreements are not in fact citizens, but big corporations:
Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS): Foreign investors (i.e. Canadian and US companies) receive the right to sue for damages if they believe that they have suffered losses because of laws or measures of the EU or of individual EU member states. This can also affect laws which were enacted in the interest of the common good, such as environmental and consumer protection.
Groups of companies are intended to be included even during the elaboration of new regulations and laws if their trade interests could be affected. The name for this is: “regulatory cooperation”. It means that representatives of big business are invited to participate in expert groups to influence new draft laws, even before these are discussed in the elected parliaments. This undermines democracy!
Big business had, and still has, excessive influence on the secret negotiations relating to CETA and TTIP. Alone in the preparatory phase for TTIP, 590 meetings took place between the EU Commission and lobby representatives, according to official statements. 92% of these meetings were with representatives of companies, while only in a few cases there were discussions with consumer and trade union representatives. And also during the negotiations, representatives of industry are exercising influence. Some formulations in draft texts which have filtered through to the public originate directly from the pens of company lobbyists.
The negotiations are conducted in secret. Even our public representatives know little if anything about their progress. They receive the results in the form of long agreements (the CETA agreement, for example, has about 1,500 pages) only after conclusion of the negotiations, and are therefore able only to either accept or reject the whole agreement without being able to ask for amendments.
Employee rights are coming under pressure, and jobs in numerous industries are endangered. In the USA, only a few basic rights for employees are recognised (only two out of the eight ILO core labour standards). In agriculture and in the electrical industry, massive job losses could occur because of the tougher competition from abroad.
Liberalisation and privatisation are intended to become one-way streets. The return of public utilities, hospitals, or waste collection to the public sector once they have been privatised would be made more difficult or even impossible through CETA and TTIP.
The EU and its member states are falling under pressure to allow risky technologies such as fracking or GM technology.
Foodstuff standards and consumer protection for cosmetics and medical products threaten to be set at the same levels as US standards. However, we need higher rather than lower standards of protection, whether they apply to the use of pesticides, factory farming, or clean sources of energy. Regulatory cooperation and ISDS would make this more difficult or impossible.
I have long had concern on this and have written to our MP and also to MEP's In the main the MEP's are against it, but our MP is happy about it. I hope this persuades readers to act by signing the petition on the aforementioned site.
See also http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2015/01/23/ttip-more-foreign-judges-criticising-our-laws/ and see this https://secure.avaaz.org/en/uruguay_vs_big_tobacco_loc_2/?bvuKbbb&v=56805 for an example of the sort of thing that the ISDS allows.