Tuesday, 8 March 2016

TTIPping over the edge

It's the biggest set of trade negotiations you've never heard of - and it will cost us all dear

While our own UK politicians are getting their respective knickers in a twist over whether to stay in or get out of Europe, and claim and counter claim are flung about with gay abandon, there's something going on behind the scenes they really would rather prefer for us not to know all that much about.

It's the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. It's been the subject of intense negotiations between the EU and the US for over a year now. OK, so you're probably thinking 'So what? It's just another trade thingy' However, this trade thingy has been discussed rather secretively.

Incredibly secretively, in fact: The only information in  the public domain is that which has been uncovered through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. This is odd, as these negotiations will have a profound effect on everythhing you do, say, eat, drink and quite possibly think.

This article may make you think of voting to leave the EU, but I'll disabuse you of that notion later.

So, what will it mean? Here we go:

  • The NHS will be privatised. The TTIP guarantees that EU health 'markets' will be opened up to US Healthcare providers - and we've all seen how good they are. Don't be fooled by any promises from ministers about the NHS being ringfenced - TTIP has precedence over national laws and statutes.
  • On the same theme, water and education services across Europe will be open to American companies - companies like ETS, who really screwed up their provision of GCSEs about a decade ago, or Pearson, who happily admit that they fail students in order to get them to pay more for their resit exams.
  • Your food will be less safe - and your environment, too. Food standards in the EU are far more stringent than in the US. In the name of 'convergence', EU standards will be brought DOWN to those of our cross Atlantic chums - this means, for example, more genetically modified ingredients in our products, brought to you by companies like Monsanto. This same company, by the way, will also be able to break current EU limits on the use of certain pesticides, for example Neonicotinoids, which are strongly implicated in the deaths of millions of bees.
  • The Bankers will be back in charge of the money. Yes, that worked really well in 2008, didn't it? In fact, this is a bit of a reversal - EU banking laws are actually less stringent than in the US. Again, it seems that the TTIP actually prefers more lax regulations on everything.
  • They can spy on you, but you can't ask anything back. The controversial, scrapped ACTA bill of 2012 could be making a comeback. In essence, internet service providers would be required to keep a record of all your transactions, searches etc, while your right to ask what big companies are up to would be curtailed. Still, it's not like the NSA or GCHQ are bugging us all already, is it? Oh, wait....
  • You'll probably lose your job. The EU has already said that TTIP will almost certainly cause job losses as work migrates across the pond - and why? Because work legislation, workers' protection laws and wages are so much weaker there. When NAFTA came into being a few years back, it cost the US economy a million jobs.
  • You won't have a say, and if you do say something, a company will sue your butt into the ground. The biggest problem with TTIP, arguably, is that it erodes the very concept of democratic representation. If a company feels a governmental decision is not to their liking or even suspects that it, you know, might protect citizens from being expoited by said company, then they can sue, Basically, they can successfully prosecute if they feel there has been a loss of profits. Since the bankers will be back in charge and you won't be able to access their data, they'll win this one every time. That's tax payer's money being poured straight down a private company's wide open gullet.
Bearing all this in mind, it suddenly looks remarkably prescient of the current government to have created all these new academies, cut funding to FE and HE, allowed the surreptitious takeover of education by so-called 'supergroups' of education 'trusts' or by publishing companies muscling in (think Kaplan and Pearson), to have reduced funding to the NHS and to councils, to have shaken the public purse until it squealed for mercy.

It's almost as if they know something that we don't.

As for leaving the EU, forget it - if you think a pan-European TTIP is bad, wait to you get a load of bilateral trade agreements in place. 

I'll leave you with a little bit of history - did you know that England was one of the first European countries to create a bilateral trade agreement with the Ottoman Empire? That agreement was called a 'capitulation'. Eventually, the number of capitulations was so great that the empire fell apart under unsustainable debts.

The TTIP is capitulation on a grand scale - the capitulation of our rights and freedoms for the sake of a few more pounds. And, as the old Native American saying has it, 'you can't eat money'.

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