Pressure on TTIP increases as over a million sign petition

By staff writers
December 16, 2014

Well over a million people throughout the European Union have signed a petition against the TTIP privatisation trade agreement with the USA.

The petition calls on the EU and its member states to block the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It says that key aspects of the treaty pose a threat to democracy and the rule of law.

The petition also calls on the European governments not to ratify a similar deal that has already been completed between the EU and Canada.

The idea of tribunals that foreign investors would be able to use to sue governments is one particularly controversial provision.

Current European standards in employment, social, environmental, privacy and consumer protection would a lll suffer if TTIP goes ahead in its current form, say campaigners.

In the UK, the possible implications of the private challenge provision for the National Health Service (NHS) are that the investor tribunals would make it harder to reverse any decisions to contract services out to international healthcare firms.

John Hilary of War on Want commented: "TTIP will make it impossible for any future government to repeal the Health and Social Care Act and bring the NHS back into public hands."

The petition has been organised as a European Citizens' Initiative, which can lead to a public hearing in the European Parliament and require the European Commission to give a formal response explaining why it is accepting or rejecting what the petitioners call for.

The European Commission says this petition does not qualify as such an Initiative. A legal challenge has already been launched against this 'inherently biased' EC decision.

"Some 340 cases are known to have gone to arbitration under existing trade and investment agreements with ISDS, a model in which decisions are made by arbitrators who are not accountable to anyone, under a process in which civil society has no right to know who has given evidence, what that evidence was, or what arguments were made, and has no right of appeal. Hence in a dispute between a company and a government, the decision may negate democratic government policy," says Jenny Parsons in a letter to the Guardian newspaper on 15 December 2014.

Former MEP Glyn Ford adds: "Europeans surely will want some say over the limits of US companies' tax avoidance manoeuvres in Europe. Equally, there will be a major stand-off between US and European-style regulation. They will need to be harmonised to bring the full benefits to both sides, but at the moment they are poles apart. Exactly where the compromise ends up matters.

"Globally TTIP is one leg of a triangle of deals. There are the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations between the US and 11 Asian Pacific countries, but dominated by Japan-US bilateral trade, and the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement now in the final phase of negotiations. But if we want to negotiate from a position of strength, we should seal the deal with Japan first, getting Tokyo on board with our high standards of consumer, environmental and safety regulations. The EU-Japan deal would be the world’s biggest trade agreement, with only the TTIP as a potentially bigger deal."

There have been demonstrations across the world about TTIP and its implications, including a large recent one in Brussels.

* War on Want briefing on TTIP: http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18078-what-...

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