Quakers say ‘no’ to TTIP

By agency reporter
May 20, 2016

Five Quaker organisations from Europe and the United States have asked governments to say 'no' to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the controversial 'mega' trade deal being negotiated between the European Union and the United States.

It is the first time that Quaker organisations, working on both sides of the Atlantic, have spoken out together against such a trade treaty.

American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Quaker Council for European Affairs, Quaker United Nations Office and Quaker Peace & Social Witness, have sent a statement to Prime Minister David Cameron, government representatives and trade officials. They said that TTIP negotiations are prioritising the prospect of short-term economic gain over the longer-term factors necessary to human wellbeing and protection of the Earth.

The statement comes in the context of building opposition to TTIP, as controversial, confidential negotiation documents were leaked into the public domain and the French government has warned that it is considering blocking the deal.

TTIP is set to include a so-called Investor to State Dispute Settlement mechanism or Investment Court System, under which foreign companies could sue governments for introducing social, environmental, health or other legislation believed to threaten profitability. The Quakers assert that these mechanisms hand too much power to large companies, making them “fundamentally antidemocratic in nature and therefore unacceptable".

The British government is one of the keenest advocates of the proposed deal. However, the Quakers say that TTIP will almost certainly hamper international commitments to tackle climate change and global poverty, including the recently agreed Paris Agreement on Climate change and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Quakers are calling for a fundamental rethink of global trade rules and for future trade deals to be aligned with the demands of these commitments.

“The history of the European Union shows how trade can bring huge benefits," said Helen Drewery, General Secretary of Quaker Peace & Social Witness, a sector of Quakers in Britain. “However, the desire to increase trade must not be allowed to override other important social and environmental concerns. Our faith as Quakers impels us to seek economic relationships that reflect our fundamental human equality".

The Quaker statement also highlighted concerns about the lack of transparency around the deal, the negotiations for which remain largely secret. “It is impossible for civil society groups to get meaningful information about the negotiations" said Andrew Lane, Representative at the Quaker Council for European Affairs based in Brussels. “Even more disconcerting is the uncertainty about whether or not the national parliaments of EU countries will have adequate opportunity to scrutinise the deal. If TTIP negotiations continue it's vital that elected representatives have proper access to information and a genuine opportunity to reject the deal if they consider it to threaten the well-being of people, or the planet."

* Read the full statement, full briefing and action guide here

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

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