Greens/EFA

The US has historically been THE economy, considered by many as the leader in almost every possible dimension. Nowadays, when the spread of global economic power is changing, in order to stay in control against emerging powers like Russia, China and Brazil and maintain dominance on the global trade arena, the US has to reach towards new solutions. In recent years, three major geopolitical treaties, covering altogether 2/3 of the global GDP, have been introduced: The Transpacific Partnership (TTP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA). Those are so called three ‘big Ts’, agreements created under the guise of improving the world trade quality and aiming at strengthening the economic bonds between the Americas, the EU and South-East Asia.

However, stating ‘introduced’ may be a bit of exaggeration, since what makes the debate around them so fierce, is the fact that they have been (and still are) in a significant part discussed in secrecy. Not only are major parts of the agreement a secret for the public, but also for some of the countries’ governments. Until last week the access to the material was highly restricted even for the EU parliamentarians, who theoretically are in charge of debating it. The party, which position, influence and access to the material remains unclear, are international corporations. Some claims that those are the only parties able to apply for the unrestricted access to the content. Here a question emerges: why is the secrecy so important for just a trade agreement? And why the lobbyists of global giants would be treated on the privileged bases comparing to the representatives of the countries who the treaty concerns?

Even though the treaties are claimed not to touch any crucial issues besides the trade regulations, the secrecy about the content of the treaties and the presence of such a huge amount of corporative lobbyists[1] create a question mark. By now, WikiLeaks has exposed four chapters of TPP and a cortex of TISA. The only treaty , which in real terms still stays unrevealed, is TTIP. In attempts to convince the public about the transparency of the negotiations some of the documents were made public by now. However, the most important and potentially controversial parts, called ‘consolidated texts’, are still undisclosed.

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Photo Source: Mehr Demokratie

 

TTIP concerns ½ of the global GDP and will influence every European country. Officially it is claimed to be a trade agreement created to decrease regulation barriers for small and medium companies. The matter of debate are public spending, investments, services, textiles, energetic, natural resources, sanitary regulations and e-commerce. Danuta Hübner, a member of European Parliament, assured that the issues of GMO, protection of environment, health service and minimal wage are not a matter of discussion. Additionally, the US government promises huge economic benefits: increase in exports, decreased trade barriers, hundreds of thousands of jobs and harmonisation of regulations. On the other hand, despite the official statements, TTIP is expected to have influence on crucial parts of our life: education, privacy, water, railways, postal services and public health services. The activists scare us with an inevitable switch to the lower than European US standards and its possible outcomes: the chlorine-intoxicated chicken on the market, GMO food, irreversible privatisation of health services and corporations gaining increasing power over the countries.

What solidifies all the fears and constitutes the cherry on top of the TTIP cake is the Investors-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). The US heavily insists on including it in the TTIP. The ISDS is a mechanism, which serves corporations and it allows them to sue the governments for the arbitrage every time they introduce a regulation restricting firm’s income, even if those are favourable for the country’s inhabitants.

Photo Source: Teun Donders

Photo Source: Teun Donders

In his statement President Obama appeals to the public that ‘Trade is critical but it is not alone a sovereign bullet. It has to be a part of comprehensive strategy that we pursue at both sides of the Atlantic.’ He foresees as well that ‘There are going to be sensitivities on both sides. There are going to be politics on both sides. But if we can look beyond the narrow concerns to stay focused on the big picture, the economic and strategic importance of this partnership, I’m hopeful we can achieve the kind of high-standard, comprehensive agreement that the global trading system is looking to us to develop ’. Putting those two statements together with the fact of debate’s secrecy, the statements of the officials about the debate’s strict restriction to the trade can be doubted. The fact that what different parties are stating contradict each other is what makes reasonable to call TTIP a ‘Trojan treaty’, with ‘evil’ corporations and unknown to anybody regulations hidden inside.

Despite over three million Europeans signing petition to stop it, debate on TTIP is carried on. Even though we cannot influence it at the time being and due to the lack of clear and reliable information we cannot even clearly assess it, we should keep track of the events. As the two other ‘Ts’ cases and the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) situation have shown, a secret is never kept for too long and actions at the right moment can always make a change when needed.

 

[1] 92% of people involved in negotiations are corporate lobbyists, with only 8% of those for public interest groups.