TTIP: What is it? Why does it matter? What can you do about it?
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a treaty currently being negotiated by the USA and the EU, largely in secret, which is why almost no one knows anything about it or fully understands it (and that includes most of our MPs and MEPs). As there are very few remaining tariff barriers between the EU and the US, the TTIP’s main aim seems to be to remove or “harmonise” standards and regulatory “barriers” that restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.
There have been few opportunities so far for democratic scrutiny or public comment, and TTIP has had little press coverage, though organisations such as the World Development Movement (WDM), War on Want, 38 Degrees, and Friends of the Earth are monitoring and campaigning on it.
WDM say: “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the most dangerous free trade deal in a decade, and threatens democracy, public services and the environment. Although its immediate impact will be in the EU and USA, it will set new rules which are intended to become the gold standard around the world…
Our analysis presented at the parliamentary inquiry, combined with your lobbying, has shifted the views of parliamentarians. They started the year convinced about the economic benefits of TTIP but many ended it doubting the claims. Next year  we can get TTIP dropped altogether.”
Why should humanists and H4BW bother about TTIP?
The secrecy with which negotiations are proceeding is alarming in itself and profoundly undemocratic, and the outcomes could be disastrous. The lack of transparency means that it’s hard to know exactly how threatening TTIP is or what exactly it threatens, though, by giving international corporations free rein to challenge local and national trade regulations and standards, it could affect many of the issues that humanists and some of the organisations we support care about. It could allow foreign corporations to override local laws and regulations, for example on food safety, protection of the environment, workers’ rights, procurement policies… and to sue states whose regulations stand in the way of absolutely free trade.
Learn more about TTIP
You don’t have to be an expert to raise this issue – very few people are. Trade deals are complicated and boring to most people, and this one is far from transparent. The problem is that a lot of damage could be done if we don’t pay it attention because we think we don’t know enough to challenge it – and that could be exactly what the supporters of TTIP want us to think.
– New Scientist of 1/11/14 published a useful summary if you can get hold of it
– The Independent (October 2014) published “What is TTIP? And six reasons why the answer should scare you” http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/what-is-ttip-and-six-reasons-why-the-answer-should-scare-you-9779688.html
– Friends of the Earth has produced a readable briefing on TTIP
– John Hilary of War on Want provides a much fuller account at http://waronwant.org/attachments/HILARY_LONDON_FINAL_WEB.pdf.
– Resources from http://www.nottip.org.uk/resources/
– Article in The Ecologist by Zac Goldsmith MP http://www.zacgoldsmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Ecologist1.pdf
To be fair, there are also some arguments in favour of TTIP to consider:
– A recent, fairly even-handed article from The Guardian:
– Pro-TIPP arguments from the UK Government, including Vince Cable’s Business department: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership-ttip
What can you do about TTIP?
– You can read up as much as you can and encourage others to do so. The more people know about TTIP the more likely they are to want to do something about it.
– You can talk or write to your MP and MEPs about TTIP. If you don’t feel confident about challenging TTIP, you can at least ask your MP questions about it, encouraging them to ask questions of the relevant ministers and to find out more (preferably going beyond the Government line on it – see above). Once informed, and once aware of public interest, MPs are likely to be concerned about TTIP’s undermining of UK laws and regulations and more likely to get together with other concerned MPs to do something about it.
– Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 202 at http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2014-15/202 if they haven’t already – over 60 MPs from all the major parties have already signed and this ought not to be a party-political issue.
– You could ask your MP and MEPs to turn up and vote when there are debates on TTIP in the Commons and the European parliament.
– You could sign the 38 Degrees petition at https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/pages/ttip_home and/or the WDM petition at http://action.wdm.org.uk/ea-campaign/action.retrievestaticpage.do?ea_static_page_id=3521 and/or the War on Want one at http://waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/action/18180-sign-up-to-say-no-to-ttip
– You could write to a newspaper, which helps to spread information and raise concerns.
 David Babbs of 38 Degrees: “… [The Parliamentary Business Select Committee] attacked 38 Degrees members for wanting to have a say. They kept arguing that 38 Degrees members didn’t know enough to have valid opinions about the deal…” See footnote 4 for more on this.
 Find your MP at http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
 The Parliamentary Business Select Committee do not seem very interested in listening to the arguments against TTIP. David Babbs of 38 Degrees describes his experience of being shouted at by a MPs (was yours one of them – if so maybe you could ask why they were so hostile?):
“I’d been asked to explain to the why 38 Degrees members are so worried about TTIP. But once I got there, they didn’t seem to want to hear why we’re against further privatisation of our NHS. Or why we want to stop American corporations having the power to sue our government in secret courts. Instead they attacked 38 Degrees members for wanting to have a say. They kept arguing that 38 Degrees members didn’t know enough to have valid opinions about the deal. And when I said we don’t trust politicians to deal with something as important as this behind closed doors, the chairman told me to shut up!
BBC radio put together a short report about what happened. It’s just three minutes long, and well worth a listen: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/ttip-committee“