International so-called “free” trade deals hand power to big business and restrict our elected governments’ ability to protect us and our environment. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, also called the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement, or TAFTA), the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and the Comprehensive Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada are good examples of the problem.
It is particularly worrying that TTIP, like the other trade agreements, is being negotiated largely in secret, so we won’t know what it says until it’s too late. It aims to “harmonise” EU and U.S. standards across a dizzying array of industries. It challenges laws that protect the environment, rein in corporate interests, protect food safety, promote renewable energy and curb risky practices like fracking. TTIP is a power grab of unprecedented scale by corporations and their financers on both sides of the Atlantic.
TTIP can limit the capacity of public authorities to decide on how to provide public services like water. What’s worse, TTIP will lock in changes by granting rights to companies that undermine local laws, and will force us to either spend precious public money fighting big business or change our laws to comply with its desires — maybe both. A special Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) panel will have the power to tell a country that a company’s profits trump public health or environmental protection.
It’s a race to the bottom that only the richest can survive.
What’s at stake
All kinds of sensible European food safety and quality laws could be eroded by TTIP, from restricting chlorine treatments in chicken, to hormone treatments in beef, to drug use on farms, to upholding the animal welfare and labelling rules we need and want.
Rural communities in the U.S. and Europe have already been devastated by so-called “free trade” agreements:
- In the past 10 years, the amount of food imported by the United States has doubled. As a result, the market is flooded and the price of crops is falling fast, so local farmers across the nation risk losing their land and livelihoods if they can’t keep up.
- In Europe, the rise of megafarms, and the addiction to the imported soya that fuels them, show that “free trade” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Meanwhile, large-scale producers gets billions in subsidies, which enables them to dump food on the market at prices that are significantly lower than the food cost to grow. This is how agribusiness’ unfair advantage has forced thousands of small-scale farms throughout the world into bankruptcy.
TTIP, CETA and TISA all pose major threats to many of the victories that civil society has achieved over the decades to make the human right to water a reality and to promote and recover public control over water management.
Trade agreements can limit the capacity of local, regional and national governments to decide how to deliver public services, such as water supply and sanitation. They can make privatisation processes iron-clad. Investment protection mechanisms would allow corporations to challenge processes of water remunicipalisation, the powerful wave of local governments taking back public control over water, like in Paris and Berlin.
Trade agreements are so broad and complex that it is difficult to block every possible impact on a public and democratic water management.
Similar problems arise in energy, public procurement, investment — just about any area you can think of. We have to stop new trade agreements from making the situation worse.
Food & Water Europe needs your help to fight TTIP. We’ve joined over 500 hundred organisations, unions and politicians exposing this bad deal, and it’s working:
- When the European Commission was forced to hold a public consultation on dangerous ISDS rights for big business, 97% of responses said, “No way!” The Commission is moving ahead with ISDS anyway.
- When the Commission tried to stop an official European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) challenging TTIP, an unofficial ECI smashed expectations and gathered 1.6 million objections in less than six months six. People power is now taking the Commission to the European Court of Justice to fight for our right to say no to TTIP.
- In one year the people’s ECI gathered more than 3 MILLION signatures – three times the number required for an official ECI. Even better, while an official ECI sets a quorum of signatures required from at least seven countries; the people’s ECI beat the quorum in 23 EU Member States.
The message is clear. We don’t want another bad trade deal. Now we have to make them listen.
No deal is better than a bad deal, and TTIP is as bad as it gets.