Free trade and investment treaties: No Thanks
The EU soon intends to sign two far-reaching trade agreements: one with Canada (CETA = Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and one with the USA (TTIP = Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). The official line is that this will create jobs and increase economic growth. However, the beneficiaries of these agreements are not in fact citizens, but big corporations (click here to find out more).
On Large Companies’ Side
There is the real risk that the treaty will be completely unbalanced in favor of (big) businesses, which would have the power to retaliate against governments if any regulations were to be put in place that could – in the company’s opinion – damage their investments. This is thanks to the so-called investor-state dispute settlement. Under this mechanism, foreign companies can use private tribunals to sue governments. And here is the bottom line: consider industries (through their lawyers) as entities able to impose fines on a public body which has the bad luck of making laws (e.g. protecting the environment and workers’ rights) which are seen as an obstacle to the number one priority: business.
The negotiations are conducted in secret. Even our public representatives know little if anything about their progress. They receive the results in the form of long agreements (the CETA agreement, for example, has about 1,500 pages) only after conclusion of the negotiations, and are therefore able only to either accept or reject the whole agreement without being able to ask for amendments.
What does the EU Commission Say?
With this agreement, the European Commission says it aims to help large and small businesses gain access to the American market, reduce bureaucracy tied to exportation, and establish new rules to simplify exporting, importing and foreign investments.
In order to calm public fears, becoming more and more visible as citizens say no to the TTIP, the European Commission this week published a brochure to dispel the myths of the treaty. One example used in the document to clarify the benefits refers to Spanish pepper producers, who must pay a tax of 15% in order to sell to the US market. Cancelling the tax through the TTIP would mean, according to a producer quoted in the Commission’s brochure, increasing the exportation of peppers and “giving new hope to rural communities” in Spain. Really? While there can be important economic gains from the exportation of goods like cars and technology, with food this theory simply does not stand. Longer and more distant supply chains with more middlemen means more distance between producers and consumers, less transparency, less good sense in the management of our limited environmental resources and fewer local economies.
More than two million of European citizens have signed a petition to stop the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the so-called TTIP.
A Global Day of Mobilization
On April 18 there was a Global Day of Action to Defeat Free Trade and Investment Treaties and in favor of an economy that serves the development of people and the planet. Citizens around the world were invited to participate in this day by organizing local events on all continents.
On the Global Day of Action to Defeat Free Trade and Investment Treaties we wanted to send out a loud and clear signal against trade and investment deals that threaten our democratic rights, food sovereignty, jobs and the environment. Thousands of such agreements already exist around the globe; others are currently being negotiated or ratified. TTIP, TPP, TiSA and CETA are some examples.
Richard McCarthy (Slow Food USA) on TTIP
Ursula Hudson (Slow Food Germany) on TTIP
Click here to sign the European Citizens’ Initiative.