European democracy “still not out of the woods” as campaigners welcome Ttip victory

Nathanael Williams

Social justice research group cautiously welcomes failure of TTIP negotiations but warns of other dangers

THE SOVERIGN democracies of the European Union are “not out of the woods yet”, anti-corporate influence campaigners have warned following the failure of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (Ttip) negotiations.

Global Justice Now, which has been at the forefront of efforts against the controversial trade deal, which would remove barriers to the privatisation of public services and give greater legal powers to private corporations, stated that other trade deals posed a danger in terms of democratic accountability and checks on corporate power such as the comprehensive economic and trade agreement (Ceta) between Canada and Europe.

The comments follow the announcement on Sunday from German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel that negotiations for Ttip had failed.

"So many of the controversial elements of Ttip would effectively come in through the back door with Ceta." Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith, a spokesperson for Global Justice Now, said: "The fact that Ttip has failed is testament to the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to protest against it, the three million people who signed a petition calling for it to be scrapped, and the huge coalition of civil society groups, trade unions and activists who came together to stop it. 

"Ttip would have resulted in a massive corporate power grab, and sovereign democracies across the EU would have been deeply compromised.

"We’re still not out of the woods in terms of dealing the EU’s legacy of toxic trade deals. Ceta, the free trade deal between Canada and the EU has already been agreed on, and if the European Parliament passes it, it will come into effect before the UK parliament has had any chance to vote on it. 

"So many of the controversial elements of Ttip would effectively come in through the back door with Ceta, and people across Europe are already mobilising in large numbers to stop this attempted corporate coup just like they have done with Ttip."

'Barcelona Declaration' of European cities demands suspension of TTIP talks


One of the most controversial elements of Ttip, the idea of so called investor state dispute settlement (ISDS), which critics say could allow multinational corporations to effectively sue governments for taking actions that might damage their businesses, are also part of Ceta.

Under these corporate courts, companies would be able to avoid having to meet various EU health, safety and environment regulations by challenging them in a quasi-court set up to settle legal disputes between investors and nations. 

Before the vote to leave the European Union (EU), the UK was seen as one of the strongest supporters of Ttip, but as a result of the Brexit vote one of the US's closest allies in the talks is now set to depart.

However, fears persist about the direction of UK trade deals, particularly given that Liam Fox, who is now the secretary for international trade and president of the board of trade, is an enthusiatic supporter of Ttip. 

"TTIP would have resulted in a massive corporate power grab, and sovereign democracies across the EU would have been deeply compromised." Kevin Smith

Since the Canadian government signed up to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the trade deal on which large sections of Ttip and Ceta are closely modelled, it has become the most sued country in the developed world, paying out more than $200m in compensation to US companies since 1994.

A Canadian company, Lone Pine, sued its own government for lost profits using a subsidiary company based in the US in response to the state of Quebec chosing to issue a moratorium on fracking.

Specific Scottish concerns surrounding the ISDS sections of Ceta include it’s capacity to lock in privatisation of public services like the railways and the post office, and the encouragement it may foster for greater private sector involvement in Scottish Water. There are also fears that the agreement will hamper the ability of the Scottish Government to choose whether or not to allow particular fossil fuel extraction activities such as fracking, based on the consideration of risks to human and environmental health.

Global Justice Now has underlined these concerns by pointing to what it said is evidence of Canadian mining companies lobbying EU negotiators during the Ceta negotiations this year which have weakened EU regulations on climate change.

Scottish anti Ttip campaigners have previously been involved in opposition to the trade deals including direct action and petitons to politicians of all parties.

Additional protests saw the group Women for Independence unveiled a banner in Westminster hall, where they claim they were accosted by armed police.

At last years SNP conference members introduced their own motion criticising Ttip “maximising access for corporate business interests” which was considerably more hostile than the party's earlier positions on the trade deal. 

Picture courtesy of Global Justice Now

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