TTIP: What it is and why people want to stop it


The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is not jargon by accident; it was designed that way. The majority of people are not supposed to understand it, that’s why all of the negotiations over TTIP between the EU and the US have taken place in secret.

CommonSpace will be helping to shine a light on TTIP. Here, we answer the key questions.

What is TTIP?

TTIP is a trade deal between the EU and the US. It is based on the principle of ‘trade liberalisation’, where resources and services are opened up as much as possible to market competition.

This means that all EU and US trading regulations – things like food safety, environmental protection, workplace health and safety, and so on – can be undermined by this deal.

So if the City of London doesn’t like US banking regulation, or US farmers don’t like EU food safety regulation, or if US health firms don’t like not being allowed to compete for NHS contracts – don’t worry, TTIP can sort all of that!

That’s why you often hear ‘TTIP’ and ‘NHS’ in the same sentence – campaigners are warning that the NHS could be opened up to the highest bidder by TTIP, which could be the beginning of the end for healthcare being free at the point of use.

What is ISDS?

The trade deal will set up The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which will mean that whenever a corporation isn’t happy about a government trade regulation or ruling, it will have the power to take the dispute to the ISDS international corporate court.

Now here’s the important bit: that court will meet in secret – yes, in secret – and make a legally binding decision on whether the TTIP agreement has been broken.

And if nation-states don’t like it? Tough. ISDS overrules national law and legislation, and there is no right to appeal.

Similar investor-state mechanisms have been used to undermine the democratic rights of nation-states elsewhere in the world. The corporate international courts they set-up are notorious for siding with profit-driven corporations over governments.

What does TTIP mean for workers’ rights?

While the details of TTIP are kept secret, we know that labour standards are going to be part of the deal. The International Labour Organisation has not been invited to participate, nor have any trade unions.

EU states generally have much better trade union rights and labour standards than in the US, and it’s likely that US corporations will be wanting to level down the playing field across the Atlantic.

What does TTIP mean for public ownership?

TTIP will not enforce privatisation on public services in which some form of privatisation does not already exist. But this leaves a lot of room for manoeuvre.

First of all, it effectively removes the right of privately-owned companies and resources to be taken into public hands. So for example, the SNP’s stated commitment to re-nationalise the Royal Mail in an independent Scotland would be a breach of the right of companies to make profit under TTIP.

Secondly, in many public services the involvement of private capital already exists to some extent. In the NHS in Scotland for example, while only a very small amount of services are run using private capital, private health firms could argue that the existence even of minimal private capital means that wider competition for NHS Scotland’s services should be opened up to private tender. The same argument could be used in education. Campaigners warn that public services are vulnerable to private hands because of TTIP.

Does TTIP create jobs?

The defence of TTIP is that it will boost trade, exports and, therefore, jobs. But the argument that more privatisation equals more jobs has little credibility.

Academics have warned that jobs in the EU are likely to go to the US, and efficiency drives by corporations could decrease jobs overall. Jobs that are created are likely to provide low-paid and insecure work.

A study at Tufts University in the US suggested that Europe will lose up to 600,000 jobs from TTIP, and will transfer seven per cent of GDP from labour to capital.

Can TTIP be defeated?

The negotiations over TTIP are not going well. While David Cameron has said he is going to put “rocket boosters” up the negotiations to get the deal done, the French and German governments appear to be going in the other direction, with one French minister saying no deal will be agreed “any time soon”.

Campaigners have begun to build momentum in the movement against TTIP, with over 800,000 across the EU signing a petition opposing the deal.

A widespread number of organisations in Scotland have expressed their opposition to TTIP. Alex Salmond stated shortly before stepping down as first minister in a letter to David Cameron that he was “extremely concerned” about aspects of the TTIP deal.

Who’s said what about TTIP?

War on Want: “Officials from both sides acknowledge that the main goal of TTIP is to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.”

George Monbiot: “Investor-state rules could be used to smash any attempt to save the NHS from corporate control, to re-regulate the banks, to curb the greed of the energy companies, to renationalise the railways, to leave fossil fuels in the ground. These rules shut down democratic alternatives. They outlaw leftwing politics.”

Alex Salmond: “I understand that the Slovakian government was sued when it brought the Slovak Health Insurance system back into public hands. Such action restricts the right of governments to regulate in the public interest and their ability to bring privatised services back into public hands.”

David Cameron: “The case for TTIP is the classic free trade argument for growth and jobs and investment…The arguments against it are pretty weak.”

Picture courtesy of Christian Mang/Campact