T-TIP of the Corporate Iceberg Ahead…

Dáil Parliamentary Questions – Trade Agreements

17. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the impact the recent US Chamber of Commerce complaint regarding Ireland’s public policy lodged with the European Commission will have on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the investor-State dispute settlement mechanism attached to the agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39081/14]

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a worrying development for the EU – Seán Crowe

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Diaspora, Seán Crowe TD, attended a special GUE/NGL conference in Brussels today, which focused on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The TTIP is a proposed deep and comprehensive free trade agreement between the US and EU, which is being negotiated at the moment, but there are serious concerns over the impact it will have on the environment, agriculture, workers’ rights and socio-economic development.

A key part of the conference was the launch and discussion of a study commissioned by GUE/NGL which found considerable downside risks associated with removing remaining trade tariffs and very few actual economic gains from TTIP in terms of GDP, jobs, and real wages.

Carthy calls for rejection of TTIP – Hits out at parties who gave up Veto

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy today spoke in the European Parliament debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade negotions between the EU commission and the US government. Mr. Carthy warned of negative consequences for agriculture and hit out at those that gave up the Irish veto which could have protected the interests of Family Farmers.

Big business cannot override democracy – Anderson

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said she will continue to oppose the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in the European Parliament.

Speaking as negotiations continue on the proposed agreement between the EU and the USA, Ms Anderson said;

“This proposed partnership has the potential to have a one of the biggest pieces of legislation ever to come before the European Parliament.
“TTIP could see major US companies and their subsidiaries sue European governments for legislating in a way that reduces their ability to make profits.

“That is totally unacceptable as it would allow business interests to override democratically elected institutions. “

Put people before profits of international companies – Anderson

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has called on the European Commission to listen to the views of the people on a controversial trade deal.

Speaking from Strasbourg, Ms Anderson said;

“The Canada-European Trade Agreement (CETA) includes a mechanism which would give privileges to international investors allowing them to sue governments in offshore tribunals.

“This would allow huge international companies to ride roughshod over democratically elected governments for introducing any regulations likely to upset their profits.

“The Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP), which Sinn Féin also opposes, contained a similar clause.

“Essentially this is an attempt to introduce TTIP by the back door.

“This is despite the fact that 150,000 citizens responded to the European Commission’s recent consultation on this mechanism in TTIP.

All 5 Sinn Féin MPs on board with People’s NHSni!

At a photo call at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey, handed the People’s NHSni a letter which had been sent to David Cameron from all 5 Sinn Féin MPs calling on him to use his veto in the ongoing TTIP negotiations.

TTRIP Trade Deal: Bad for Democracy – Barry Finnegan (Irish Left Review)

European and American civil society have deemed the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) an anti-democratic threat to the environment, food safety and workers’ rights.

Demanding the Future: The Right to Water and Another Ireland – Paul O’Connell (Critical Legal Thinking)

Rather than appealing to a specific legal provision, the Irish protesters, while using the language of the right to water, are making much more than a formal claim. In effect the assertion that water is a right – a public good that should be funded through general taxation, available to all on the basis of need, and protected from the vicissitudes and inequities of the market – is a rejection of the idea that there is no alternative to the commodification of essential services and resources. In a political context in which the drive towards commodification of essential services and the attendant transfer of wealth from working people to the obscenely rich (bolstered at the international level by agreements such as the TTIP currently being negotiated between the EU and US) is the common sense of political elites, the movement against water charges in Ireland is heretically proposing another vision.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) archive (Open Democracy)

TTIP is one of the most important and influential trade agreements of our lifetime. So why is nobody talking about it?

How the European Commission is trying to smother debate on TTIP
– MICHAEL EFLER (Open Democracy)

The debate on TTIP and CETA is getting tougher. The Commission is willing to do anything and everything to get these agreements passed. The last act was the ridiculous decision not to register the ECI.

The EU-US free trade agreement (TTIP): giving rights to firms, taking jobs from modest communities
– SASKIA SASSEN (Open Democracy)

If global corporations gain rights, do citizens also? We now know the answer: No.

Allowing corporations to sue governments for changing their laws may be common, but it’s not good
– THOMAS MC DONAGH (Open Democracy)

Around the world, countries are rejecting exactly the kinds of dispute mechanisms that the EU/US trade deal is trying to foist on us.

This treaty isn’t about ‘trade’ – it’s a fight for public services everywhere
– RUTH BERGAN (Open Democracy)

Defeated in Seattle and Doha, US and EU corporations are once more trying to stitch up the global economy in the name of ‘trade’ – with our public services the biggest prize.

A transatlantic corporate bill of rights: Investor privileges in EU-US trade deal threaten public interest and democracy
(Corporate Europe Observatory)

Leaked draft versions of the EU negotiating mandate for a far-reaching free trade agreement with the US – to be approved at next week’s trade minister meeting (14 June) – reveal the European Commission’s plans to enshrine more powers for corporations in the deal. The proposal follows a persistent campaign by industry lobby groups and law firms to empower large companies to challenge regulations both at home and abroad if they affect their profits. As a result, EU member states could soon find domestic laws to protect the public interest challenged in secretive, offshore tribunals where national laws have no weight and politicians no powers to intervene.

The Commission’s proposal for investor-state dispute settlement under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)1 would enable US companies investing in Europe to skirt European courts and directly challenge EU governments at international tribunals, whenever they find that laws in the area of public health, environmental or social protection interfere with their profits. EU companies investing abroad would have the same privilege in the US.
Across the world, big business has already used investor-state dispute settlement provisions in trade and investment agreements to claim dizzying sums in compensation against democratically-made laws to protect the public interest (see Box 1). Sometimes the mere threat of a claim or its submission have been enough for legislation to be abandoned or watered down. In other cases tribunals – ad hoc three-member panels hired from a small club of private lawyers riddled with conflicts of interest2 – have granted billions of Euros to companies, paid out of taxpayers’ pockets.

TTIP: Misguided proposals on finance
(Corporate Europe Observatory)
Open letter on TTIP and financial regulations to U.S. and EU negotiators from civil society organisations

We understand that a goal of the TTIP is to further liberalise the transatlantic financial services market. We further understand that liberalization would be done using rules that simultaneously constrain countries’ ability to maintain or create regulatory policies with respect to liberalized sectors.
We believe it is highly inappropriate to include terms implicating financial regulation in an industry-dominated, non-transparent “trade” negotiation. Financial regulations do not belong in a framework that targets regulations as potential “barriers to trade.” Such a framework could chill or roll back post-crisis efforts to re-regulate finance on both sides of the Atlantic whereas further regulation of the sector is much needed. Further, proposals to negotiate TTIP rules affecting regulation of the financial sector could turn financial regulations into bargaining chips that could be traded away for other concessions. We urge you to consider and respond to our specific concerns regarding specific TTIP proposals that would threaten financial stability measures and would limit States’ ability to restore the financial system’s role of serving the real economy.

Civil society groups sound alarm bells on EU plans for regulatory cooperation in EU-US trade talks
(Corporate Europe Observatory)
Dozens of civil society groups from all across Europe have released a joint statement denouncing EU plans for regulatory cooperation as well as the continued secrecy surrounding the talks.

EU negotiators have repeatedly claimed that protection levels are not under threat, and that standards will not be lowered as a result of the TTIP talks. However, these statements have been consistently disproved by documents leaked from the negotiations. In particular, the implications of the proposals for “regulatory cooperation” at the horizontal level or on specific sectors, such as the EU proposals on chemicals, and financial regulation, all suggest that current protection levels (and the possibility for legislators to improve these in the future) will be undermined through the TTIP.

TTIP: No to backroom deals that would imperil our health, environment and welfare
(Corporate Europe Observatory)
Statement by civil society organisations on regulatory cooperation in TTIP

– Business lobby groups have explicitly demanded to be able to “essentially co-write legislation”[iv]. Following the proposals of two powerful corporate lobby groups, the leaked EU document gives ample opportunities to lobby groups to exert undue influence on existing and future legislation.
– The suggested “dialogues” and early warning mechanisms give the other negotiating party a good chance to exert pressure and block new, sensible proposals if they are seen to be “obstacles to trade”. This is particularly acute in the EU as the Commission is the only body that can table legislative proposals. A sign of discontent from the US or from US companies – with or without threats to make use of dispute settlement mechanisms – can become decisive factors and lead to a ‘regulatory chill’.
– Also the suggested “dialogues” risk contradicting the work done by a number of multilateral and international institutions aimed at building consistent regulation, in particular in the field of financial services.
– The proposed institutional set-up could make the dialogues between the European Commission, US regulatory agencies and business lobby groups the main scene where regulation is planned, sidelining elected politicians and threatening the duty of policymakers to put the public interest first.

TTIP: covert attacks on democracy and regulation
(Corporate Europe Observatory)
The EU Commissions’ proposals on “regulatory cooperation” poses a threat to regulation that protect our healt, the environment and our welfare – and they are a threat to democracy. Read the beginners guide to regulatory cooperation from Corporate Europe Observatory, LobbyControl and Friends of the Earth Europe.

The Corporate Invasion: Government by Big Business Goes Supranational
– LORI WALLACH (Counterpunch)

Imagine what would happen if foreign companies could sue governments directly for cash compensation over earnings lost because of strict labour or environmental legislation. This may sound far-fetched, but it was a provision of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), a projected treaty negotiated in secret between 1995 and 1997 by the then 29 member states of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) (1). News about it got out just in time, causing an unprecedented wave of protests and derailing negotiations.

Now the agenda is back. Since July [2013] the European Union and the United States have been negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) or Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), a modified version of the MAI under which existing legislation on both sides of the Atlantic will have to conform to the free trade norms established by and for large US and EU corporations, with failure to do so punishable by trade sanctions or the payment of millions of dollars in compensation to corporations.

Laws Unto Themselves: A ‘Free Trade’ Offer They Can’t Refuse
– PETE DOLACK (Counterpunch)

frequent criticism of “free trade” agreements is that corporations are elevated to the level of a country. It might be more accurate to say that corporations are elevated above countries.

The muscle in trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement or the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership is the mandatory use of “investor-state dispute mechanisms.” That bland-sounding bureaucratic phrase is anything but bland in its application — these “mechanisms” are the tools used to turn corporate wish lists into undemocratic reality.

The concrete form of these “mechanisms” are corporate-dominated secret tribunals that hand down one-sided decisions with no oversight, no public notice and no appeals. This is so is because governments that sign trade agreements legally bind themselves to mandatory arbitration in these secret tribunals despite (or because of) their one-sided nature. It is a virtually certainty that, should be they passed into law, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will contain some of the most draconian language yet in this area.

The Strategy of Global Corporate Imperialism: Engineering Failed States
– GILBERT MERCIER (Counterpunch)

Corporate Imperialism’s Legal Framework

In the disastrous case that they would be ratified, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would provide the legal framework for the global corporate empire. When top elected officials travel abroad, they are supposed to represent and defend the national interests of their people; however, they function mostly as sale representatives of mega-corporations. For example, French President Francois Hollande travelled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Brazil to sell the fighter jets “Rafale.” One of the main goal of his recent trip to the US was to indicate to top technology executives from Google, Twitter and Facebook that, despite the misleading socialist label and such, France’s best friends are corporations, not people.

Opponents of the TPP have rightly called the agreement NAFTA on steroids, but they rarely talk of its Atlantic counterpart, the TTIP. If the agreements ever see the light of day, most people would end up working for slave wages. Like the wealth of ancient empires that was built on slavery, the fortunes of today’s masters of transnational corporations are being made principally by breaking the backs of people who work for slave wages. The princes of Qatar are building their world cup stadiums with slave labor from Nepal. Global corporate imperialism does not only aim to dismantle the few sovereign nations left, but also to cripple regions and towns. A microcosm of this is Detroit, Michigan. The Motor City is in ruins, a failed town, and a symbol of what corporatism can do. With the TPP and the TTIP in place, we will have hundreds of Detroits. Large sections of Detroit have become ghost towns…

How the Democrats Re-Branded Fast-Track: Trade Legerdemain on Both Sides of the Atlantic
– PETE DOLACK (Counterpunch)

Although it also says the agreement will include a “general exception clause” on the basis of articles XX and XXI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which purport to allow exceptions to trade agreements when necessary to safeguard human, animal or plant life or health, such clauses are meaningless. Other agreements have similar clauses, but are consistently superseded by rules such as Article 12.6 of the Trans-Pacific Partnership text that “Each Party shall accord to covered investments treatment in accordance with customary international law.”

‘Customary law’ is what a secret tribunal says it is

Precedents handed down in secret tribunals are what constitute “customary international law.” That the E.U. negotiators intend to “go beyond” the rules of the World Trade Organization should leave no doubt that “law” as desired by multi-national corporations is what is contemplated. Indeed, the leaked E.U. text states an intention to:

“Provide a level playing field for investors in the U.S. and in the EU. … The agreement should provide an effective mechanism for the settlement of disputes between investors and the state.”

A World Run by Shareholders: Billionaires, Wage Slaves and the TTIP
– SERGE HALIMI (Counterpunch)

The threat of the American free-trade eagle crossing the Atlantic to ravage Europe’s ill-protected lambs has taken over public debate after the EU election campaign. It’s arresting, but politically dangerous. It ignores the risk that local authorities in the US may soon face under new neoliberal regulations, which will prevent them protecting employment, the environment and health rights. But it also shifts attention away from European companies — such as Veolia in France or Germany’s Siemens — which are just as eager as US multinationals to take legal action against states that dare to threaten their profits (see The injustice industry, page 13). And it overlooks the role of European institutions and governments in the creation of a free trade zone on their own territory.

Opposition to TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) should not target an individual state, not even the US. What is at stake is wider and more ambitious: it concerns new privileges demanded by investors everywhere, perhaps as compensation for the economic crisis they caused. If conducted properly, a worldwide battle could consolidate the international forces of democratic solidarity, currently less well organised than those of capital.

The Rising Global Movement: Rise of #noTTIP
– ADAM PARSONS (Counterpunch)

TTIP is the latest bid to capture policymaking by the profit-making interests of the 1%, with dire implications for anyone who upholds a vision of a more equitable and sustainable economic order. But campaign groups and activists are working hard to expose this trade agreement for what it is, and to build an overarching global movement that can prevent this massive transfer of power to transnational corporations.

Making Corporate Fantasies Come True: The Trans-Atlantic Trade Talks
– DAVID CRONIN (Counterpunch)

A leaked document detailing what EU officials wish to achieve in the negotiations says that an eventual agreement should include “state-of-the-art” provisions on “dispute settlement”. This means that special tribunals would be set up to allow corporations sue governments over laws that hamper them from maximising their profits.

When clauses like those being envisaged have been inserted into previous investment treaties, corporations have invoked them in order to challenge health and environmental laws that were not to their liking. Australian rules that all cigarettes be sold in unattractive packaging and Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power are among the measures that corporations have tried to torpedo in the name of “investor protection”.

What will the masters of the global economy take on next: minimum wage levels; restrictions on hazardous chemicals; food quality standards? All of these advances are the results of struggle by workers and campaigners. All of them could be at risk if European and American negotiators go ahead with their plan to set up a special court system that corporations alone may use.

The British politician Peter Mandelson must shoulder some of the blame for the extremist agenda now being pursued. In his then role as the EU’s trade commissioner, Mandelson published an official blueprint called Global Europe in 2006. It committed the Brussels bureaucracy to work in tandem with corporations in order to remove any obstacles that they encountered throughout the world.

The blueprint incorporated many recommendations made by pressure groups such as the European Services Forum (ESF). Binding together Microsoft, BT, Veolia and – at the time – Goldman Sachs, the ESF has its origins in the “battle of Seattle”, that 1999 conference of the World Trade Organisation best remembered for the large-scale protests against it.

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