What is the problem?
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:
- The rule of law is undermined by the introduction of a parallel justice system. Canadian and US companies receive the right to sue for damages if they believe that they have suffered losses because of laws or measures of the EU or of individual EU member states. This can also affect laws which were enacted in the interest of the common good, such as environmental and consumer protection. Instead of public courts, private arbitration tribunals meeting in secret make the decision about compensation payments for damages. Payment is made from the public budget, i.e. using taxpayers’ money. By means of similar clauses in other agreements, companies have already fought a number of times for damages of millions, sometimes billions, of euro. [Thus, for example, the energy company Vattenfall sued the Federal Republic of Germany for damages of 3.7 billion euro because two sickly nuclear reactors were switched off as part of Germany’s withdrawal from nuclear power generation.] Such actions would multiply as a result of CETA and TTIP. Only foreign companies (“investors”) are intended to benefit from the special rights to sue. This legal instrument is not available to domestic companies. The arbitration boards decide definitively; an appeal is not possible – that too contradicts the principles of the rule of law.
- Groups of companies are intended to be included even during the elaboration of new regulations and laws, provided that their trade interests could be affected. The name for this is: “regulatory cooperation”. It means that representatives of big business are invited by governments to participate in expert groups to influence new draft laws, even before these are discussed in the elected parliaments. This undermines democracy. The political intent must originate from the people, not from representatives of big business!
- Big business had, and still has, excessive influence on the secret negotiations relating to CETA and TTIP. Alone in the preparatory phase for TTIP, 590 meetings took place between the EU Commission and lobby representatives, according to official statements. 92% of these meetings were with representatives of companies, while only in a few cases there were discussions with consumer and trade union representatives. And also during the negotiations, representatives of industry are exercising influence. Some formulations in draft texts which have filtered through to the public originate directly from the pens of company lobbyists.
- 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. The pressure to accept it is high. The EU Commission claims that rejection would be at the expense of economic growth and jobs, would make five years of negotiations irrelevant, and would annoy the trading partners. We want to prevent TTIP and CETA from simply being rubber-stamped by parliaments. For this, we must build up huge public pressure. We have to demonstrate how many people in the EU reject the agreements.
- Employee rights are coming under pressure, and jobs in numerous industries are endangered. In the USA, only a few basic rights for employees are recognised (only two out of the eight ILO core labour standards). Above all in agriculture and in the electrical industry, massive job losses are threatened because of the tougher competition from abroad.
- Liberalisation and privatisation are intended to become one-way streets. The return of public utilities, hospitals, or waste collection to the public sector once they have have been privatised would be made more difficult or even impossible through CETA and TTIP.
- The EU and its member states are falling under pressure to allow risky technologies such as fracking or GM technology. [Example – fracking: In this process, large amounts of a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals are pumped into shale. This creates fissures in the rock through which the natural gas can escape and be collected. This is highly questionable for the environment and climate! Because it has already carried out test drillings in Poland, the US company Chevron may already have created the basis for an “investment”. Currently, the Polish government is preparing a decree which defines specific environmental requirements for fracking. This would of course seriously affect the profit expectations of Chevron. No wonder then that Chevron has campaigned massively for the incorporation of Investor-State Disputes into TTIP. Alone the threat of an Investor-State Dispute could be an effective means of applying pressure on the Polish law makers, and could prevent the imposition of strict requirements. Other EU states too could be subject to legal action. In Germany there is a de facto moratorium on fracking at the moment. Because of such a moratorium, the Canadian province of Quebec was sued for 250 million US dollars compensation for damages in an investor action. (More on the subject of fracking & CETA: http://corporateeurope.org/climate-and-energy/2013/05/right-say-no-eu-canada-trade-agreement-threatens-fracking-bans)].
- Foodstuff standards and consumer protection for cosmetics and medical products threaten to be set at the same levels as US standards. However, we need higher rather than lower standards of protection, whether they apply to the use of pesticides, factory farming, or clean sources of energy. Regulatory cooperation would make this more difficult or impossible.
CETA and TTIP want to increase the power of multinationals at the expense of democracy and the general good. We must not allow this to happen! Please sign our European Citizens’ Initiative!
Together we can stop TTIP and CETA!