Monday, 21 July 2014

TTIP - What it means to you and I ...

You may have heard briefly on the news, at work or within your union about TTIP.  It all seems to be global, between countries,  a bit lofty and academic for the likes of us ordinary people to get to grips with. Many people say it means nothing to them or is something the governments discuss between themselves and has no bearing on our lives. That's what the Tories want you to think. Believe me TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) will have more impact on ordinary working class people than you could ever imagine.

While we were passively voting or not voting in the recent European elections, big corporations across the globe were holding negotiation meetings  under the disguise of "free trade agreements" to give corporations new powers to challenge governments to "regulate, legislate and take back privatisations into public ownership" (Unite Briefing). Basically it is a free trade agreement between the USA and Europe. This treaty is about "harmonising standards" but  the corporations will determine what these standards actually are!  The negotiations took place furtively behind closed doors that ordinary people knew nothing about. The secrecy was because  the free trade agreement is about removing barriers to trade across the US to Europe. These "barriers for trade" just happen to include trade unionism, labour rights, food standards, climate and environmental factors, things that make the big corporations answerable and accountable. Yes you read it correctly! They want these removed!  TTIP would give these corporations the right to sue governments, councils etc who breached the free trade agreement by not implementing or refusing to implement directives.

TTIP is about increasing power to multi national investors, while reducing regulation on them. The USA wants to use TTIP to prise open the markets of Europe for the benefit of US capital. But how does this effect us?

Let's start with our NHS. Cameron is keen on TTIP because under it he could contract out and privatise the entire NHS. A future Labour government would then not be able to challenge the privatised contracts and get the NHS back in the public domain as the contracts would be unchangeable over 10 or 15 years for example. We all know of the "welfare or ghetto" hospitals in the USA. Well they would be here in no time under TTIP with our NHS being sold off to US investors and our service, already creaking under the ConDems would turn into the same system as in America. Turn up at a hospital with your cheque book. Unable to pay? Tough! Attend the "welfare" hospital if you can find one in your area! If we get a Labour government their hands would be tied and they would have to put up with a privatised NHS, sold to the highest bidder who puts profits before people. Andy Burnham told a recent meeting he would not sign any deal that did not exempt the NHS from TTIP. Good, but not good enough. We don't want the Labour Party Party signing ANY TTIP deal.

Already under the NHS Act 2012 all NHS hospitals will be Foundation Trusts this year. This allows them to take 49% of their income by treating paying patients. Poor patients will now miss out on treatment as rich people jump the queue. Andy Burnham will repeal this act on
Day 1 of a Labour government. But if TTIP goes ahead he will be unable to do anything!  This trade agreement will be binding on all governments, taking away our elected right to transfer the NHS back into public ownership.

The USA has always been traditionally hostile to trade unions. This would not change under TTIP. The US has ratified only 14 of 190 Labour Organisation Conventions and only 2 out of 8 core conventions dealing with child labour, forced labour freedom of association and discrimination. With Cameron already promising a huge Trade Union crackdown should he be elected in 2015, do we really need a US backed trade agreement that would be enforceable.

Around 70% of all processed food sold in American supermarkets contains GM (genetically modified) ingredients. Not so in the UK and Europe. The USA want to use TTIP to launch an assault on EU regulations - an EU that David Cameron wants to withdraw from and he is getting louder on the subject with a real zest to withdraw the UK from the Human Rights Act for starters. No one knows the long term effects of GM foods yet under TTIP we could be forced to eat GM food, like it or not!

In the USA upwards of $400m of taxpayers money has been spent in courts  and paid in compensation to corporations when they took authorities to court over banned and toxic substances and water and forest protection.

Over 90% of US beef is produced with the use of bovine growth hormones. The EU including the UK have had restrictions on the import of this beef since 1988. Again using TTIP, the USA want to
remove this under the freedom to trade clause.

If TTIP comes into being it will place the rights of investors above the rights of people's protection of  social and workplace rights, health, food and environment protection. It is a huge issue that is being talked about behind our backs, but under our noses. Be aware, tell your friends, neighbours and colleagues and most of all campaign to stop it in your communities. If it gets passed in late 2014 it will not only change our country, it will change our world for the worse.

Thanks to Joy Johnson for the TTIP Literature briefing from Unite, contained in the above.