The role of politicians is to represent the interests of society, not corporations.
The role of politicians is to represent the interests of society, not corporations
On Saturday a huge international day of action against the proposed EU-US trade deal TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) will be happening and I will be joining campaigners across Europe.
Over the last few months, I’ve been inundated with letters from constituents, expressing concern about the talks which began in July 2013, backed by EU governments, including our own.
Many might question why we need to be concerned, or how a trade deal might have repercussions for our everyday lives. The reason this deal demands concern is that it’s stated aim is to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ to trade.
Unlike other deals which aim to remove trade tariffs (taxes) on trade, the TTIP deal actually seeks to remove regulations – hard fought-for standards and protections that are currently enshrined in laws across the EU and US. Examples of these regulations include labour rights that protect us at work, environmental regulations that aim towards conserving our planet, and food safety laws that safeguard our health.
One of my key concerns is the threat TTIP poses to our food safety standards. The EU and US have different food standards, and some of the US’s food safety laws are much lower than those in the EU. For example, products such as bleached chicken and hormone-fed cattle products are sold on the US market, whereas we are protected from these products here in the EU.
However, the TTIP threatens to harmonise our laws with those of the US. When it comes to food standards and regulations, the TTIP could see previously banned products entering our markets.
Another deep concern is the threat the deal poses to our public services. This includes our treasured NHS. As if the British public and our dedicated health professionals hadn’t seen enough, we now face the potential reality that TTIP would open up the NHS for further privatisation. This is because the TTIP negotiators are keen to create new markets through the deal by opening up public services and government procurement contracts to competition.
From the outset, the deal has been created with corporations in mind. Even prior to the negotiations, corporations were being granted privileged access to the TTIP, with 93 per cent of ‘public talks’ being held with business representatives. John Hilary, executive director of War on Want has also explained how “international trade negotiations are deliberately complex, allowing officials to bamboozle the general public with impunity”, in a brilliant pamphlet he has produced.
Moreover, we need look no further than the ‘investor-state dispute settlement mechanism’ (ISDS) to see how corporations are driving this deal. This particular proposal within the negotiations has caused public uproar. It is not yet known whether such a proposal will be included, but if it’s allowed to go ahead, this mechanism would enable foreign investors to sue governments if regulations laid down by that government were seen to impede on their profits.
The scariest part is that if the investor state dispute mechanism is included we’d be a step closer to corporations writing laws instead of governments.
The timing of this couldn’t be worse. With many people across Europe unsure how they feel about the EU project as a whole and with UKIP winning the European Elections here in the UK, TTIP will do the opposite of restoring faith in a relationship that we should be fighting to sustain. Roger Helmer, UKIP MEP, showed where his party’s priorities really lie when he said “we have no alternative but to support the deal”.
The role of politicians is to represent the interests of society, not corporations. That’s why my Green colleagues and I will continue to fight this anti-democratic deal, and why we’ll continue to work for a trade system which serves people and planet, rather than big business.
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Keith Taylor is Green Party MEP for South East EnglandLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.