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Just The TTIP?

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In Focus94 Raémann Trádáil of the Comhlámh Trade Justice Group took a look at the new trade agreement being negotiated between the US and EU.

What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster, IS IT A MONSTER? as The Automatic once sang. They might well have been talking about the new trade agreement being negotiated between the US and EU – “TTIP”, as it’s mostly known, or “TAFTA”, or “TPA” – the beast is a many-headed hydra.

What’s adding to the hysteria is the culture of secrecy around this monster’s negotiations, understandable if you consider the resistance to most major recent free trade deals. Or not, if you value democracy.

This secrecy marks a shift from the stakeholder-friendly style that had been in vogue since the early 2000s, but which had also seen successive free trade deals blocked – MAI, WTO, EPA, ACTA.

Yet the whole “if your name’s not Dave (or Dave PLC), you’re not coming in” line around TTIP isn’t going down well with a whole range of civil society groups who had become used to being consulted and informed.

These groups swelled the ranks of anti-TTIP protesters at the recent European Business Summit in Brussels, where water cannons were turned on the crowds and hundreds were arrested, including three Belgian MPs.

That’s one of the biggest problems about TTIP’s repressive turn – almost everyone finds themselves outside the gates, including elected representatives.

It seems the plan is to present TTIP as a fait accompli to the new European Parliament without allowing any of its members to have negotiated its contents. “Just sign here,” in other words.

Will it work? Well, there are great under-currents of pressure coming through from the business lobbies in both continents to do a deal. US Embassy pressure has also become more openly aggressive.

But TTIP’s hard-line negotiating style has a major PR problem, and that matters. A parallel Trans-Pacific Agreement (TPP) has caused protests across the region, from students in Auckland to farmers in Tokyo. And the rising criticism of TTIP has now spread from the business pages to the opinion columns of major newspapers, a nightmare scenario for TTIPsters.

None of this is really funny, of course, and the gory details of TTIP’s provisions are emerging. Worst of all is the Orwellian prospect of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), kangaroo courts for companies to sue governments who put laws in the way of free competition – trivial little laws like labour laws, anti-pollution laws, food safety laws.

Time to get campaigning? We would have thought so.

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