The proposed TTIP was French newsweekly Marianne‘s cover story this week. Strange that it’s a big topic in France and less so here.
The TTIP entry on Wikipedia covers both sides of the treaty but paints a rosy picture overall. The French are concerned that it will wipe out farmers’ co-operatives and small agricultural ventures. They add that GMO crops and more relaxed pesticide use could also be on the agenda.
Free trade is a great thing, but Europe — Britain in particular — has reason to be proud of its farming regulations and animal welfare. Our livestock are largely hormone-free. It is also to our credit that GMO crops do not comprise part of our daily food intake. You never know what you’re getting in American snacks and cereals.
On the other hand, it would be a relief to see the end of customs duties between the two regions. Try sending gifts from the US to the UK; you need to be very careful about the value of the item(s) sent. A gift posted from the US can only be worth £30 or so before it incurs VAT. This limit was only £50 two years ago.
That said, Marianne‘s journalists and everyday Frenchmen are concerned that central EU and the federal US governments will combine forces with multinational corporations to create a type of 21st century mercantilism for the little guy which will be impossible for consumers and employees to surmount. We could find an even stronger state and more overbearing business world. The UN agencies would no doubt have their part to play, too, particularly where education is concerned.
Karel De Gucht, EU Trade Commissioner, said on April 10, 2014:
Where we have differences of opinion about the right level, we will agree to disagree and keep things as they are.
Where we can work together for our mutual benefit, we will do so.
Both the EU and the US hope to complete negotiations either this year or, at the latest, in 2015. Together, both world regions represent 60% of global GDP, 33% of global goods trade and 42% of trade in the world’s services. Brussels estimates TTIP could bring €119bn per annum to the EU as a whole.
Incidentally, this is not a matter for referendum. However, there is a question about how exactly such an agreement would be ratified:
The 28 governments will then have to approve the negotiated agreement in the EU Council of Ministers. At this point, the European Parliament will be asked for its decision. It is empowered to approve or reject it. A controversy has arisen on the issue of whether the national Parliaments should also ratify this agreement. In France, Article 53 of the Constitution states that trade treaties can only be ratified by a law. In the US, the Congress will have to ratify the text.
Politics.co.uk is one of the few sites to spell out what TTIP could mean in reality. At the end of February 2014, Ian Dunt wrote (emphases mine):
European leaders, at least, are starting to get jittery about the move.
During a trip to Washington this month, Socialist French president François Hollande encouraged negotiators to go fast. “Otherwise we know that there will be an accumulation of fear, of threats, of convulsions,” he warned. European leaders fear people realising what’s going on.
… something spooked the negotiators.
Hence De Gucht’s statement above. However, Dunt warns:
Don’t be optimistic. Officials from the World Development Movement who have been following negotiations are convinced the commission is intent on securing the settlement …
Once finalised, the deal would go next to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would cover the other side of the world with similar laws. This is a global attempt to fundamentally alter the relationship between corporations and nation states.
It’s not a new development. It is the coup-de-grace. This process has been happening for some time.
He goes on to say that over 1,400 bilateral treaties have been in place in the EU since the 1950s. These allow corporations to sue governments.
And it is not just citizens of EU countries and the US who have reason to be concerned. South American countries such as Ecuador and Argentina could also be at risk from judgments against them regarding oil, water and sanitation services. Dunt explains the major points (yes, he is left-of-centre but gives good examples of the perils of TTIP).
Marianne‘s articles say that the TTIP is an agreement both Conservatives and Socialists support.
Once again, the rest of us appear to be pawns in the big picture.