EU-US Trade deal: stop waving €545 at us and let unions into the discussion
Today EU Trade Ministers will meet in Luxembourg and are due to agree a mandate for the EU trade deal with the US – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This will fire the starting pistol on the creation of the largest free trade area in the world.
But ‘what will the TTIP change in my life?’ I hope I hear you ask.
According to the European Commission it’ll make you and your family of four almost exactly €545 richer. This is based on the somewhat dubious assumption that the extra €119 billion a year CEPR research suggest the deal will generate is shared equally amongst the families of the EU.
But what the Commission are careful not to mention is the impact the TTIP might have on society if protections are not put in place to safeguard public services and working rights. Without health care or a decent job €545 won’t get you very far.
The TTIP’s proclaimed goal is:
“getting rid of tariffs and useless red-tape [between the EU and USA] while keeping high standards in place”
The TUC has joined trade unions federations on both sides of the Atlantic – the ETUC and AFL-CIO – to express concern (echoed by a large number of civil society groups) that this sounds like a threat to public services.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady says:
“We are concerned the TTIP might restrict the freedom of future British governments to make arrangements governing private sector involvement in the National Health Service and other public services”
The TTIP may also allow private investors to control the state’s ability to legislate in the public interest if the trade deal includes what is called ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) provision.
ISDS allows investors to challenge state actions which they perceive as threatening to their investment. Where ISDS has been established before, the procedures have been secretive and states given no right of appeal. To quote my colleague Ben Moxham:
“Positive discrimination by the South African government to combat the legacy of Apartheid? Bolivia’s reclamation of its water supply to ensure the poorest can get access? Both actual disputes would have been ruled illegal by [ISDS] arbitration panels if global public pressure hadn’t forced the investors to back down.”
Unions across Europe and the US are calling together for the TTIP to enforce labour standards as set out in core ILO conventions and provide a voice for working people as provided for by European Works Councils.
None of these social protections will be possible unless the negotiations on the TTIP genuinely involve trade unions in the process. Sadly so far unions have been kept on the outside.
ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Ségol comments:
“We think there is a lack of democratic transparency in these negotiations…If the governments want to have the support of citizens and the public and from workers the negotiations have to be made public and we have to know what’s happening.”
Our message to the ministers in Luxembourg today is simple – we need a TTIP that gives society decent jobs, public service protection and involves trade unions, so put the €545 back in the ECB and open up the negotiating process.