The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement (TTIP) is being negotiated behind closed doors at the EU, and on the surface it seems to be common sense: an agreement that allows standardisation of requirements between the EU and the USA, and which sets down some of the arrangements to do that. Under the surface, though, is a whole lot more stuff which could remove a large part of our government's ability to impose environmental, employment and safety laws in our own country and for our own people. And THAT's why we have to stop it becoming a reality.
It isn't that it might not have any advantages for the UK or EU as a trade agreement - but the potential cost in loss of our democratic right to control our laws and make legislation would be undermined fatally if it goes ahead.
The current government seem to believe that if they promise "more jobs" and "more money" and a "booming economy" we will be prepared to allow any sacrifice to our way of life, our welfare state and our local laws and safety regulations - but they're wrong about that as far as I am concerned, and I hope they're wrong about it for a lot of people. But we have to mobilise the people of this country who are worn down by the fact that they can't find anyone worth voting for, and have given up on expressing a preference - and make sure they get the facts and figures and make their voices heard before this agreement becomes a fact.
You can read George Monbiot's article for the Guardian about TTIP. As you will see, Ken Clarke has published a riposte to the article claiming that it's an overreaction. He actually says in the body of his article: "This is not about reducing safety levels. It is simply common sense.
Would any of us on holiday in the US decline to hire that all-American
SUV, or say no to that unfeasibly enormous vat of fizzy pop on the
grounds that the regulations "are not the same as the EU's"?" Well actually Ken... the fizzy pop in the USA contains a whole lot of high-fructose corn syrup, which has been associated with a lot of poor health in the US and is not allowed to be used in the EU - and that might change if this agreement goes ahead. And yes, I care about that, the possibility that foodstuffs will include unlabelled GM, and the fact that many things which are banned in the EU are allowed in the US, possibly because they are subject to the same sort of crazy agreements.
The damaging part of the trade agreement comes because our governments and the EU can be sued in secret offshore courts, and made to compensate companies for making them follow our laws on minimum wage or cleaning up the environment.
As George Monbiot says: "During its financial crisis, and in response to public anger over
rocketing charges, Argentina imposed a freeze on people's energy and
water bills (does this sound familiar?). It was sued by the
international utility companies whose vast bills had prompted the
government to act. For this and other such crimes, it has been forced to
pay out over a billion dollars in compensation." If we sign this agreement, we may be affected in the same way.
The trouble is, politicians think we're stupid. If they harp on about the positive aspects of the trade agreement, and wave money in front of our faces, we won't look behind the curtain and see the possible effects of the agreement in the future. Which might include the government being made to compensate the corporations if their companies are disadvantaged by an increase in minimum wage or a change to environmental safeguards. We already have dozens of rich American companies refusing to pay tax - now we'll have them demanding compensation on top.
As for the much wider concern that they might be able to prevent us from reversing the privatisation of the NHS... don't get me started. War on Want have published a comprehensive PDF about the possible outcomes from the TTIP.
There's a day of action tomorrow, as the supporters from 38 degrees will be leafletting and telling people about the possible consequences of the TTIP. You can find details here and sign up to help at your local protest or with posting leaflets through people's doors.
Sign the 38 degrees petition here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/vince-cable-fix-ttip#petition