In Focus
What is the TTIP?
GUE/NGL's action

The word TTIP stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment.

The President of the the United States, Barack Obama, announced in February of 2013 that the negotiations were going to begin, in his State of the Union speech. A few weeks later, presidents of different European states seconded the agreement and were expressing their support, among them Rajoy and Hollande.

The negotiations were carried out in secret, and up to now we have only been able to know their final objectives: “opening of the markets” and the overcoming or disappearance of non-tariff barriers. Also they have pointed out, of course, that these measures will promote economic development and the creation of employment.

The importance and magnitude of the economic interests in play would be, it seems, the official reason that explains the secrecy of the negotiations in the belief that the publicity could harm the negotiators.

EHBildu's document presentation

In any case, important leaks have been produced in relation to the subjects of the negotiation, for which the European Commission and the United States have been forced to make declarations. Of course, in their interventions they have hardly offered any information, and apart from denying the risks announced by the leaks (the support for privatization processes, for example), they have limited themselves to pointing out the benefits that the agreement would suppose for the development of the economy and the creation of employment. The negotiations will continue through 2015 and both parts intend to sign and put the agreement in march in 2016.

It seems important to us to point out that, from the beginning, something accepted by all: the explicit objective of this agreement isn't comparable with any other commercial agreement. That is, what it seeks isn't to alleviate tariffs or the fiscal pressure for importation or exportation, which are in themselves are rather low, but to eliminate the different “situations” and “regulations” that can exist on both parts and in this way achieve “the unification of the markets”: in other words, take a great step forward and create large and unique market, in the context of the globalization of the economy.

Signatures and meeting in Brussels

What we have been able to find out up to now about this agreement is unacceptable for Europe, for the social Europe, for the Europe committed to well-being, cultural diversity, biodiversity and for its citizens. Being a general and ambitious objective, the TTIP isn't the only instrument in question. For example, this past October the EU and Canada signed the CETA, another agreement that responds to the same philosophy. On the other hand, in a complementary mode to the TTIP, the EU, the United States, and dozens of countries around the world are negotiating, also secretly, the TISA (Trade in Services Agreement), for the liberalization of the financial services market.

 

Historical, political and economic place
  • Currently the main economic paradigm is based on liberalism. In summary, the supporters of liberalism believe in the capacity of the market, and only in the market, to regulate the economy, and therefore, in their opinion, the State must interfere as little as possible in the economy.
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    In the 18th and 19th centuries, this paradigm was imposed totally in the economic sphere, and up to this day it has constituted the main ideological and practical foundation of capitalism: (in theory) the state generally doesn't intervene and the forces of the market take care by themselves of directing the economy.
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    The reference that came after the creation of the Soviet Union and the collapse of 1929 in the United States motivated the appearance and development of Keynesianism : basically it dealt with an economic policy that proposed more intervention by the state.

    Keynesianism brought with it the development of social democratic policies, that extended all over Europe giving way to the so-called welfare state.

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    But in 1989, with the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall, the so-called real socialism collapsed immediately, and liberalism, taking advantage of the disappearance of the reference mentioned, returned to demand their space, in this occasion rebaptizing it as neoliberalism.
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    Reagan and Thatcher, making a common front with neoliberalism promoted by the financial lobbies financed by the large multinationals, began a neoliberal offensive against the welfare state and the rights that the workers had gained after decades of struggle, burying the regulation processes of the economy and beginning processes of privatization and deregulation.
  • But that lack of regulation is costing is dearly, among other things has served to create financial and housing bubbles, showing us along the way their aggravation of the most savage capitalism and to give rise to the largest number of multi-millionaires that the world has ever known. In fact one has to say that neoliberalism is also guilty of current crisis, the longest and cruellest social and economic crisis of the past decades which came about after the breaking of the bubble of 2008.
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    The aforementioned lack of regulation and public control opened the way so that capitalism could perpetrate their final end, that is, to accumulate more capital at the cost of the workers and facilitate the business of speculation. However, the bursting of the bubble has brought to light the impotence and contradictions of the capitalist system.
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    On the contrary, it doesn't seem that those who accumulate the most economic power, who have the main communications media at their disposition and, in general, the political class that favours those oligarchic economic interests have any intention of changing the system. The policies applied up to now have brought us this situation of crisis and now they say that the same policies will bring us out of this black hole.
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    It's evident, however, that they have serious difficulties to give impulse to the economy and to recover the tendency to grow. In this sense we have to point out as well, clearly, that in their search for a recovery of the economy or an unlimited economic development they aren't considering the depletion of natural resources nor the ecological footprint that this model of development can originate and its future effects.
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    In any case, the fact that a rising tendency doesn't exist doesn't mean that it is the same for all of us. During the past years neoliberalism has struck the USA and Europe hard, and the processes of privatization, the labour reforms directed towards the deregulation of the labour market, the bailing out of the banks, the fiscal reforms favourable to the wealthiest, the bubble and the business of the public debt... all of these have been very present in the economic policy theoretical objective: freeing the way of the market and eliminating obstacles and barriers.
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    Therefore, neoliberalism and all the banks, multinational lobbies and the technocrats in charge of promoting it, control it and disseminate it, are the owners and lords of the political-economic scenario, and in practice this financial oligarchy has kidnapped the European Commission as well as the political economies of the states. In addition, almost all the European states acts as accomplices in this direction. The bank bailout is a good example to illustrate what we are saying, since for its fault the citizens must pay for years to the banks the aid they received, and the paying of this debt is in the origin of all the social cuts that we suffer.
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    But neoliberalism, not content with the fact that during the past years, they want to even farther: Creating an agreement for trade and investment between the USA and Europe. Why? Well, we can say that, fundamentally, for two reasons:
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    On the one hand, because neoliberalism has developed hand in hand with globalization, they are the two sides of the same coin.

    Globalization itself has served to create a large market, and for the formation of this large and unique market the main economic powers have put in march processes of annihilation of their main “obstacles and barriers”. In America, signing commercial agreements with Canada, the United States and Mexico (they also tried to do it with South America but the processes of liberation have impeded it), and in Europe, of course, promoting globalization through a single market.

    Having now emerged two great markets which in these two zones that include the West, some think that the moment has come to make the jump to a single market. Who? Those who with the amplification of the market get their business to grow and, above all, the large multinationals.

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    On the other hand there exists another reason. Precisely, the force that the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are acquiring from the geopolitical point of view and their influence in numerous “western multinationals”. Therefore, the objective consists, among other things, in forming a large and single market that serves to increase a predatory economic dynamic that doesn't seek anything less than make a pure business of the world.
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    This agreement about trade and investment eliminates “the legitimate defences” from the space of Europe, such as ecological and social regulations: those relative to labour rights, social protection and public services, and the regulations in matters of the environment, food supply and health.
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    This agreement promotes human and environmental dumping, according to the terminology used up till now. Commercializing some fundamental areas such as Education and Health, our rights will be transformed into mere products.
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    On the base of this point of view is found the questioning of our social model, putting into question the European model committed to well-being. A new attack on the Europe of the people and its citizens. They want to present austerity and liberalization of the market as valid recipes to get out of the crisis, in spite of that reality has shown us exactly the opposite, that is, that it has only served to worsen the crisis and increase poverty and inequality. Austerity and liberalization of the market only serve to favour the large corporations and to promote a speculative economy, raising unemployment and labour instability and going deeper in poverty and social marginalization.
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    Therefore, we must understand the agreement in question as a new initiative in favour of neoliberalism. More specifically, it tries to develop it and give continuity to integrating, privatizing and deregulating processes that have taken place in the USA and Europe in these past two decades. With their ultimate objective being the economic benefits of the few, it can have serious consequences for the citizens in general, as well as for the peoples who want to build a new political and socio-economic model that confronts neoliberalism.
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In what areas are they working?

In the first place it must be pointed out, just as we have previously, that the negotiations are being carried out in a confidential manner. These means that it is becoming complicated to obtain information. In any case, knowing what the objectives are of the agreement, and that, as a consequence of the leaks and opinions of specialists and civil servants, and considering what has already been approved by both administrations, it is well known that it can have consequences in the following subjects:

  • Taxation
  • Food deregulation
  • Deregulation of environmental matters
  • Health
  • Labour Relations
  • Financial system
  • Disputes between states and multinationals
To tell the truth, on the contrary to what happens in other commercial agreements, no one hopes that their fundamental objective is the reduction of taxes or the disappearance of tariffs. At this moment, the taxes in the United States and the European Union are very low, and although in this terrain they also try to go beyond that, the quid of the question isn't this, but the invalidation of other norms that influence commerce or the elimination of different instruments of political control.

In agriculture and in livestock, as in general in foodstuffs, the norms that rule in the USA and Europe are very different. For example, in Europe in the past years they have banned a multitude of hormones, pesticides and genetically modified products, in the belief that they can cause cancer. In this terrain, in Europe as it acts under the principle of “prudence”, it is possible to regulate different products until it is proved that they aren't harmful.

In change, in the United States, everyone who wants to regulate something must demonstrate before that it is harmful. Therefore, one of the main objectives of the agreement is to eliminate the current regulation in Europe and also open the European market to the large industry of agriculture. As of today, and to put an example, as a consequence of the free trade agreement, most of the corn consumed in Mexico is genetically modified corn imported from the United States, in spite of that in Mexico, for centuries, corn has been the fundamental base of their agriculture and culture.

In the terrain of the environment it has to be pointed out that the European Commission has already approved that the development of the agreement can become harmful to the environment. On the other hand, because the development of commerce in the long run increases pollution and, therefore, on the other, because they are fully aware that the current environmental regulation in Europe will be damaged. If they eliminate the principle of prudence that we have previously mentioned, the environment can become tremendously damaged. Even today, while the European chemical industries have to confront different obstacles and prohibitions for the use of thousands of products, the environmental regulation in the USA is much more limited, and certainly the effects of the agreement will bring with it deregulation, given that the main European multinationals have for some time been denouncing the “disadvantages” that they have with China in this sense, demanding the “necessity of putting an end to the regulation”.

And if that wasn't enough, the use of fracking is also at play, very developed in the USA and that is gaining force in Europe. In difference to Europe, in the United States they open more than 110,000 wells a year, and evidently, the large companies of this sector, after investing millions of dollars for years in this system, are looking now towards Europe, seeing in their regulation the main obstacle or barrier for their expansion.

Therefore, there is no doubt that the TTIP can have very serious consequences for the environment.

It is expected that the agreement also has different effects in the area of health. To the food deregulation pointed out previously, the deregulation of chemical products related to health must be added. Between the “principle of prudence” mentioned earlier and the “principle of risk” applied in the United States, there exists a wide margin of regulations and deregulations of thousands and thousands of products. A simple example will help us to understand what we are talking about:

For example, in Europe more than 12,000 products for the making of cosmetics are banned, because they can cause cancer or other serious illnesses. In the United States the list is reduced to 12 products.

It also must be pointed out that in this agreement other interests come into play of the pharmaceutical industries. Apart from the deregulation of chemical products mentioned previously, they also want to modify the years relating to the rights of the patents, the later procedure destined to put an end to exclusivity of the patents, etc. All of that can influence in a great way on medication denominated as generic, and, of course, in benefit of the pharmaceutical industries.

Finally it must be pointed out that in the USA, where there doesn't exist a public health system, the private health system is very developed. In change, the private health enterprises of the USA will have a hard time trying to present themselves in the privatization processes that are currently being carried out in Europe. But in the future, if what they seek is to eliminate the “obstacles and barriers” existent in a single market, it won't be surprising to see a privatized service here in the hands of the USA. Whether they are businesses of the USA or the EU, it is well known that the privatization processes that guarantee social rights can originate in serious consequences for the sustainability of life, damaging above all, the collectives who are in need of care (children, senior citizens, the handicapped...), since it directly or indirectly affects all of society. So, in the measure in which TTIP is deepened and the more we look at the system in the USA, the risk of that those privatization processes that are now moving at an accelerated pace may become irreversible will increase notably.

With this being the last example in the area of healthcare, we must point out however that the large companies of the USA could at the same time intervene in the contracting for the privatization of other public services. Of course we must take into account that those international corporations can have a great capacity for influencing so that these services that today are offered directly to the citizens can be privatized.

As we all know the regulation of labour relations is more demanding in Europe than in the USA, in spite of that during the past few years the calls for labour reforms have been meant a clear reduction in workers' rights. The multinationals who wish to compete at a global level have been denouncing that the rights of the workers in Europe provoke great costs and enormous barriers for competition. From all of that it is easy to deduce that, as one more step in the continuous process that they are carrying forward to liquidate collective bargaining, they will also assert that in this agreement between the United States and Europe that we are analysing here to attack the rights of the workers, and to give a new impulse to the incessant process of deregulation of labour relations.

In this sense a clear difference can be appreciated with respect to the rest: In the USA the banks and the financial systems in general are currently subject to regulations stricter than in Europe, and therefore, we'll have to see on what side existing difference falls between both financial systems.

In any case, we all know that there in the measure that there doesn't exist a true will to confront financial paradises, the opportunities to truly regulate the financial systems will be really scarce, because the opportunities for control that the banks possess are very great and, at the same time, the possibilities for fraud are unending.

Certainly this deals with the most important subject, in spite of that we have left it for the end. In the context of the agreement that they are elaborating, the possibility seems to exist to introduce the ISDS, for the clearing up of the disputes and denouncements that rise from the multinationals or international corporations and the states.

That will produce the following effect: if an agreement adopted democratically by a state presumably damages the economy of an international corporation (for example, banning an economic activity), the multinational could directly appeal to the international courts of arbitration, leaving in their hands the resolution of the dispute and going above the justice administration of the country in question. In that way the company and the state will be equal, and as we have said, it doesn't matter with what political and democratic legitimacy the aforementioned state has adopted the agreement, they will only consider the possible consequences that it can originate.

That is, sovereign power of the states disappear, leaving in the hands of three international judges the foreseeable costs motivated by the adopted agreement and the fine or compensation that must be paid by them.

If the sovereignty of the consolidates states remains this way, it doesn't have to be mentioned how the situation will be of the peoples who don't dispose of full economic and political sovereignty facing such multinational corporations.

General consequences

The promoters and defenders of the agreement have announced two positive objectives: on the one hand that an agreement of these characteristics would suppose an important impulse for the development of the economy.

Interview to Tom Kucharz in Info7 (es)

On the other, thanks to the aforementioned development, they will create employment. In any case it must be pointed out that the experts have calculated and made public the effects pointed out, concluding that, in general, the agreement won't have a large influence on the global economy.

In the area of employment, just as the European Commission has recognized, workers who can lose their jobs as a consequence of the agreement, can have difficulty finding new employment, because in many cases not only will their workplace disappear but also their activity itself. To promote the agreement between Mexico and the USA they used similar arguments, and the results are well known: in general it doesn't provoke a rise in the economy nor the creation of new jobs, and on the contrary, their only effects are the concentration of goods, the multiplication of great wealth and the growth of oligarchic power.

Josu Juaristi (EH Bildu) - Laura Gonzalez de Txabarri (ELA) - Xavier Caño (Attac) (es)

Therefore, the positive effects announced by its promoters are barely visible and, on the contrary, apart from making the concentration of economic power possible, we could be facing a huge process of deregulation which would affect food supply, healthcare, the environment, labour relations the application of the law.

Also, the process in question that is going forward without any transparency and in total secrecy and in an antidemocratic manner. The negotiations are secret and, the participating delegates in the process have received different advice and demands on the part of the multinationals from both continents. No one has elected them, but they are negotiating things that can notably influence our future lives, as always in benefit of the few. And of course the authorities have already announced that they aren't disposed to consulting the people about this agreement. To avoid the appearance of contrary postures such as those that occurred with Maastricht or the European Constitution, they proceed in secret so that the contents don't reach the ears of the citizens.

Full speech by Paul Emile Dupret and Josu Juaristi on TTIP (es)

We find ourselves before a new and very important step forward for neoliberalism. What is in play is the elimination of numerous rights and regulations achieved over the years thanks to the struggle of the citizens and the workers, and their substitution by a hegemonic capitalist and neoliberal dynamic which only seeks benefits passing over the environment, healthcare or the rights of the workers.

And if that wasn't enough, the consequences can even be more serious for the peoples who don't dispose of their own instruments of a state and for the workers, and in general for the citizens who live in them.

What can we do?

In the first place we have to say no to the TTIP, a categorical no with good arguments and reasoning. For that, EH Bildu has put in march a permanent line for denouncing this agreement, communication of the serious consequences that an agreement of these characteristics can originate and the raising of awareness and activation of Basque society.

In the second place, we must join forces and seek an alliance with the working class and the popular sectors, so that with the help of all of these people, our demands will have a bigger echo, and if possible, apart from a line for denouncing, to go little by little activating a line directed towards mobilization.

The Basque Country must say no to the TTIP, because the Basque Country is advancing towards a sovereign state in all senses, and also in the economic. The Basque Country won't be free if, as a people, we don't confront neoliberal oppression and we don't struggle to open our own path, this path that will overcome the capitalist system.

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