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Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation

Edited by Satoko Kishimoto and Olivier Petitjean - Transnational Institute, June 2017

You would be forgiven, especially if you live in Europe, to think that public services are by nature expensive, inefficient, maybe even somewhat outdated, and that reforming them to adapt to new challenges is difficult. It would seem natural to assume – because this is what most politicians, media and so-called experts tell us continuously – that we, as citizens and users, should resign ourselves to paying ever higher tariffs for services of an ever lower standard, and that service workers have no choice but to accept ever more degraded conditions. It would seem that private companies will inevitably play an ever larger role in the provision of public services, because everything has a price, because politicians have lost sight of the common good and citizens are only interested in their own individual pursuits.

This book, however, tells a completely different story. Sometimes it may feel as though we are living in a time when profit and austerity are our only horizons. In reality, below the radar, thousands of politicians, public officials, workers and unions, and social movements are working to reclaim or create effective public services that address the basic needs of people and respond to our social, environmental and climate challenges. They do this most often at the local level. Our research shows there have been at least 835 examples of (re)municipalisation of public services worldwide in recent years, some of them involving several cities. In total there have been more than 1600 cities in 45 countries involved in (re)municipalisation. And these (re)municipalisations generally succeed-ed in bringing down costs and tariffs, improving conditions for workers and boosting service quality, while ensuring greater transparency and accountability.

Read the text (PDF).

Leaked treaty texts confirm it: TTIP is a trade deal that threatens democracy

By staff - International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF), May 11, 2016

The secret draft texts of the proposed US-EU 'free trade' agreement TTIP released by Greenpeace Netherlands on May 2 confirm what critics have maintained from the outset. TTIP is a trade deal that threatens democracy.

The treaty negotiations were never centered on reducing tariffs between the US and the European Union, which are at historic lows. Like the finalized but as yet unratified Trans-Pacific Partnership and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement CETA, TTIP's principal objective is to further expand the already considerable power of transnational corporations by restricting the regulatory power of governments and locking the system into place to prevent new regulatory initiatives.

The leaked chapters (13 out of a projected 24) show how TTIP would undermine the capacity of governments at every level to adopt and enforce laws and regulations to defend worker and consumer health and safety and the environment against corporate depredation.

The blunt instrument for lowering standards and ensuring they remain low is the chapter on regulatory harmonization (what the EU negotiators call 'Regulatory Cooperation' and the US 'Regulatory Coherence, Transparency, and Other Good Regulatory Practices'). Any and all regulatory proposals must be evaluated for their impact on trade and investment, must conform to a 'least burdensome' requirement (in which no regulation is the benchmark) and must be subject to a cost/benefit analysis. Governments are required to signal in advance any proposed regulations they intend to adopt and must guarantee interested 'natural and legal persons' (read: corporations) input into the drafting and review process. Corporations as legal persons on either side can 'petition' for the amendment or repeal of any regulation they find objectionable. The precautionary principle established in EU law is nowhere mentioned in the EU draft text, which proposes instead the 'mutual recognition of equivalence of regulatory acts" - a preemptive surrender of Europe's generally higher standards.

An institutional role for transnational corporations is developed further in the chapter on Technical Barriers to Trade, the WTO-based mechanism under which corporations have challenged regulations concerning, for example, plain-packaging requirements for tobacco products, country of origin labelling, chemical rinses on poultry meat and import restrictions on genetically modified crops. The US draft stipulates that "Each Party shall allow persons of the other Party to participate in the development of standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures" and that "Each Party shall permit persons of the other Party to participate in the development of these measures on terms no less favorable than those it accords to its own persons." Transnational corporate committees replace democratic process. The 'right to regulate' evoked in the EU draft investment chapter published last year is meaningless in the light of provisions which completely eviscerate democratic decision-making.

What else do the leaked texts tell us? The US is seeking to crack open the potential EU market for 'products of modern agricultural technology', i.e. genetically modified crops. The draft chapter on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures creates a web of 'science-based' requirements which would make it even more difficult for the EU to maintain its restrictions on GM imports and production. The EU would be required to enroll in the US-driven International Initiative on Low Level Presence, a program designed to eliminate restrictions on the import of non-GM foods containing the traces of GM contamination which have become ubiquitous with the expansion of GM agriculture. The 'international initiative' is GM colonization by stealth.

The struggle of dairy farmers gives us an opportunity to democratise our world's food system

By David Miller - Open Democracy, February 15, 2016

It is no secret that global trade is going through a major transformation. The EU-US TTIP agreement under consideration has been compared in scale by negotiators to the European internal market, while Hillary Clinton has called it an “economic NATO”. In addition, the recently-released TPP deal between a dozen Pacific nations, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, covers an area that generates 40% of the world’s GDP.

This crucial phase of the push to create a new global economic system through proposed free trade deals, on top of policy changes being carried out by existing institutions such as the European Union, will have many effects of a currently uncertain nature. One certainty, however, is that their impact on the global working class will be harsh, especially for workers in the global agriculture system. Recent struggles over dairy pricing demonstrate how some of the people who stand to lose the most from these deals have begun to fight back.

This past summer, Europe was rocked by a wave of dramatic cross-border protests, cows occupying store aisles and clashes between thousands of dairy farmers and Brussels riot police. The actions, led by the European Milk Board, the European Farmers’ Union (Copa), and the European Coordination Via Campesina, were a coordinated response to the European Commission’s elimination of milk supply quotas, in place since 1984. The full repeal at the start of April was followed by a 24% drop in prices over five months, leading much of the press to declare that milk was now “cheaper than water”.

Following two years of rapidly decreasing global demand for milk, and already increasing global supply, the quotas’ end placed major strain on dairy farmers that could yet do great damage to their ability to make a living in the industry. The EU, as the largest dairy-producing region in the world, maintained its commitment to trade liberalisation despite the uproar, and has already begun the process of replacing direct market interventions with US-style subsidies. Meanwhile, the reduction in the cost of milk products greatly benefits large food processing companies like Nestlé by improving their access to cheaper ingredients, at the expense of small producers.

As Europe continued reeling from the summer’s developments, a major point of contention in the TPP negotiations was Canada’s interventionist system of dairy ‘supply management’. Thanks to last-minute concessions, supply management appears to be safe for now, although the included import increases will still pose a hardship for small farmers and yet more will have to be spent on subsidies to counter its ill effects. The comparatively gentle terms of the dairy provisions in the final agreement, and the electoral collapse of the country’s social-democratic NDP opposition in October, mean the issue is likely settled for now, although organised opposition to TPP remains.

While North American dairy farmers may be pacified for the time being, the stakes will be just as high in the battle against TTIP. Dairy is one area of trade where tariffs remain relatively high, and US agribusiness is expected to target economic supports for “non-competitive” farmers in the TTIP – particularly the EU Single Farm Payment. The dairy industry, therefore, remains a major field in the global war on small farmers, agricultural and food production workers, and on the food rights of the world’s poor.

Trade Deals that Threaten Democracy

By staff - International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations, June 2014

At its 2002 World Congress, the IUF adopted a wide-ranging resolution on trade and investment committing our organization to vigorously oppose the expanded WTO “Doha Round” agenda and to combat the growing number of bilateral trade and investment agreements as instruments for entrenching and expanding corporate power at the expense of democratic rights and the rights of workers and their trade unions.

The resolution highlighted the function of the expanding web of regional and bilateral agreements in building on the WTO rules to construct, layer upon layer, “investment regimes which enforce the right of corporations to pursue maximum profit while removing and undermining restrictions which seek to regulate corporate activities in the interest of public health, worker and consumer health and safety, public services and the environment.”

The Resolution recalled the IUF’s historical and statutory commitment to promote and defend a broad spectrum of basic rights: the right to adequate, nutritious and safe food; the right to food security and food sovereignty; the right to a safe working and living environment; and the right to livelihood protection. Congress further called on the IUF and its affiliates to “actively support and campaign for governments at every level (local, national, regional) to review all existing trade and investment rules and treaties using these fundamental rights as a benchmark and to reject all trade and investment agreements which conflict with those rights.”

Organized opposition killed the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), an attempt to establish far- reaching powers for transnational investors only partially realized in the WTO’s TRIMS agreement. Popular resistance also halted the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, an attempt to extend the reach of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to all of Central and South America and the Caribbean. Since 2002, growing popular resistance has blocked the advance of the WTO Doha Round. This has arrested the insertion of more far-reaching investment rules into the WTO, but has also frozen into place a global food system whose destructive features were dramatically highlighted in the 2008 and subsequent food crises which are essentially permanent. And while attention has largely focused on these ambitious mega-treaties, an intricate web of bilateral and regional investment agreements, some of them deliberately and misleadingly packaged as free trade agreements, have conferred on transnational capital new powers to directly challenge the democratic right of governments to regulate and to legislate in the public interest.

The latest proposed treaty instruments to embody these investor ambitions are the EU-US trade deal now known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Both these treaties are being negotiated under conditions of the strictest secrecy. Corporations draft and share the negotiating texts, but citizens are denied access in the name of national security. On the basis of the leaked texts we know that they would build on existing trade and investment rules by incorporating the most toxic elements of the already-existing thousands of treaties and granting expanded powers to transnational capital to challenge public interest policies and practices, eliminating or putting at risk rights for which workers and unions have struggled over many decades.

This publication builds on the past work of the IUF and the efforts of many activists in explaining the nature of these threats and why the labour movement must commit to defeating these treaties as an urgent political priority. We would also hope to stimulate discussion on how we might move beyond these defensive struggles to begin putting in place a system of global rules to effectively enforce respect for human rights over the private claims of investors.

Read the report (PDF).

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