Pro’s and con’s of the Trans-Atlantic free trade agreement

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The pact, which would be the world’s largest, would cover 800 million people and almost one-third of global trade. US President Barack Obama has spoken of the creation “hundreds of thousands of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.” The European Commission has calculated it would spur the EU economy by €120 billion ($162.5 billion).

 

Berlin, Germany, February 11th, 2014.- Opposition to the planned Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) is growing. Criticism has focused on the fact that the deal seems directed exclusively at economic interests. Now fears are growing that corporations will be given too much power.

 

The pact is to go far beyond merely eliminating tariffs. In addition, standards are to be aligned and technical regulations, norms and approval procedures are to be harmonized in order to ensure that both goods and services can be transported across the Atlantic as free from bureaucracy and barriers as possible.

“The planned deal will transfer power from elected governments and civil society to private corporations (…) The aim of this deal is to secure and expand the privileges of companies and investors” – Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

Even the most ardent supporters of the agreement have serious doubts about one important point in the trade deal: its provisions for Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). The provisions would create a kind of special parallel legal system for corporations, essentially giving them carte blanche that would fall outside of national laws.

 

EU-USA trade via Der Spiegel

EU-USA trade via Der Spiegel

 

If investment protection become part of TTIP, huge law firms in the US could begin examining each new policy change in EU member states to look for possible effects on the bottom lines of companies back home — and then sue (billions of dollars) for damages .

The manner in which TTIP is being negotiated is also not exactly increasing faith in the process. Everything related to the talks is being kept highly classified. Even though the deal will affect the futures and interests of 500 million EU citizens, member states agreed to keep them in the dark about TTIP negotiations. All papers, documents, emails and negotiating minutes have been marked secret.

Only the senior-most party members in the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee are allowed to see documentation relating to the negotiations and they are forbidden from discussing what they see. Not even the negotiating mandate, upon which the talks are based, has been made public.

 

Benefits of the FTA EU-USA, via Der Spiegel

Benefits of the FTA EU-USA, via Der Spiegel

It has been promised that the free trade pact would bring every family in the EU an additional €545 per year. But even if the benefits of the deal were to be felt beyond companies’ bottom lines, it will be difficult to explain to European voters why it is worth giving up control over economic policy.

In sum, the critics of the TTIP argue the treaty will make it easier for corporations to turn profits at the public’s expense in areas like water supply, health or education. It would also clear the path for controversial technologies like fracking or for undesired food products like growth hormone-treated meat to make their way to Europe. Broadly worded copyrights would also restrict access to culture, education and science. They also believe it could open the door to comprehensive surveillance.

 

Mexican Business Web via Der Spiegel

 

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