To some of its proponents the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will serve as a panacea for the economic difficulties of the West, one that will boost growth and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. It will not only facilitate the tariff-free flow of goods and services across the Atlantic, but will also do away with a lot of regulation and red tape currently strangling business, while protecting the rights of foreign investors when governments choose not to play fair.
But therein lies the problem. Some of the regulations are actually there to protect the consumer. Moreover the safeguards offered to foreign businesses under the treaty appear weighted against the ordinary citizen and their democratically elected governments by allowing corporations to approach tribunals over any measure that might damage future profits.
This could not only impede the imposition of regulations framed, for example, to promote healthy living by restricting cigarette advertising. It could also restrict the ability of governments to reverse privatisations that fail. This is particularly important in this country at a time when the Government is seeking to increase the involvement of the private sector in a host of public services. An exemption has been talked about for the NHS, but even if this is set in stone – and unions fear that it will not be – what of other vital services?
TTIP could in effect open these services up to a phalanx of American corporations and then protect their interests at the expense of those of the tax-paying citizen. It speaks volumes that US businesses have so far launched 127 appeals to tribunals set up under similar agreements over the past decade.
TTIP might provide an economic boost, but the democratic cost to Europe’s disenfranchised and restive citizenry in its current form is far, far too high.
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