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If you’ve heard of it, you probably can’t remember its name, but the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – a proposed ‘free trade’ agreement that the US and EU are currently negotiating – is a more dramatic affair than its bland title suggests. In reality it amounts to a charter for extending corporate power at the public expense. The good news is that this Saturday 11 October will see a wave of coordinated activism across Europe – over 300 actions are set to take place, with over 20 in the UK, as part of a growing movement against TTIP. Here are some reasons to support the campaign:
1. TTIP is really, really bad news. The economic dislocation it will cause could lead to the loss of over one million jobs. The removal of ‘barriers to trade’ across the Atlantic threatens the driving down of regulatory standards. So Europeans could see the minimum wage under threat, their supermarkets filling up with hormone-pumped beef, a huge expansion of fracking, and much else besides. Privatisation of public services, such as the NHS and education, could be locked in and taken further. Perhaps more alarmingly, under TTIP corporations would be given the power to sue governments for passing laws that threaten their profits. The mechanism that would enable this has been used by Philip Morris to sue the Australian government for introducing plain packaging on cigarettes, and Dutch company Achmea to sue Slovakia for renationalising part of its health service – seemingly a deterrent to any future Labour government that might seek to renationalise parts of the NHS.
2. This is one we can win. TTIP is in many ways similar to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment – which also proposed regulatory harmonisation and the power for corporations to claim compensation from states for lost profits. The MAI, however, was defeated in 1998 after a wave of protest. Today, there is significant pressure already against TTIP – an EU-wide petition calling for TTIP to be scrapped was launched this Wednesday and already has over 300,000 signatures. Those driving TTIP seem anxious and are not getting things all their way; Barack Obama asked for fast-track negotiating authority for TTIP from Congress but was denied it. Negotiators have imposed a formidable veil of secrecy over the developing text but leaks have begun to reveal the reality of TTIP, exposing it to increasing scrutiny. Cracks in the edifice are appearing.
3. Stopping TTIP will strengthen resistance to the politics of austerity and neoliberalism. In the UK we’ve seen a wave of heavy defeats since austerity took root under the current government. Despite periods of determined campaigning and some notable victories, the prevailing mood on the left is downbeat and the neoliberal project marches on undaunted. A defeat of TTIP, however, would be a defeat of a major policy initiative of the transatlantic ruling class, and would be a much-needed boost to the left.
4. We need more internationalism. Despite fractures among elites, neoliberal and austerity reforms are being consistently applied through ‘internationalism from above’ – witness, for instance, the collaboration of the troika European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF to impose punitive monetary policy on Greece, Spain, Ireland and Italy. TTIP itself is a quintessentially internationalist project but, whereas austerity is largely being fought at a national level, the movement against TTIP is a promising example of ‘internationalism from below’. The networks being formed through the anti-TTIP movement could therefore serve as a basis for further international mobilisation, which is badly needed at present.
5. The campaign needs to grow and its social base needs to broaden. For all the strengths that the movement TTIP has, the expected participants on 11 October are likely to number in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands, or millions. There’s no equation that tells us how many people need to be mobilised to ensure success, but clearly our chances are best if we can increase the numbers. Likewise, the movement will be strongest if it can broaden out to wider layers of society, in particular those will be affected most by TTIP’s impacts – workers and people on low incomes.
This article was first published by New Left Project. Ed Lewis is an activist with World Development Movement and a co-editor of New Left Project.