ENGAGING with TTIP (pronounced “Tea-tip”) might not be everybody’s cup of tea, and the acronym might not be on the tip of every reader’s tongue, but in Europe and the United States it has brought many thousands to the streets in protest (News, 6 February). It has elicited a record number of responses from across the EU to a European Commission consultation, and opposition has generated more than 2.8 million signatures — the largest number ever collected for a “self-organised” European Citizens’ Initiative.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed trade-deal being negotiated between the US and the European Commission (EC), has dominated the past year for MEPs representing the UK (Comment, 28 March 2014; 3 October 2014). I believe that the deal poses great dangers, and that Christians should be much more involved in the vital anti-TTIP campaign.
This “Trojan Horse of a trade-deal” (as it has been described by activists) seeks to remove many of the EU’s most significant social regulations and environmental protections, which act as barriers to transnational corporations. The implications of TTIP are wide-ranging: jobs, health, public services, the environment, the health and safety of food, and national sovereignty.
In going beyond tariff-reduction, and in giving companies the power to shape local regulation, it is much more than a normal trade-deal. The treaty would forcibly accelerate further provision by multinational corporations of health, education, and other services.
On the basis of evidence from the operation of similar treaties that are already in place, it is probable that any later attempt to take back into public hands those services previously privatised would provoke legal challenges, costing billions of pounds of public money.
TTIP is also likely to have a devastating impact on the environment. Official figures from the EC’s own studies report that it will push up greenhouse-gas emissions, contributing alarmingly to the acceleration of irreversible climate change and its profound global effects.
It would also bring about a massive increase in the import of shale gas (extracted by fracking) and tar-sands oil to Europe from the US, increasing our dependency on fossil fuels, and further undermining the renewable-energy sector.
Lobby groups for food producers in the US have been pushing hard to reverse the progress made in improving a broad range of food standards in Europe. The specific concerns raised by campaigners in Europe include GM crops, cloned meat, the use of hyper-chlorinated water to wash chicken, and the non-medicinal use of antibiotics in meat production (these have been banned in the EU since 2006).
THERE is much for Christians to be concerned about. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Report on TTIP of 10 March (quoting the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for External Policies) highlighted the likely negative impact on developing countries. Similarly, a 2013 German study showed the potential reductions in per capita incomes, particularly in low-income African countries.
Furthermore, as negotiators have stated specifically, the US and EC are also setting the terms for subsequent trade deals — terms to which developing countries will be expected to adhere, despite having had no part in creating them.
Alongside other experts, the deputy chairman of the Committee on Economic Co-operation and Development in the German parliament has argued: “We must not make the mistake of discussing [the UN] Sustainable Development Goals and setting targets on the one hand, while simultaneously concluding a trade agreement which contradicts all of these.”
One important example is how, after the pharmaceutical industry’s endeavours to prevent their loss of revenue to generic medicines, TTIP would reduce the availability of such medicines in developing countries.
PROPONENTS of TTIP describe it as an ambitious attempt to deliver a comprehensive trade-and-investment treaty between the EU and the US. Their main aims are to increase trade and investment through the reduction of tariffs; aligning regulations and standards; improving protection for overseas investors; and increasing access to services and government-procurement markets by foreign providers.
The EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has suggested that TTIP could help in enabling Europe to face the big challenges of kick-starting our economy, of adapting to the rise of emerging economies outside Europe, and of maintaining our influence in the world. Central to the arguments in favour of TTIP has been the suggestion that it will bring significant economic benefits to the EU, and to the UK in particular.
Such claims as these, originally made by proponents of TTIP, were based on official impact assessments presented to the EC by the Centre for Economic Policy Research; and yet government officials from within the EU have now distanced themselves from the headline figures. In the UK, the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee report in March this year concluded: “the figures are highly speculative.”
THE partnership negotiations have been shrouded in secrecy, although the EC has made some belated attempts to counter accusations of the lack of transparency. MEPs have now been granted privileged access to more documentation on TTIP, but under restrictive conditions. Molly Scott Cato (Green MEP for the South West of England) has reported on her experience in consulting such documents (The Guardian, 4 February 2015).
She wrote: “I left without any sense of reassurance either that the process of negotiating this trade deal is democratic, or that the negotiators are operating on behalf of citizens.” Public access to the most important documents is still blocked.
The House of Commons Business Committee stated in its report that “the lack of detail available on the negotiations means that it is difficult to assess which is the more accurate argument.”
Campaigners against TTIP believe that they have enough evidence to describe it as a catastrophic threat to our democracy, our public services, our environment, and more. This evidence consists of leaked and published documents, the unguarded comments of US and EU business lobbyists (92 per cent of preparatory meetings for TTIP were held with industry representatives), and independent studies (including those commissioned by the EC).
CHURCHES in Britain have previously contributed to the Trade Justice Movement, were at the forefront of the Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History campaigns in the late 1990s and through the 2000s, and are now playing an active part in the Climate Change Coalition. Green Christian (formerly Christian Ecology Link) has given its backing to the “No TTIP” campaign, but no other Christian or faith-based organisation has done so.
CAFOD is aware of the potential impact that TTIP could have on the communities with whom it works, and “is currently assessing these impacts in conjunction with the Trade Justice Movement”. Other Christian development agencies are, apparently, monitoring the negotiations.
The House of Bishops’ pastoral letter before the General Election in May gave some firm foundations on which Christian interest and opposition can be based. The letter states: “The Biblical tradition is not only ‘biased to the poor’, as often noted, but warns continually against too much power falling into too few hands.
“Christians should be wary of accumulations of power wherever they take place. They should be as reluctant to live under an overweening corporate sector as under an overweening state.”
A healthily sceptical view of both the process and content of TTIP can also be derived from the perspective of the Common Good, as understood in Catholic social teaching. The CAFOD discussion paper Common Good and the Economy (October 2014) takes as its starting-point that “our current model of economic growth is based on unsustainable resource production and consumption.”
It criticises countries that, “keen to attract investment and to drive growth have reduced environmental and social standards, which has given global capital a means to avoid controls and in some instances even driven ‘a race to the bottom’.” TTIP would exacerbate this process.
Tearfund’s substantial report The Restorative Economy: Completing our unfinished millennium jubilee (News, 1 May), and its related “Ordinary Heroes” campaign, argues that the work of “restoration” to which we are called is “one that’s profoundly concerned with how we organise our economy, and above all how the operation of the economy impacts on inequality, poor communities, and the environment.” TTIP would, however, prevent the implementation of most of Tearfund’s policy ideas for a restorative economy.
THERE is still time for the development agencies, Churches, and individual Christians to become involved in campaigning against TTIP. The opposition is set to intensify over the coming months: there will be international days of action, from 10 to 17 October; and a large-scale anti-TTIP rally in London on 10 October, after a day of protests around the country.
Any deal reached by TTIP’s negotiators will ultimately need to be ratified by the European Parliament (the European Parliament’s vote in July in favour of TTIP was non-binding), and may well require additional ratification by the parliaments of each of the 28 EU member states.
The Executive Director of War on Want, John Hilary, put it like this: we should realise that “the fight over TTIP . . . will decide what type of future we bequeath to future generations, and to the planet we share.”
Robert Tatam was a classics teacher for 36 years, and is spending part of his retirement on political activism.
Further details are at: https://stop-ttip.org/; and: www.waronwant.org/what-ttip.
Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement) is now preparing a TTIP prayer pack for faith groups: www.globaljustice.org.uk/ttip-threat-democracy-standards-and-jobs.