Dad, political sociologist, local councillor, drummer from Malta

Monday, September 15, 2014

Malta's Front Against TTIP

Social Europe: Front against TTIP (Malta)

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In June 2013, US President Obama and European Commission President Barroso officially launched negotiations on a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), or a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), as some are calling it. Both names overstate the importance of trade, which is only a tiny part of the negotiations.

The main objective of the TTIP or TAFTA is to harmonize to the greatest extent possible transatlantic rules, regulations and standards on food and consumer product safety, environmental protection, biotechnology and toxic chemicals management, financial services and banking, domestic regulation of services, pharmaceutical patent terms, and many more areas of public policy, such as investment and public procurement, market access of goods and services, regulatory issues and rules on matters such as intellectual property rights, social and and so forth.

EU and US governments will hold onto a “right to regulate” but it will be severely constrained, subsumed under the overall priority of reducing barriers to investment opportunities for multinational corporations.

The TTIP/TAFTA will also contain very powerful investment protection rules and an investor-to-state dispute settlement process. Both European and US officials, backed by powerful business lobbies, will be pressing for maximum protection for corporations against legislative or regulatory interference into their “rights” to profit from transatlantic trade and investment.

Both the European Parliament and the European Council have both given their consent to the European Commission for a negotiating mandate for the TTIP process. The European Commission is negotiating on behalf of the EU and its Member States, and the European Parliament is entitled to be regularly informed on the process in question.

In accordance with the EU Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 207(3) and Article 218 of the TFEU), the final TTIP agreement can only be concluded by the European Council and the Member States if the European Parliament gives its consent.

The TTIP process is attempting to push forward an Americanized ‘one-size fits all’ neo-liberal model to the determinent of social, environmental and economic standards and rights, and to the detriment of a multipolar world of peaceful coexistence. Indeed, various countries and blocs around the world, are resisting such Americanization, with the BRICS initiative being a recent case in point.


Agriculture and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs):
The EU has tougher regulation than the USA on GMOs, especially since many consumers are wary on their consequences in relation to health and the environment. It should be of no surprise that environmentalists are critical of having commercial interests ride roughshod over ecological concerns in this and similar matters.

Audio-visual services: The European Parliament and the European Council do not want it to be included in the TTIP, even though the US and the European Commission would like its inclusion. The latter can however make recommendations in this regard, which, however, require unanimous agreement of the Member States to proceed.

Democratic Accountability: The TTIP can lead to lack of democratic accountability on various policy areas, if regulatory competence is transferred to unaccountable and unelected technocratic structures.

Economic Impact: There are considerable downside risks associated with removing remaining trade tariffs and very few actual economic gains from TTIP in terms of GDP, jobs, trade flows, and real wages.

Education: Teachers and students across the EU have also expressed concern on the TTIP, with the European Students’ Union being highly critical of having public education being treated as an ordinary economic service, where commercial profit becomes more important than quality education.

Least Developed Countries:
As a result of a fall in EU demand for exports from Less Developed Countries (LDCs), TTIP would mean a real reduction in GDP for LDCs. For example, GDP in Latin American countries could decrease by 2.8%, a loss of at least € 20 billion over 10 years. Therefore, signing up to TTIP certainly won't help the EU make much headway when it comes to its commitments to eradicate poverty in LDCs.

Lowering of Standards:
The dominance of commercial interests on various public and essential services can lead to lower standards to the detriment of public health, public safety, workers’ and consumers’ rights and environmental protection. 80% of the supposed estimated economic benefits depend on the removal or harmonisation of regulations, administrative procedures, and standards - non-tariff measures (NTMs) which could pose a serious threat to consumer health, public health, and environmental safety.

Public Funds: Eliminating tariffs under TTIP will mean losses to public budgets as revenue raised from customs duties will be lost – this would be a 2% loss to the EU budget, or € 2.6 billion a year.

Reduction of trade between EU member states:
TTIP will reduce trade between EU countries by up to 30% as EU countries' exports won't be able to compete with increased levels of cheap imports from the US. A spike in US imports could also bring about trade deficits in the EU (where imports exceed exports), and this could pose severe problems for some member states.

Social Costs: Problematic methodological flaws and shortcomings in influential European Commission-endorsed TTIP impact assessments by Ecorys, CEPR, CEPII, and Bertelsmann/ifo which weakens the predictions these reports make about supposed positive impacts of TTIP. None of the studies take into account the social costs of TTIP.

Taxpayers’ money: An investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism as part of TTIP could lead to governments abstaining from enacting regulation that ran counter to multinationals' interests. Such a mechanism could also see governments having to pay compensation to multinationals with taxpayers' money.

Unemployment: Unemployment would rise as a result of job displacement due to TTIP: over the 10-year TTIP implementation period, between € 5-14 billion of unemployment adjustment costs (lost revenue from tax and an increase in unemployment benefits) can be expected.

Social Europe – Front Against TTIP Demands that:

1. The TTIP should be subjected to a comprehensive impact assessment before proceeding.
2. The TTIP should be subject to a democratic discussion in the European Parliament and within European and national civil societies, and to full transparency before proceeding. It should also be subject to a referendum.
3. The TTIP should not result in lower standards to the detriment of public health, public security, workers’ and consumers’ rights and environmental protection.
4. The TTIP should not transfer regulatory competence from democratic institutions to unelected technocratic institutions.
5. The TTIP should not allow the liberalisation and privatisation of public services such as health, culture, water, social services and education.
6. The TTIP should not reduce political autonomy on cultural productions, educational activities and local policies.
7. Malta’s Government should not support the current TTIP process
8. Malta’s Political Parties should not support the current TTIP process
9. Malta’s MEPs should not support the current TTIP process
10. Maltese civil society should support the European Citizens’ Initiative Against the TTIP

The Front is inviting other NGOs, political parties and interested individuals to join the initiative.

Social Europe: Front against TTIP (Malta) comprises ┼╗minijietna - Voice of the Left; Anti-Poverty Alliance; Moviment Graffitti; Association of Federative Socialists; GWU Youth; Friends of the Earth Malta; Partit Komunista Malti; Garden of Knowledge (Malta); ADZ - Green Youth; Malta Organic Agriculture Movement.; Malta Organic Agricuture Movement; Greenhouse; Gaia Foundation; Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party.

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