Why you should protest the TTIP?
We were all so cheerful when two years ago the European Parliament rejected ACTA. But the lobby machine never rests, the big corporations will use every opportunity to slip the same provisions into any international treaty that our governments sign. And they will add new stuff if possible, such as Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). There are abundant examples of how it works – from the law suit that Philip Morris brought against the Australian government for introducing health warnings on cigarettes packaging to Eli Lilly suing Canada for rejecting a patent claim to the exorbitant legal costs that states face when sued. Why should we risk this when currently, the investments between the USA and EU are the highest in the world? Apparently investors don’t consider the European justice system insufficient.
It is probably true that in the past international treaties were never negotiated in the open. It used to be technically impossible. But now we have the internet. Negotiation tactics require that not everything is revealed upfront to the adversary, but documents that have already been exchanged between the sides are not secret to any of the sides. So why they are secret to us?
The leaks from the negotiations don’t make us any less anxious. For example, the latest one reads like, “European corporations want this and that, in exchange the USA corporations would like to get that and that”, but what kind of exchange is that? When the USA government grants broadcasters additional rights it reduces the freedom of its every other citizen and business. When Europe agrees for protection of medical trials data it would restrict the freedom of all its citizen to use that data. It is not that the European companies would bear the cost of the privileges that the USA companies get and it is not that the USA companies bear the cost of the European companies privileges. It would be the societies as a whole that would bear the cost and only the companies would get the benefits. The negotiators are government representatives – but the conflict of interests is not between the governments – but between the corporations and the citizens. We are afraid that the governments are keen to grant privileges to companies from abroad in exchange for privileges for their domestic companies forgetting about the costs to the societies on both sides of the Atlantic. In particular we are afraid that:
- the ‘free flow of data’ between USA and Europe will mean a way to get around our privacy rights.
- the treaty will grant additional copyright related monopolies (like broadcaster rights or protection of medical trial data or protection of fashion design).
- it will make all existing intellectual monopolies even harder to reform – because any change would require a change in an international treaty.
- it will force states to water down their current consumer and environmental protections and make it much harder to introduce new ones
- ISDS mechanism will add additional mechanisms to pressure countries for stricter intellectual monopoly protection.
- ISDS can block countries from requiring Free Software licenses in public procurement.
- ISDS will be used by companies to extort money or convenient legislation from governments.
We do not want to be brought against the wall. The TTIP treaty might have many beneficial parts – we want to know it in time to propose amendments and not be left with only two options: accept it or reject it. And we don’t want ISDS to be included in the treaty at all. We don’t quite trust the assurances that the new formulations will not constrain governments’ right to regulate and, what is more important, we don’t want large companies to become sovereign and have even more power over our governments.
ACTA failed because people fought against it. We must do it again.
Featured image: CC zero by Worker