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TTIP protesters in Brussels on Wednesday.  (Photo: campact/flickr/cc)

Brussels Rally Denounces Massive Trade Deal That Would Be 'Hijack of Democracy'

TTIP would put corporate profits above people, critics of the proposed EU-U.S. trade deal say.

Andrea Germanos

Hundreds of people rallied in Brussels on Wednesday, where negotiators are holding their latest round of talks on a proposed EU-U.S. trade deal criticized as a "Trojan treaty" that threatens democracy and puts corporate profits above people.

At issue is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would be the biggest-ever trade deal, and is a proposal that has faced years of opposition over its secrecy as well as possible impacts on issues ranging from food safety to fracking to copyright.

Among those who came from the UK to take part in Wednesday's action was Derek Hansford, chair of Hastings and District Trades Council, who stated, "Ordinary people from across the UK are traveling to Brussels to make their voices heard. Democracy is about what’s best for everyone, not what’s best for the world’s richest and most powerful corporations. The TTIP deal is a hijack of democracy, and we need to stop it."

Adding their voices to the demonstration were European organizations including Friends of the Earth Europe, War on Want and Global Justice UK.

Friends of the Earth Europe brought their touring "Trojan horse" to Brussels to urge negotiators to say not to what the environmental group says is a Trojan treaty. Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, stated previously, "Real people power can prevent irreversible damage being done by this Trojan treaty. Our Trojan Horse tour is about standing up for citizens and our right to decide our own laws and putting people and our planet before big business profits."

Economist Dean Baker has written that the TTIP is not about free trade, as it is touted; rather, he says, it's "about imposing a regulatory structure to be enforced through an international policing mechanism that likely would not be approved through the normal political processes in each country. The rules that will be put in place as a result of the deal are likely to be more friendly to corporations and less friendly to the environment and consumers than current rules."

This regulator structure has also met the ire of the deal's critics.

A statement from over 150 civil society organizations denounces the "regulatory cooperation" part of the deal, calling it "the ultimate tool to prevent or weaken future public interest standards for citizens, workers, consumers, and the environment." The statement, which was posted at the Corporate Europe Observatory website, reads, in part:

The [European] Commission proposes a system that can only result in further barriers to developing public interest standards as these would need to be ‘trade and investment’ proof. It also gives unprecedented influence to business lobby groups to stop any new regulation that would impact on trade and investment. The proposal strongly prioritizes trade and investment over the public interest. The system would give enormous power to a small group of unelected officials to stop and weaken regulations and standards even before democratically elected bodies, such as parliaments, would have a say over them, thus undermining our democratic system.

The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions in the deal have also been fiercely criticized. A number of far-ranging voices has spoken out against them, so their continued inclusion in the deal, Corporate Europe Observatory states, represents "a blatant disregard for democracy."

Max Bank from Germany-based watchdog organization LobbyControl added in a statement, "Like Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), regulatory cooperation strengthens big businesses power and threatens democracy on both sides of the Atlantic."

In an op-ed published Wednesday at the UK's Guardian, Molly Scott Cato, a professor of green economics at Roehampton University and the Green party's finance speaker, writes that she has "seen the secrets of the TTIP" and that the protesters are right to be concerned.

We hear much criticism of the “nanny state”, but the world according to TTIP is more like Big Brother Corporation, where individual preferences are swept aside in the onward march of progress and order. It is the disturbing and unsettling worldview that David Korten envisaged in his 1995 book, When Corporations Rule the World. At the time the title seemed rhetorical; outlandish even. It seems considerably less so today.

See more of the day's action from these tweets:

This video from SumOfUs outlines issues with what the group describes as "the dirtiest trade deal in Europe's history."


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