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Since TTIP negotiations began in 2013, Europe has seen several mass mobilizations against the so-called "free trade" deal. (Photo: campact/flickr/cc)

'Crafted By and For Big Business': TTIP Under Fire Across Europe

'TTIP is a bonanza for big business, but a nightmare for everyone else,' says War on Want

Deirdre Fulton

A new UK coalition is sounding the alarm over how the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), currently under negotiation between the U.S. and EU, would force European small businesses into unfair competition with U.S. firms with lower standards and lower costs.

"Together with thousands of our counterparts in other European countries, we are concerned that many European businesses risk being wiped out by unfair competition from U.S. corporations if TTIP is allowed to go through," reads the statement from Business Against TTIP, launched over the weekend.

"TTIP will enable some of the world’s biggest corporations to undermine EU social and environmental standards," it continues. "Under its investor protection rules, TTIP will also give U.S. firms unprecedented powers to sue the UK government when any new laws affect their profits."

Noting that "the overwhelming majority of British businesses do not export at all to the USA," the statement declares: "TTIP has been designed by and for the largest corporations that trade and invest across the Atlantic, not the majority."

These assertions are backed up in a new report issued Sunday by the London-based War on Want, entitled, Rough Trade: The Threat of TTIP to Small Businesses in the UK (pdf).

"TTIP threatens to expose small businesses in Europe to direct competition with some of the largest multinational corporations in the world—and on unequal terms," reads the report. "U.S. businesses face far lower production costs due to less stringent regulations, lower labour standards and cheaper inputs, especially energy costs. U.S. big business has the added advantage of huge economies of scale."

As a result of this unfair competition, the study warns, U.S. businesses will be able offer products at far cheaper prices than European small or medium sized enterprises (SME). In turn, War on Want calculates that 680,000 jobs across Europe would be lost.

"TTIP offers small businesses nothing, but thousands could fold if U.S. firms are allowed into our markets without having to abide by EU rules," said Mark Dearn, War on Want trade campaigner and co-author of the report. "TTIP is a bonanza for big business, but a nightmare for everyone else."

It's no surprise, then, that a separate investigation by the Dutch Platform of Authentic Journalism, published over the weekend, showed the close links between supposedly independent, pro-TTIP think tanks, and the big businesses that fund them.

In fact, yet another report published Monday by the German campaign group LobbyControl and the Brussels-based Corporate Europe Observatory examines the origins and impacts of TTIP's proposals for regulatory cooperation and shows that "the process has been dominated by big business right from the start."

The report (pdf) reads:

Thus far, regulatory cooperation and the preparatory phase of the TTIP talks provide clear evidence of the influential coalition between big business and trade bureaucrats. Fears about the TTIP becoming a tool for a coalition of big business and trade bureaucrats to drive down standards are thus well founded. By rewriting the rules, big business can end up in the driver’s seat.

In the words of the US Chamber of Commerce, regulatory cooperation is "a gift that keeps on giving." We would clarify that corporations are the recipients of these gifts. For society at large, the consequences could be dire."

According to Titus Sharpe, CEO of the consulting firm MVF Global, 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year, and an initiator of the Business Against TTIP coalition, there are signs that "this message is now clearly reverberating across Europe."

As Sharpe wrote in The Independent on Monday:

We are in good company with other businesses against TTIP. Almost 2,000 businesses in Germany and another 2,000 in Austria have already come together to say they don't want this deal. They join more than 3.3 million people across Europe who have called for an immediate end to negotiations, trade unions, artists and an unprecedented ten UN Independent Experts who have voiced fears for the future of human rights under trade deals like TTIP.

In Germany, a large majority of small businesses feel their interests are not represented in a secretive deal geared to meeting the needs of the world's biggest corporations – a deal designed to ensure that small businesses in Europe are given no advantage by our governments over US corporations. As a consequence, when Reuters asked these businesses whether they want TTIP, the answer was categorical: "Nein Danke."

The Belgian business association UCM, which represents small and medium-sized businesses from the French-speaking area of the country, says our businesses "have nothing to win from this deal. On the contrary, in its present form, it brings dangers".

A separate report earlier this month showed how the TTIP also favors Big Ag over Europe's small farmers.

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