The contentious Euro-American trade pact—the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—may finally be at death's door, but campaigners are warning that recent pronouncements of its demise are merely a "tactical retreat" in order to save two lesser-known and equally "toxic" sister agreements.
"In other words," Nick Dearden, director of U.K.-based Global Justice Now (GJN), wrote in a Wednesday op-ed, "TTIP has been sacrificed to save the wider agenda of which TTIP was only one part"—namely the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union and the 50-nation Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which Dearden describes as "a massive, super-privatization deal covering everything from finance to education."
A new briefing on TISA published Tuesday by GJN warns about the global ambitions of the deal, which focuses on services—rather than goods (like most trade agreements)—and primarily "allowing multinationals to provide services across borders."
The primer explains:
TISA considers all regulations to be trade barriers. This means that it has serious consequences for things that have little to do with trade, affecting areas like labor rights, banking regulation and whether public services like electricity and water are run for the benefit of the people or by profit-making multinational companies. [...]
Much of the danger in TISA lies in the fact that it turns many public services into commodities to be run for the benefit of business, rather than in the interest of people who need services like electricity, healthcare and transport. TISA signatories will have to treat foreign multinationals from TISA countries with at least as much favor as local companies, even if local firms are much smaller.
What's more, negotiations over the deal, which are expected to conclude by late 2016, have been conducted with "even less transparency than those on TTIP."
Some details that have emerged, however, paint a grim picture for the future of public services. One particularly insidious provision, the so-called "ratchet clause," forbids a country that has decided to "liberalize" a public service to multinationals from retracting that measure from TISA member state companies.
Similarly, the "standstill" clause prevents countries from passing new regulations that might give foreign companies worse treatment.
In effect, these provisions could "make it much harder for a future [U.K.] government to renationalize the railways, a move backed by a majority of the British public," GJN states.
"Vested interests and ideologues will seek to create TTIP anew, but we already have an engaged movement aware of the threat of corporate-authored, secret trade deals."
—Mark Dearn, War on Want
Dearden expands on some of the other known threats:
We also know that some countries are pushing clauses in TISA which would prevent signatories introducing laws to favor renewable energy over fossil fuels. Others are pushing to allow high tech companies to transfer data across borders at will. [...].
Meanwhile, some categories of migrant worker may end up being “independent service suppliers” and will consequently not enjoy the right to things like the minimum wage or be allowed to join a trade union, essentially becoming a form of modern indentured labour.
Further, the organization notes, the countries involved represent 70 percent of the total world economy, and, ultimately, the "aim is to impose the deal on the rest of the world through the World Trade Organization (WTO)...For this reason, TISA is the trade deal that most threatens poorer countries of the global south. It must be stopped."
More imminently, Dearden notes, is the threat posed by CETA. Like TTIP, critics say, CETA aims to "water down or abolish environmental, health, and consumer protection regulations."
The deal is likely to reach a European Parliament vote before next spring and campaigners are concerned it could be "provisionally applied" as early as this autumn.
Hoping to stall the deal, a coalition of German NGOs on Wednesday launched a complaint with the nation's highest authority, the Constitutional Court, asking the judges to block implementation of CETA on the grounds that it "subverts the German constitution because it does not leave room for parliamentarians to interpret the agreement or vote against it."
According to Deutsche Welle, the groups delivered boxes containing 125,047 signed powers of attorney, making the case "the biggest constitutional complaint in German history."
The NGOs are particularly concerned about the agreement's Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which employs a parallel legal system to grant corporations dangerous leverage to use against countries that attempt to pass regulations that might hurt their profits, as Common Dreams has previously reported.
Echoing those fears, a new report (pdf) published earlier this week by a coalition of advocacy groups raised alarm over the threats posed by CETA to food safety and consumer standards should the E.U. be forced to comply with Canada's more lax regulations on things like pesticide use, animal welfare, genetically modified organisms, and agricultural safety standards.
"All over the world, people want more local, sustainable and healthy food, for our economies, our environment and our well-being. CETA takes us in the opposite direction—towards factory farms, unsustainable production, and questionable safety regulations," said Sujata Dey, a trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians trade campaigner, which issued the report along with War on Want, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
With these other deals on the horizon, Europe, ultimately, will "gain little if the end of TTIP allows such awful deals to make it to the statute book," as Dearden put it.
At the same time, across the pond, U.S. President Barack Obama continues to doggedly pursue ratification of the other highly-controversial trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), despite growing national opposition.
But campaigners say there are lessons to be gleaned from the collapse of the TTIP, namely that civil society—if loud enough—can turn these corporate deals into political minefields.
"Vested interests and ideologues will seek to create TTIP anew, but we already have an engaged movement aware of the threat of corporate-authored, secret trade deals," Mark Dearn, senior trade campaigner with War on Want, wrote recently.
"Now," Dearn continues, "is the time for this movement to organize for trade justice."