The US-EU trade agreement, known as TTIP, is not just another free trade deal. It is a charter for big business, forcing lawmakers to uphold the so-called ‘rights’ of investors above every other consideration – human rights, environmental protection, democratic accountability. It is a constitution for the free movement of capital.
Leaked documents from the European Commission reveal that TTIP will be a ‘living agreement,’ continuing to influence laws even after it has been signed. If something doesn’t make the final cut, business lobbyists needn’t fear, because the Commission is working to enshrine a greater role for them in the process of creating (or halting) regulation.
"The central purpose of TTIP is to align regulations on both sides of the Atlantic – whether chemical regulations, food production standards or environmental requirements."
This is handy, because growing public opposition to TTIP has forced certain policies into the spotlight – the use of chemicals in the processing of poultry and beef for instance. The ‘living agreement’ will allow those controversial issues to be put off for a later date, when new rules will make it much more likely that US agribusiness will get its way.
Concretely, the European Commission is pushing for something called a Regulatory Cooperation Council. That cooperation will take place between the already cosy decision-makers and corporate lobbyists. For several years, these lobbyists have been arguing for the right to “co-write regulation,” as they put it. Two years of leaked documents show that the Commission is keen to give them that power.
Remember, the central purpose of TTIP is to align regulations on both sides of the Atlantic – whether chemical regulations, food production standards or environmental requirements. First leaked in late 2013, and confirmed by more recent leaks, the European Commission proposes that this process won’t end with the negotiations. Rather, business will be given guaranteed access to regulatory discussions into the future, and regulators would be duty-bound to consider the impact of any regulation on investors.
At the heart of EU proposals is a Council which would include regulators from the US and EU, together with ‘stakeholders’. In Brussels, the term ‘stakeholders’ overwhelmingly means business lobbyists. As TTIP was being formulated, 92% of all Commission encounters with ‘stakeholders’ was with business lobbyists.
The ‘rights’ of these stakeholders are laid out in the Commission’s proposal. Lobbyists would get ‘early warning’ of new regulations. So businesses would be guaranteed a say over regulations, often before elected representative have any idea of their existence. They would also get to review existing regulations. Concrete suggestions received from lobbyists will be shared with US regulators too and given ‘careful consideration’.
In other words, the Regulatory Cooperation Council represents a permanent, enshrined role for big business in policy-making.
What’s more, impact assessments would force regulators to consider the impact of regulation on trade and investment. In other words, officials would need to consider changes they wanted to make – to protect people or the environment for instance – from the perspective of foreign investors.
This allows TTIP to become like a new constitution – but one designed to protect corporate interests, not the rights of the people or planet. This new constitution would form the basis from which our governments approach laws and regulations and political processes. Like putting on a pair of TTIP-tinted spectacles, our whole society comes to resemble the playground of big business, and all of our protections look like obstacles to their profit.