JOHN HILARY of War on Want raises the alarm on the secret EU-US negotiations that threaten jobs, the NHS and democracy itself.
The government’s austerity programme is the primary focus of political movements up and down the country, and rightly so.
As a founding member of the People’s Assembly, War on Want will be proudly taking its place in the national demonstration on June 21.
But the austerity programme is not the only mechanism being used to restore the neoliberal capitalist programme and turn the pain of economic crisis onto ordinary people.
TTIP — the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that is currently being negotiated in secret by the European Commission and US government — could ultimately pose an even greater threat to jobs, public services and the environment in Britain and beyond.
At its first national conference on March 15, the People’s Assembly correctly identified TTIP as a charter for big business and a “frontal assault against democracy.”
Indeed, if it goes ahead, TTIP threatens to be the single greatest transfer of power to transnational capital in a generation, which is why there is now a growing movement of opposition to it.
For those of us in EU member states, TTIP poses threats in three broad areas:
- Under its “investor-state” dispute settlement mechanism, TTIP will give corporate investors new powers to bypass domestic courts and sue national governments before international tribunals for loss of profits caused by national policy decisions — just as Veolia is already using a similar mechanism to sue the Egyptian government for raising the minimum wage.
- TTIP aims to remove regulatory “barriers” to US corporations seeking to trade across the Atlantic — including crucial labour standards, environmental regulations and food safety standards such as the ban on GMOs and hormone-injected beef.
- TTIP will lead to a new wave of liberalisation of public services and government procurement contracts. The European Commission has confirmed that health services, including the NHS, are included within the TTIP negotiations — and once privatised it will be near impossible under TTIP to take such services back under public control.
The British government is backing TTIP to the hilt, stating openly that it wishes to use the negotiations to complete the European single market by extending the reach of the private sector into public services and public procurement contracts right across the EU.
The US government is also hoping to use TTIP to force open markets for US corporations and to stimulate a new race to the bottom in labour standards as European firms relocate to US states where anti-union laws are in place and production costs are cheaper.
The People’s Assembly voted at its March conference to join the national protest movement against TTIP, including through participation in national days of action against the negotiations.
The first national day of action against TTIP has now been called for July 12, and we will be building momentum in the week beforehand through the following speakers’ tour:
- July 8, Birmingham, Carrs Lane Centre
- July 9, Manchester — NW Unison Regional Centre
- July 10, London — NUT, Hamilton House The events (full details of which are below) will feature speakers from the vibrant anti-TTIP movement in the US and continental Europe, where trade unions have already joined environmental activists and campaign groups to demand an end to the TTIP negotiations.
The movement in this country is also building, with trade unions such as UCU, Unison, NUT and GMB working alongside War on Want, the World Development Movement and others to demand that TTIP be stopped.
The pressure has already forced the European Commission into retreat and the cracks are beginning to show as EU member states begin to dissociate themselves from the most unpopular parts of the TTIP deal.
The campaign against TTIP is one that we can win, just as we fought down the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the WTO before it.
If lost, it threatens to set the standard for all future deals around the world, entrenching the power of transnational capital at the expense of popular sovereignty and workers’ rights.
The stakes could not be higher. All supporters of the People’s Assembly are warmly encouraged to come along to the public meetings on July 8-10 and to take part in the national day of action too.
- Full details of the speakers’ tour to Birmingham, Manchester and London plus the national day of action against TTIP are available from www.waronwant.org/news/events/18143-no-ttip-national-tour-a-day-of-action
- An introductory guide to TTIP (plus link to versions in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Greek) is available at www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18078-what-is-ttip
- You can view an open letter from GMB, Unison, UCU, NUT, War on Want, WDM, Friends of the Earth and People & Planet calling for an end to TTIP negotiations here: www.gmb.org.uk/newsroom/halt-eu-us-trade-deal-talks
Article for the People's Assembly Against Austerity, also published in the Morning Star