The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) rather innocently describes itself as ‘a trade agreement’ that hopes to remove the regulatory differences between the United States and European Union. “[It] is an astonishingly bold project” says Ken Clarke, Conservative MP for Rushcliffe, “which aims to create a free market encompassing the 800 million peoples of Europe and America”.

…Sounds harmless, right?

The reality is that this treaty could mean an end to democracy as we know it. If agreed, the TTIP will hand corporations the power to further bypass our democratic system. Big businesses will be able to do what they want, when they want, and regardless of the consequences – whether it be economic meltdown or the gradual destruction of our planet and its natural resources. In the words of the Democracy Centre, this treaty will be “a privatised justice system for global corporations”.

One of the most significant (and sinister) aspects of the treaty is a legal mechanism called ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlements’. This mechanism, often abbreviated as ISDS, will give corporations the power to sue governments that try to defend their citizens. How? It will allow a secretive panel of corporate lawyers (I wonder whose interests they represent?) to sidestep our domestic courts and overrule the will of parliament. ISDS has already been used by companies in Australia and Germany to strike down laws that infringe upon their profits: the plain packaging of cigarettes for example, stronger standards on water pollution and public health and attempts to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Indeed, very recently, in Canada the courts revoked two patents owned by an American drugs firm on the grounds that the company had not produced enough evidence to suggest that the drugs had a beneficial effect. The firm is now suing the Canadian government for $500m and demanding that this ruling be changed.

So why exactly do we need this rather questionable legal mechanism? According to the commission, our domestic courts don’t offer corporations the proper protection they need because they “might be biased or lack independence”. Of course, whilst we are on this subject, it should be noted that the commission has already met with corporate lobbyists over 100 times in private. Some lobbyists have even boasted about helping “co-write” the treaty. Do you know how many times the commission has met with civil society groups? You know, those groups who represent the interests of you and I? …Eight times.

Bias, huh?

But the TTIP represents something bigger, something deeper. Beneath the rhetoric, the promises of a better world, this treaty is the ugly face of neoliberal capitalism… it’s vision of a world where money rules all. And contrary to what neoliberals will say, this gradual process of ‘rolling back democracy’ – often hidden under the facade of ‘globalisation’ – is no accident. As political historian David Harvey notes, neoliberalism is “profoundly suspicious of democracy” and tends to favour technocratic governance over democratic rule. At it’s very core, neoliberalism is inherently anti-democratic. As a result, in recent decades as neoliberal policies have been enthusiastically implemented by governments across the western world, states have become subject to the power of markets and of capital; and this has served to not only narrow the range of political options available – but fundamentally dilute and thin out democracy as we know it.

But what does this all mean? Ultimately, the TTIP could be used to smash any potential attempt to save the NHS from privatisation, to re-regulate the banks, to curb the greed of wealthy energy companies and protect our environment from corporate exploitation. As George Monbiot explains, writing in The Guardian, this treaty will essentially “outlaw left-wing politics”. This is why there has been no attempt by the current government – or the media for that matter – to inform us about the treaty. They want us to remain blissfully ignorant, blaming immigrants for our social problems or thinking about Cheryl Cole re-joining the X-Factor, whilst our precious democracy is dismantled by a small elite of wealthy people looking to become even wealthier. What we are witnessing is a full-frontal attack on democracy. This is no left-wing conspiracy theory, this is a war. And democracy is losing.

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