The TTIP or Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership aims to create a free trade agreement between the USA and all European Union member states. Importantly the deal could be finalised as soon as the back-end of 2014. With the European Commission estimating the TTIP would boost the EU’s economy by around 120 billion euros, it is quite clear why the political and business elite are advocating its completion for the near future.1

Supporters of the largest free trade deal in history argue this will create millions of new jobs, alleviating a key source of political and social unrest on both sides of the Atlantic.2 The liberalisation of around one-third of all global trade does however come with a price.3 The potential economic, social and political implications of the deal for the general public are far more uncertain and potentially harmful.

Although the TTIP may address contingent economic concerns, specifically those attached to the current popular lexicon of “growth” i.e., higher employment, increase of commerce etc., these should not be confused with improved standards of living. On face value the hope for heightened regulatory standards and rises in average wages seem increasingly unfounded.

Trade barriers between the EU and the U.S.A are already very low. This suggests the TTIP’s primary focus will be eliminating non-conventional barriers regarding fracking, GMOs and finance.4 Arguably it is due to the sensitivity of these issues that the full nature of the TTIP has been evidently hidden from the public eye5.

In fact, reasons abound as to why the TTIP has lacked publication. Arguably the most pertinent is the so-called “Investor State Dispute Settlement” which will allow companies to sue national governments when regulations threaten their profits.6 To put this into perspective this would mean that private healthcare providers could potentially sue the British government if it chose to implement a policy favouring the NHS.

Another issue is the potential for labour rights to be diminished to equalise those present in the U.S.A. Many EU delegates fear that a “race to the bottom” could ensue in regards to workers’ rights with EU nations stripping back to reflect those of the United States. This fear is substantiated by US companies already expressing that extensions of employment rights are not on the negotiation agenda.7

Additionally the unilateral nature of the deal could entail the imposition of rules and regulations of some countries upon others in order to establish European uniformity.8 The threat this possesses towards national sovereignty is clear and further perpetuates the attitude that the EU is indeed eroding democratic freedoms. This combined with the Investor State Dispute Settlement process raises concerns that when the TTIP comes into action our elected governments will be legally incapacitated to resist its diktats.

New rules could also permit the exchange of previously banned food and drink (products such as High Fructose Corn Syrup which is linked to obesity and diabetes); environmental standards may be at risk (asbestos could even make a return to the UK) and online privacy may be affected (e-commerce provisions could see the more liberal extraction and use of personal data).9 This seems all the more likely when one considers how resistant the United States will be to increasing trade regulations in a time of such economic fragility. Thus the most pressing question must be how much EU and national regulation can be retained in these negotiations and how much will be rescinded for ease of business.

Demonstrations in Brussels10, Britain11 and across Europe have already articulated political dissatisfaction with the deal, but evidently only on a small scale. When the TTIP comes into effect the generalisation of an anti-EU stance being the fighting corner of far-right ideologues could quickly vanish. This would be made especially clear once the UKIP party’s notably coy position on opposing the deal is more widely exposed.12

Overall the TTIP is a highly divisive issue but one that is unfortunately out of the hands of the average voter. Nonetheless negotiations are ongoing and many of the concerns raised in this article are still being discussed. What can be almost certain is that the TTIP will go through in some form and that will undoubtedly yield growth and jobs, the price of this however is still unknown.

Thus the question must be asked, could this one final imposition of EU law provoke widespread dissatisfaction amongst broader demographics of voters? With the potential of a conservative party backed EU referendum in 201613 we may just see a seismic shift in the centre-left that brings the question of the EU to an uneasy cross-ideology consensus.

 

Sources:

1European Commission. What is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? 27/07/14.

http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/ttip/about-ttip/

2Bollyky, Thomas and Bradford, Anu. Getting to Yes on Transatlantic Trade. 10/07/13.

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/139569/thomas-j-bollyky-and-anu-bradford/getting-to-yes-on-transatlantic-trade

3Cheney, Stephen. Trade agreement will enhance national security. 07/13.

http://esharp.eu/big-debates/transatlantic-matters/129-trade-agreement-will-enhance-national-security/

4Baker, Dean. The US-EU trade deal: don’t buy the hype. 15/07/13.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/15/us-trade-deal-with-europe-hype

5What’s the secret? Closed door TTIP talks put environmental and public safeguards at risk. 28/05/14.

http://occupylondon.org.uk/whats-the-secret-closed-door-ttip-talks-put-environmental-and-public-health-safeguards-at-risk/

6International Institute for Sustainable Development. Investment Dispute Settlement. 27/07/14.

http://www.iisd.org/investment/dispute/

7Burke, Tony. US-EU trade talks – what about the workers?. 22/07/13.

http://leftfootforward.org/2013/07/us-eu-trade-talks-what-about-the-workers/

8Bennet, Assa. TTIP: 9 Risks Clegg and Farage Won’t Tell You About The US-EU Trade Deal. 02/04/14.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/04/02/ttip-us-eu-trade-deal_n_5050117.html

9Bennet, Assa. TTIP: 9 Risks Clegg and Farage Won’t Tell You About The US-EU Trade Deal. 02/04/14.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/04/02/ttip-us-eu-trade-deal_n_5050117.html

10 250 Arrested in anti-TTIP protest at European Business Summit. 16/05/14

http://www.euractiv.de/file/49891

12Desai, Rahul. There is plenty to worry about with UKIP beyond rascism. 22/05/14.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rahul-desai/there-is-plenty-to-worry-about-with-ukip-beyond-racism

13Conservative Party Website. 27/07/14.

http://www.conservatives.com/europe