All over Europe, according to the mainstream media (who seem to have woken up and paid attention for a change), people have been out on the streets protesting against the plan to streamline (it says here) regulation of trade between the EU and the USA in order to boost trade for both sides.
We all know the arguments against it – standards will drop to the lowest common denominator rather than the highest; privatisation of services is built into the agreement and corporations will sue national governments who use their sovereign powers to change conditions (like re-nationalising privatised services), thus endangering corporate profits.
The most interesting parts of the BBC’s story come towards the very end, where Tom Burke, from environmental organisation e3g was predicted to tell Foreign Office minister Amber Rudd that “the deal will be unacceptable unless it guarantees that the highest possible standards will always apply”.
The article quotes Health minister Earl Howe, defending against fears that TTIP will “lock in” the privatisation of NHS services. He assures us that we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads about it because “it would not be in the interest of British pharmaceutical firms to exclude health from the negotiations as they currently face trade barriers in the US”.
So their interests are more important than those of everybody else in the UK, are they?
If you think that was condescending, the European Commission has gone further, saying the concerns are misplaced because TTIP “could have no impact on the UK’s sovereign right to make changes to the NHS.”
That’s nice. But will it appear in writing on the partnership agreement? If not, the Commission’s words are meaningless.
Over in the Huffington Post, trade minister Lord Livingston “said that TTIP talks ‘can’t be sacrificed by misinformation and scare stories’.”
He then went on to provide no evidence that any of the claims about TTIP were misinformed. “Blogging on the Huffington Post UK, he said: ‘Huge numbers of people and many consumer groups as well as business organisations would like to see the TTIP negotiations succeed. Which? can clearly see the benefits it will bring consumers. The Federation of Small Businesses backs it, welcoming the help it will give members to access huge new markets. The Confederation of British Industry, and many, many more are rooting for this deal. And you should be too, for the £10 billion it could add to the UK economy each year.'”
Except the experience of nations like Mexico is that the benefit goes disproportionately to the United States, rather than anywhere else.
So when the HuffPost states that “business secretary Vince Cable recently warned that the United States would ‘simply push ahead’ with trade talks with Asian economies if TTIP negotiations fail,” the logical response is to say “More fool them” if they take up the offer!
Cable, look the damn fool he turned out to be, went on to say: “The only sense in which this is in any way relevant is that its design, as in the European single market, is to ensure that procurement is on a non-discriminatory basis. All that is envisaged for the health service is that principle of non-discrimination is extended.”
So discrimination in favour of what’s best for the patient is a bad thing, is it? But this agreement will merrily discriminate in favour of what’s best for money-grubbing, profit-making parasites like the pharma companies mentioned by Earl Howe – who already charge far too much for their pills and potions, from a captive market.
The attitude of all these assembled bigwigs beggars belief. They don’t care if 400 protests took place today, or 400,000. As far as they’re concerned, TTIP is for them, not us. It’s about making things as cheaply as possible (by cutting safety standards and exploiting the workforce) and selling them as profitably as possible (to the exploited workforce who’ll have been paid too little to afford most of it).
They know they’ll have us over a barrel as soon as the ink is dry because even if some of us boycott products that are made and sold as a result of the agreement, most people won’t – not because they don’t want it but because they won’t believe they have any choice.
That’s why this agreement – as it stands – is no good. If it was an agreement to enforce the highest standards possible, it would be a different matter.
Would Earl Howe support that? Would Lord Livingston? Would Cable?
Have a wild guess.
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