SO, GERMAN MPs are finally to have access to documents relating to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
It’s a relief to know that, when the United States and European Union are negotiating an important trade deal, at least some elected representatives of the people are allowed a look in.
Except they’re not — not really.
Even members of parliament in the EU’s most powerful state are being treated like children sitting an exam. No cameras, no mobile phones.
On no account may they go back and discuss with their constituents what they have seen. They may only view the sacred mysteries of TTIP under the watchful eye of flunkies from the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
As War on Want’s John Hilary notes: “MPs are expressly forbidden from sharing any information with the general public, despite the fact that it is our rights that are being traded away behind closed doors.”
British MPs have not yet been given the green light to inspect the trade deal Brussels is preparing to sign up to on our behalf.
Does our Prime Minister, huffing and puffing about an overbearing and unaccountable EU, care? Not a bit of it. He has repeatedly urged the negotiators to hurry up and finish the job.
In Parliament, pro-TTIP MPs have even blustered that campaigners shouldn’t object to the deal because it is secret — so we can’t know what our problem with it is.
Unfortunately for them, we know enough, thanks to the valuable service rendered to democracy when WikiLeaks exposed some of the documents.
We know about the investor-state dispute settlement clause, allowing companies to sue the government — which in practice means us, the public — if policy affects their profits.
We know its pro-privatisation bias will affect public services, because the government keeps refusing to exempt the NHS.
We know who the European Commission’s trade department talked to about the deal. Of 597 closed-door meetings up to February 2014 on TTIP, 528 — 88 per cent — were with business lobby groups.
We know that the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) likewise seeks to deregulate, promote “competition” and privatise the delivery of services. MEPs are discussing TISA now.
Once the European Parliament has voted on a series of TISA recommendations on Wednesday, it will pass its suggestions to the European Commission, which can then do what it likes since the EU’s only elected assembly has no power over it.
This whole farce is, as Hilary points out, a “mockery of democracy.”
Talk of “commercial confidentiality” is absurd in such a case. Our governments will be bound by these treaties.
What the people we elect can and cannot do will depend on reams of arcane clauses and subclauses pieced together in the shadows by global corporations.
And there is no point in trying to separate these anti-democratic trade deals from the anti-democratic monolith negotiating them.
True, Britain could and under its current government probably would sign up anyway. But membership of the EU makes this progressive surrender of democratic sovereignty to corporate clout inexorable and irreversible.
As with the “technocratic” governments Brussels imposed on Italy and Greece when their peoples just wouldn’t behave and do as the bankers asked, these trade deals remove our right to intervene on economic matters.
They enshrine one economic model — “free market” neoliberalism — on us all. If we decide we don’t like it, if we elect a government that wants to try something else — too bad. That’s illegal.
That’s why fighting TTIP, TISA, Ceta and the rest is more than an ideological struggle, and why membership of the EU is not a simple matter of economic or legal advantages and disadvantages, important though these are.
This is a battle for our freedom, and for the freedom of everyone swept up in the nets of these rotten treaties.