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One year ago, David Cameron and Barack Obama launched negotiations between the EU and the US on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
This was to be the biggest free trade deal yet, and one which would set new standards for the 21st century.
They promised two million jobs and £100 billion in benefits to the EU.
At home, TTIP’s cheerleaders, Ken Clarke, Cameron and Nick Clegg, rave about what it could do for jobs and growth. But there is no evidence to back up their claims.
The European Commission is pushing the deal, but even its most ambitious scenario suggests if the deal is agreed, GDP could grow by just 0.5 per cent by 2027 — equivalent to an underwhelming £2 per person a week.
And the commission’s own study concludes that one million people in the EU and US actually stand to lose their jobs as a result of TTIP.
If the case for jobs and growth cannot be made, then there should be no basis for negotiations. But this deal is not about evidence, it is about ideology.
The EU-US trade deal is the latest in a series of neoliberal global trade deals, including the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (Gats) agreed in 1995 and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) proposed in 1999.
Opposition from campaign groups and trade unions succeeded in keeping public services out of Gats. And we built a broad coalition which defeated the MAI altogether.
Although these deals are known as free trade agreements, they are only concerned with freedom for capital.
Workers, developing countries and the poorest in society get little of the benefit and bear the majority of the costs of these deals.
Too often we see free markets pushing down wages, transnational corporations trampling over small local business and safeguards designed to support people and public services being removed.
Trade does not have to be this way. Applying fairer rules to trade could help rebalance economies and societies, putting the interests of people and the planet first.
But in the negotiations on TTIP, big business has its eye on new opportunities to make money through greater involvement in health, education, postal services and energy.
And it also sees profit to be made by removing regulation which keeps workers safe, ringfences public procurement and restricts the use of chemicals in our food and environment.
For all the talk of free trade, TTIP seeks to protect big business from the risks of the free market by introducing a new set of rules to protect investors.
Known as Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), these rules would allow big companies to sue governments if they believed their profits would be harmed by government decisions.
Cases would be heard in secret international tribunals, overseen by corporate lawyers.
Under similar rules, energy companies sued Argentina for freezing prices. Waste and energy company Veolia sued Egypt for introducing the minimum wage. And tobacco giant Philip Morris sued Australia for compulsory plain packaging on cigarettes.
The keenest advocates of free trade want a deal soon. Frustrated with the lack of progress at the World Trade Organisation, EU and US negotiators believe that through TTIP they can secure the free trade agenda they want, regardless of the consent of the WTO’s 160 member countries.
After all, TTIP covers half of the global economy and a third of all trade flows. By signing it quickly, they hope it can be used as the blueprint for another prize — a trade deal with China.
Over the last 12 months, opposition to TTIP has rocketed. Unfazed by TTIP’s complexity, jargon and acronyms, trade unions, environmental groups and development organisations across the EU and in the US have steadily got the message out about the dangers of TTIP and have begun to build a movement resisting it.
We know we are having an impact. In Britain, Ken Clarke MP lamented that he only wished MPs would show as much interest in TTIP as the public.
Officials at the department for Business, Innovation and Skills even called the World Development Movement to ask if we could stop people writing to them.
Prospective MEPs have received hundreds of thousands of protest letters. And as a direct result of public pressure, the European Commission had to launch a consultation on the proposed ISDS.
Many trade unions are critical of TTIP and are part of a broad coalition of British groups working together to stop the deal, including Friends of the Earth, UK Uncut and the World Development Movement.
The campaign against TTIP is one we can win, for the benefit of people in Britain and around the world.
Polly Jones is head of campaigns and policy at the World Development Movement.
Public meetings and protests against TTIP will be taking place across Britain this week, culminating in the national TTIP Day of Action on Saturday July 12. For more information on TTIP and full details of meetings and protests visit www.nottip.org.uk.
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