I propose that the Progressive Unionist Party of Northern Ireland should on this day, enshrine in policy, its resolution to oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Proposer, William Ennis (East Belfast)
Seconded by Cllr Dr John Kyle (East Belfast)
Ladies and gentlemen, delegates, fellow Progressive Unionists, the resolution I have tabled today concerns TTIP. This stands for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. TTIP is a series of trade agreements currently being finalised between the European Union, and the United States government. An agreement which we are told is set to open up avenues of business between Europe and America.
So what is so wrong with that? You may ask. After all, as a party, we are not anti business by any means.
The problem delegates is that whilst the proponents of TTIP claim it will generate trade and investment the reality is that many, including organisations such as war on want, the Global Development and Environment Institute and patients4nhs.org believe that it will degrade safety standards, lead to job losses, legitimise unaccountable kangaroo courts and infringe heavily upon democracy and the privacy of citizens. It would bring the most naked and damaging violation of the Sovereignty of this United Kingdom seen in many years.
The first point I’d like to raise is the Harmonisation of regulations
TTIP seeks to align safety standards and practices here in the UK with those of the United States.
In this country safety standards are of a much higher standard than those in the US.
As highlighted in an article published in the Independent entitled what is TTIP? 70% of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now contain genetically modified ingredients; by contrast, the EU allows virtually no GM foods. The US also has far laxer restrictions on the use of pesticides. It also has growth hormones in its beef which are restricted in Europe due to its links to cancer. US farmers have tried to have these restrictions lifted repeatedly in the past through the World Trade Organisation and it is likely that they will use TTIP to do so again.
The same goes for the environment, where the EU’s… regulations are far tougher on potentially toxic substances. In Europe, a company has to prove a substance is safe before it can be used; in the US the opposite is true: any substance can be used until it is proven unsafe. As an example, the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics; the US, just 12.
TTIP would lead to job losses in the EU.
The EU has admitted that TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US and have even hinted at support funds to compensate for it. I would suspect of course that such compensation would make several shrinking rounds of stops before arrival at any of the UK or European households which would be crippled by their loss of income.
Jeronim Capaldo of Tufts University, Medford USA has published a paper for the Global Development and Environment Institute entitled The Trans-AtlanticTrade and Investment Partnership: European Disintegration, Unemployment and Instability.
Capaldo opens his report by explaining that “the underlying logic is the same as in traditional liberalizations: reducing the costs of trade – whether eliminating tariffs or other impediments – is supposed to lead to a higher trade volume and an overall economic benefit. Unfortunately, experience has shown that this appealing reasoning is often misleading… Using the United Nations Global Policy Model we simulated the impact of TTIP… We find that TTIP would lead to net losses in terms of GDP, personal incomes and employment in the EU. In particular we project that labour income’s will decrease between 165 Euros and 5000Euros per worker depending on the country. We also project a loss of approximately 600,000 jobs, a continuing downward trend of the labour share and potentially destabilizing dynamics in asset prices.”
For me the most frightening aspect of TTIP is the threat it poses to democracy.
TTIP would put in place secret unaccountable courts.
These are known as Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) and are an extremely undemocratic process whereby a team of Corporate Lawyers are appointed to hear a case between a corporate organisation and a government. These mechanisms would have no accountability and given their corporate make-up, very little inclination to be impartial. They are for the purpose of over-riding democracy and they pose the greatest threat to the public services of this United Kingdom, including our NHS, certainly in my lifetime.
Consider a scenario. A local council democratically elected by the community takes a decision to end the use of a product manufactured and sold by an American owned multinational company; perhaps because that product has been less than impressive or perhaps because that product has been proven to be dangerous and/or of poor quality. That American multinational then sues that local council in a sham corporate court which is unaccountable and unrepresentative, and wins, as it would. That loss of money is your child’s playground, your local clinic or your or your spouse’s job.
It sounds a bit farfetched doesn’t it? It sounds like I’m scare-mongering perhaps?
John Hilary, the executive director of war on want has twenty years of experience working on the issues of trade, investment and globalisation. He delivers us the following chilling warnings…
Phillip Morris, the international tobacco company is currently suing the Australian Government for its legislation insisting that cigarettes be sold only in plain packaging, a policy intended to reduce the number of young people who take up smoking.
Violex, a French company is currently suing the government of Egypt for raising it’s minimum wage, a policy intended to combat poverty.
Acmea, a Dutch owned company has already successfully sued the government of Slovakia for reversing very unpopular health privatisation bill.
In addition patients4nhs.org reveals from its research that the American company Renco has sued the government of Peru for $800 million because “its contract was not extended after the company’s lead smelting operations caused massive environmental and health damage.”
All of these attacks on democracy have been launched through ISDS courts, the kind to which David Cameron would like to expose our NHS.
Delegates in preparing this resolution the most sinister thing of all became apparent. All the sources, research papers and articles I gathered gained their information via leaks or Freedom of information requests. The secrecy of our Government on this trade agreement is the most disturbing consideration by far.
My primary concern is for the safeguarding of our National Health Service. It is a public service the people this United Kingdom can ill afford to lose and the very thought that it could be forced to consider some American’s sales figures ahead of what is best for your child, your spouse or your grandparents health doesn’t bear thinking about.
The idea that our NHS might fall completely into private hands leading to your child’s exclusion from the accident and emergency ward due to your lack of a credit card doesn’t bear thinking about.
The French government have shielded its national film industry from TTIP and if he so desired, the Prime Minister could do the same for our NHS. But he has no inclination to do so. You see the reality is that David Cameron is rich, he doesn’t need the NHS. The people in my street aren’t, and do.
I further warning which has been highlighted by the what is TTIP article published in the independent reminds us of ACTA (The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). This was a proposal presented before the European Parliament in 2012 which would not have looked out of place in George Orwell’s novel 1984. It demanded that internet service providers keep tabs on every individual’s on-line activity. Having been clocked for the obscene invasion of personal freedom that it was, the European parliament rejected it overwhelmingly. It could be brought back. Indeed this is yet another way in which TTIP could be used to by-pass democracy. An easing of data privacy laws and a restriction of public access to pharmaceutical companies’ clinical trials are also thought to be on the cards.
I commend the other Northern Irish parties that have already resolved to oppose TTIP the DUP and Sinn Fein among them, well done folks; I won’t play politics with this issue. We should all work together on this one.
So let the Progressive Unionist Party add its voice to the great many already demanding that David Cameron do the right thing.
For the most of my political journey I have been pro-European. I like the idea of a European Union. A forum where Nations can clash over a table because the way I see it, better to clash over a table than on a battlefield, better to fire arguments than to fire missiles. I always cherished the Idea of having a referendum on our United Kingdom’s membership of the EU so that I could register my support for it, so that I could vote ‘in’; but someone recently asked me, ‘what would change your mind William? What would make you a Euro-sceptic?’
(Holds up notes)
To those who would have us leave our safety standards vulnerable to compromise, our democracy over-ridden, and our public services left to the mercy of profiteers, to those who would threaten our jobs and to those who would threaten our privacy, let us, the Progressive Unionist Party of Northern Ireland say, no surrender.
Fellow Progressive Unionists, I implore you to support this resolution.