Time for TTIP?

People in the EU, US and the rest of the world are becoming increasingly concerned about the proposed trade treaty (TTIP) between the EU and the US.

Potentially, further increasing free and fair trade between two large trading blocs can provide economic benefits, but there will be costs as well. As with all agreements there should be a net benefit to both sides and all concerned parties.

The negotiations are currently being conducted in secret and after public pressure the negotiating positions have been released. This has led to lots of speculation as to what will be contained in the final draft. Of particular concern are the ISDS mechanism which has the potential, if implemented poorly, to inhibit the actions of democratic bodies, which is a massive concern. The history of outcomes by such international tribunals should serve as a warning for caution in setting up new ISDS arrangements that don’t address past problems.  There are also possible changes to regulatory structures which cause concern because they concern the very basics of life, food standards, which are becoming an area of increasing concern generally.

What is very strange, is that the main political parties in the UK say they are in favour of the agreement, whilst pressure groups generally say they are not. What? How can anyone possibly say they are in favour or against something which the contents of are yet unknown? Especially when the net benefit can only be ascertained by looking at the detail and seeing how it applies to the economies. It’s like there is something in a box and people say it’s a good or a bad thing, before someone opens the box and has a look at what it is.

So, a wait and see approach seems the sensible thing. Except it isn’t, which is what concerns me the most. The democratic accountability for decisions about this treaty are incredibly weak. The UK parliament will be given a minimum of just 21 days to scrutinise a long complex document, hold public debates, seek legal advice and come to a decision, 21 days? The EU parliament will be faced with the same question. Also this is not a negotiation or an oppurtunity to improve upon or remove controversial elements, it’s a yes or no, for a complex agreement which will a contain a mixture of good and bad things. This from the US and the countries of Europe who fought long and hard for democracy in the first place.

So, there seems only one logical position, to reject TTIP. Use the precautionary principle of not accepting something until it has proven itself and won the argument. A ‘no’ then allows for the contents of of the agreement to be properly analysed, and where there is broad agreement , a new treaty can be signed after a full public consultation, maybe even a referendum (I know), beneficial cooperation between the US and the EU can be increased and democracy can triumph. If it is a good agreement that benefits everyone then people will support it and it will be implemented. Yet the political establishment don’t want this, which makes people like me, concerned about what they are hiding?

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