By Manus Lenihan
Imagine if working class people in Ireland forced the government to abolish water charges and bring the water services under public control again. Imagine if, in the meantime, various multinational corporations had come in and taken over parts of the water services for themselves.
Protecting corporate profits
Under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), these companies would have the right to sue us directly for every cent in profits lost to them because of us taking our water out of their hands. An unelected troika of corporate lawyers, government advisors and gravy-train riders would decide behind closed doors whether the Irish government had “unfairly” impacted on corporate profits.
This process is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement” (ISDS). Today it’s used by corporations to shake down Latin American countries, for example when El Salvador tried to stop Pacific Rim from pumping arsenic into rivers in 2012. TTIP would allow this to happen between the US and the EU, setting loose a stampede of anti-worker, pro-corporate litigation.
Destroying our living standards
So we might see an EU-based company suing a US state for raising the minimum wage, or a US company suing a future UK government for trying to stop the privatisation of the National Health Service.
Another threat the TTIP poses is a drive to make life easier for rich people and harder for everyone else by scrapping regulations. The free-market fanatics in the US and EU establishment think that this will lead to hundreds of billions of euros being “created”. But in the real world, ending health, environmental, safety and labour laws equals huge profits for private companies, at the expense of wages and conditions, secure jobs, services, society and the planet.
Here is the wish lists of some of the biggest lobby groups pushing for the deal:
– US companies want free access to the online data of people living in the EU – and to hell with privacy laws.
– US food companies are outraged that they have to tell EU customers where their food comes from and what’s in it.
– EU food industry giants want the US Food & Drug Administration to stop its tiresome practise of recalling contaminated foods.
– Limits to financial sector gambling and scamming are in the firing line too – they don’t seem to have learned anything from the financial crash
Many people in Europe and the US are well aware of the threats posed by the TTIP. When the European Commission was forced to hold a public consultation on it, they were flooded with 150,000 contributions, mostly from anti-TTIP campaigners. The potential exists to derail this power-grab by the capitalist class and the trade union movement internationally must mobilise the power of the working class to stop it.