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Ttip: It’s not about trade!


The most important fact to know about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is that promoting trade is not really the purpose of the deal. With few exceptions, traditional trade barriers, in the form of tariffs or quotas, between the United States and European Union (EU) are already low. No one would devote a great deal of effort to bringing them down further, there is not much to be gained.

The pursuit of free trade is just a cover for the real agenda of the TTIP. The deal is about imposing a regulatory structure to be enforced through an international policing mechanism that likely would not be approved through the normal political processes in each country. The rules that will be put in place as a result of the deal are likely to be more friendly to corporations and less friendly to the environment and consumers than current rules. And, they will likely impede economic growth.

In a wide variety of areas the EU has much stronger protections for consumers and the environment than in the United States. For example, the United States has a highly concentrated mobile phone industry that is allowed to charge consumers whatever they like. The same is true for internet access. As a result, people in the United States pay far more for these services.

Fracking for oil and natural gas has advanced much more in the United States than in Europe. It is part of TTIP because it is largely unregulated. In fact, the industry got a special exemption from laws on clean drinking water, so that they don’t even have to disclose the chemicals they are using in the fracking process. As a result, if they end up contaminating ground water and drinking water in areas near a fracking site it will be almost impossible for the victims to prove their case.

These are the sorts of regulatory changes that industry will be seeking in the TTIP. It is unlikely the governments of individual European countries or the EU as a body would support the gutting of consumer and environmental regulations. Therefore the industry groups want to use a “free-trade” agreement to circumvent the democratic process.

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