TTIP, CETA, TISA: We need to call time on zombie trade deals

Frances O'Grady says TTIP, CETA and TiSA are 'zombie trade deals'

Frances O’Grady says TTIP, CETA and TiSA are ‘zombie trade deals’

By  TUC General Secretary

Trade affects everyone’s lives. It affects the job you can get, the pay you receive and of course the goods you can buy. But trade policy and negotiations like those being conducted for TTIP, CETA and TiSAaffect a lot more than that, and come with huge risks for our society. I’ll be speaking at European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström’s Trade Policy Day today, and making the case for a more active and more social European trade policy.

Trade negotiations now are about harmonisation of standards, not just bringing down tariffs. So protections covering the world of work, the environment and consumers, are also affected by trade policy. Trade negotiations also affect our public services and democracy when they contain Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and other special courts for foreign investors.

The row we saw in the European Parliament this month over foreign investors’ special privileges in TTIP proves that old-style ISDS is dead. No one supports it any more, on the left, on the right or in the Commission.

And yet, zombie-like, ISDS stumbles on in the Canada – EU deal, CETA, unreformed, unamended, and unacceptable. If Commissioner Malmström – and almost everyone else who knows about investment deals and trade – accepts that old-style ISDS has had its day, why is she still trying to foist its undead presence on us through CETA?

As unions, we’re in favour of fair trade not just free trade. Trade must create decent jobs with wages you can live on. The TUC has a long history of supporting trade agreements based on tariff reductions that improved living standards and increased jobs by expanding trade.

But unions on both sides of the Atlantic reject the compensation culture that is building up in multinational companies, where suing democratically elected governments becomes more remunerative than actually providing a service.

It is an affront to democracy for investors to be able to use ISDS or any special court system written into trade agreements to overturn the decisions of governments to pass legislation for the public good, like raising the minimum wage, introducing plain packaging on cigarettes protecting the environment or bringing public services back into public control. It is not good enough to be reassured that our public services will not be part of trade deals, as we have been by our own Prime Minister as well as the European Commissioner. We need a clear carve out for public services, broadly defined, and we need it in writing in all these deals. If audio-visual services can be excluded from TTIP, why can’t our vital public services be off the table too?

The history of trade agreements so far negotiated by the EU doesn’t bode well for workers. In Korea, after it had signed a trade agreement with the EU, trade union offices were raided and the General Secretary of one of the union confederations was thrown in prison in 2013. The only result from the Commission to Korean authorities was a letter of complaint. Look at the billion dollar settlements that foreign investors who claim their rights have been violated have received through ISDS and the injustice is clear.

If ISDS falls in TTIP but gets through in CETA, that would open the door to US firms established in Canada to sue European governments, regardless of what gets put in the EU-US deal.

Trade agreements must be made in the public interest to have public support. The TTIP, CETA and TiSA zombie deals currently on the table fail this test miserably, and the strong opposition they are facing from unions in many affected countries will continue unless these fundamental issues are properly addressed.

Take action: Write to your MEP ahead of their next vote on TTIP

Take action: Sign our TTIP petition to MEPs on Care2.com

This blog was first published on the Touchstone blog site.

This entry was posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, European Employment Rights, International Employment Rights, New Generation Of Trade Agreements, UK Employment Rights. Bookmark the permalink.

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