The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) spoke out against The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) today, calling them fundamentally anti-democratic and toxic to European societies.
TTIP is a number of trade negotiations taking place mostly confidentially between Europe and the US. TTIP’s bi-lateral trade agreement is to break or reduce the regulatory trade barriers for large corporations, such as food safety law, environmental legislation and the sovereign powers of individual nations can potentially be hugely compromised.
The Union of Students in Ireland said there are six key areas of Irish, and indeed European, societies that can be warped because of TTIP, including the HSE, food safety, environmental preservation, privacy, employment and democracy.
“Our main concern with TTIP is that its primary aim is to open up Europe’s public health services to American corporations, which could mean the privatisation of the HSE.” Kevin Donoghue, USI president, said. “TTIP’s regulatory convergence agenda is to bring EU food safety standards closer to the US. The US has a lot less strict regulations than the UK does. 70% of all processed food in America now contains genetically modified (GM) ingredients, compared to the EU which allows almost no GM foods. US meats, such as beef, have growth hormones, which is currently banned in Europe because of its links to cancer. USI is also extremely concerned with the threats to our environmental preservation, should barriers be broken by TTIP. In Ireland, and the rest of Europe, companies must prove substances are safe before they are brought to market whereas in America, substances can be used until they are proven to be unsafe.”
99% of the substances banned by the EU are still legal in the US. The EU has banned over 1,200 substances in cosmetic sales, but the US has only banned 12. In terms of privacy, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was rejected by the European Parliament in 2012 because it was seen to infringe on people’s right to privacy by requiring internet service providers to monitor their customer’s online activity. It is speculated that TTIP aims to bring back the skeleton of ACTA.
“Altering someone’s right to privacy could lead to altering their security.” Kevin Donoghue, USI president said, “People need a type of sphere where they’re guaranteed to be free of interference, surveillance or monitoring. Privacy is vital for development through private conversation, intimate relationships and your autonomous right to control information about yourself.”
Labour and trade union rights are lower in the US. If jobs switch to the US it will most likely cause unemployment in the EU.
“The biggest toxin in TTIP is its anti-democratic nature.” Donoghue said, “One of TTIP’s priorities is to introduce Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a direct loss of profits for the business. We’ve seen immoral, unethical and virtually uncontrollable samples of this before in Germany where Vattenfall, a Swedish energy company, is suing the German government for billions of euro because of its decision to phase out nuclear power plants after the Japanese Fukushima disaster, which resulted in major profit loss for the energy giant. A government’s public health policy undermined and threatened by a major corporation because of profit loss is utterly toxic and anti-democratic.”