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|THE TRANSATLANTIC TRADE AND INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP (TTIP) has progressed from an obscure technical deal into a contentious issue among European citizens. Originally touted as a rationalisation of troublesome double regulations holding back trade between the United States and the European Union it has sparked tens of thousands of demonstrators to confront President Obama in Germany and inspired 1,600 cities, municipalities, and regions across Europe to declare themselves ‘TTIP-free zones’. Chief of the many drawbacks which critics see in the proposal is the setting up of special courts (ISDSs) in which multi-national companies could sue governments if they believed their profits would be lowered by measures such as minimum wages or health and safety regulation. The treaty now appears to be caught between this public pressure and the secret demands of the U.S. administration. A leak of the negotiations showed the American side trying to dilute EU environmental and consumer protections while inserting themselves and their industry into discussion on any future European legislation. This has proved too much for President Hollande who declared that ‘We do not support free trade without rules’ as his trade minister Matthias Fekl said it was ‘most likely’ that the negotiations would stop. Although the controversial courts would be made more transparent under EU amendments||
||objections could be fatal as it is thought that any probable winner of the U.S. presidential election in November is likely to be a lot less keen on the deal than Obama. Trade unions have generally not opposed the idea of TTIP and the similar proposed deal with Canada known as CETA in principle, seeing an opportunity to include labour rights requiring foreign investors to uphold core International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards. However the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is clear that the negotiations are on the wrong course: ‘we do not see our negotiators moving towards the 21st century agreement that we have been promised, but rather more of the same old corporate-style trade deal’ declared General Secretary Luca Visentini and his American counterpart, the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka. The United Nations Conference on Development (UNCTAD) is also calling for reform of International Investment Agreements. TUC delegate Rosa Crawford drew attention to the ‘regulatory chill’ that sets in when governments are afraid to even pass reforms in case they are hit by a massive compensation claim by a company in the special court. She used as an example the failure of New Zealand to enact plain packaging laws for cigarettes after Australia was sued by Philip Morris,via ISDS, for similar legislation.|
The free trade barriers go up
magistrates have already dubbed the new version, the investor court
system (ICS), unlawful. Other possible road blocks include the U.S.
system of testing products such as machinery which is locally-based and
not subject to reform by the TTIP negotiators. Delays caused by
AS THE DECISION DATE APPROACHES for the EU to rule on China’s Market Economy Status (MES) MEPs from all parties agreed in a recent European parliament debate that it wasn’t. Concerned particularly by the steel industry (see our last issue), where China is accused of exporting 112 million tonnes onto the World market at below market prices, MEPs pointed to the fact that the country is involved in 28 out of 38 current European Commission anti-dumping investigations. Gianni Pittella, leader of the Socialists and Democrats group, insisted ‘As things stand today, despite progress, China is not a market economy’. Even the liberal ALDE group concurred: ‘We share the concerns about state interference, the creation of overcapacity and lack of transparency’ said Marjete Schaake. ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini agrees: ‘The European Union has clear criteria for market economy
status and China clearly does not meet them’ he said, referring to its failure to pass four out of five tests set for it by the Commission in 2008. The Chinese government argues that when its transitional status as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) expires in December it should automatically be granted MES as a full member. However the EU is likely to be supported by the U.S.A., which currently slaps a 266% tariff on Chinese steel, in delaying such a step. Commissioner Andriukaitis, who accepted that China was ‘undeniably’ not a market economy, told MEPs that he was working on a ‘new approach’ that would allow the EU to defend its industries whilst complying with WTO rules. This was already out for public consultation and had received over 5,000 responses, an orientation debate had been held and a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers was due to discuss the matter.