TTIP over the edge

WE JOURNALISTS need to write about TTIP and give it a good kicking. That was War On Want Executive Director John Hilary’s message to the NUJ PR & Communications Branch December gathering.

First, he checked how many of had a clue what he was talking about. About two and a half of the 20 present professed knowledge anywhere on a scale from expertise to just being able to spell out "Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership".

It;s a deal the European Commission and the USA are negotiating behind closed doors which, by Hilary’s account, if concluded, could crush economic and political democracy beneath the weight of free-market moneybags.

Even so, "it's struggling to get coverage in the mainstream media," he said, although the negotiators' stated objective is to dig Europe and US out of present economic lowering standards of regulated minimum pay and conditions for workers, and of safety controls on food and medicines; pushing denationalisation in all spheres; and making those changes very hard to reverse.

For instance, parts of the UK's National Health Service are privatised under the Health And Social Care Act. A subsequent government trying to renationalise could be sued by any multinational involved, not just for any current loss but for hypothetical loss of profit in the future. So any government democratically elected on a "renationalisation" platform could finds its plans and promises scuppered by corporate muscle backed up by a binding treaty.

Hilary did allow that this is happening to a degree already, with a Swedish nuclear power company suing Germany over their post-Fukushima nukes ban, Philip Morris suing Australia and Uruguay over anti-smoking regulations, and a French company suing Egypt over minimum wage increases.

Asked about the effect on media he said that, so far, France had secured some protection by pressing for the continuation of the EU "exception culturelle" under TTIP (against UK and German opposition). If sustained, this could help guard non-commercial outlets such as the BBC against corporate litigation.

However, Hilary concluded with "the good news" - that "a fantastic resistance movement across the world, especially among trade unions" has begun (the latest UK TUC Congress passed a motion of opposition to TTIP), and that whatever the final draft of TTIP included, it would have to come before the European Parliament and it could be defeated there if enough pressure is brought to bear on the social democratic bloc (to add to, in this case, aligned if not allied left and right opposition). Which is why the whole subject could be an open goal for some well-informed, investigative journalism...

Last modified: 02 Mar 2015 - © 2015 contributors
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