Can Europe Make It?

Are we reaching the TTIP tipping point?

The TTIP could be the end of democracy as we know it. Join us for a global day of action this Saturday.

Morten Thaysen
9 October 2014

Anti-TTIP protest in Berlin. Demotix/Bjorn Kietzmann. All rights reserved.

In secret the EU and the US are negotiating a new trade deal that would involve a major transfer of power from the public to unaccountable corporations. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is heralded by its advocates as a ‘free trade’ deal that will strengthen economies on both sides of the Atlantic.

But TTIP has little to do with trade – tariffs between the EU and US are already minimal. Instead its provisions are aimed at undermining regulation that protects workers, consumers and the environment and granting unprecedented legal powers to corporations. Despite a virtual media blackout on the deal, however, the movement against this corporate power grab is growing.

One of the most alarming and undemocratic aspect of TTIP is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which allows companies to sue governments for making policy changes that could hurt their future profits. Looking at the effect of ISDS in similar cases around the world suggests this could have significant implications for the ability of the state to legislate in the public interest:


  1. Egypt is currently being sued by Veolia for raising the minimum wage and stands to lose $80million as a consequence.
  2. Last year, Slovakia was forced to pay over €22million to Dutch insurer Achmea when it attempted to introduce public health insurance.
  3. Argentina was successfully sued for over $1billion by water and electricity companies (including EDF) for freezing utility prices.
  4. Canada is being sued for $500 million by big American drug company, Eli Lilly, who claims a Canadian court’s decision to reject a patent on one of their drugs (because it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do) is depriving them of “expected future profits”.


ISDS, then, could act as a major deterrent to any future UK government considering whether to renationalise the parts of the NHS that has been sold off to big business, tackle the spiralling energy prices of the Big Six energy companies in the UK, or ban fracking. 

But the corporate power grab does not stop there. TTIP is also set to “harmonise” regulation between the EU and the US, which threatens a regulatory “race to the bottom”. This could lead to the undermining of worker’s rights such as the right to collective bargaining and the right to holiday; the undoing of regulations to protect the environment, giving harmful industries like fracking an easier ride; the removal of food safety regulation to allow new GM crops, hormone pumped beef and chlorine washed chicken in Europe.

The primary argument that politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders have made in TTIP’s favour is that it will bring jobs and growth. Indeed, a study commissioned by the EU on the effects of TTIP has shown that the trade deal would lead to between one and two million at least 1 million (and up to 2 million) job losses across the EU and the US.

This is consistent with the effect of previous “free trade” agreements in other parts of the world such as the North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, the USA and Canada. Just as it has been the result of previous free trade agreements in other parts of the world.

With regards to growth, Lord Livingston’s promise of £10 billion pounds extra growth to the UK per year has been strongly criticised by economists such as Dr Gabriel Siles-Brugge for being inaccurate and hugely overblown.

Lately British politicians have taken to more extreme measures to try and combat (rather than addressing) the growing public discontent with TTIP. Lord Livingston has accused campaigners for being “anti-American” even though the US campaign against TTIP also is growing strong.

And last week George Osborne attempted to rally big business to publicly defend the free market ideology against the mass of civil society organisations and trade unions that are opposing it. When politicians start to beg corporations for help to defend their policies, it is a strong sign they are in trouble.

But the movement against TTIP and other undemocratic free trade agreements is growing. In July there was a day of action in the UK in which thousands people took part action in 20 places in the UK. Now, this Saturday 11 October, a much expanded mobilisation is taking place – there’ll be over 300 protests across Europe involving tens of thousands of people.

Stretching from the Canary Islands to Scotland, Finland and Greece, actions will be taking place not just in big cities, but also in small towns and rural areas. In the UK people will be rallying in Parliament Square, doing flash mobs in Edinburgh, engaging in ‘no TTIP tours’ of Bristol and Leeds or involved one of the many other actions.

With this scale of mobilisation, it is not difficult to see why the political establishment are worried. Working with people around the UK to fight TTIP I’ve seen NHS workers join forces with small local businesses and anti-fracking activists come together with trade unionists to campaign. If we work together we can do much more than defeating TTIP, we can fight for a new democratic and fair economic system free from corporate control.

Join me and tens of thousands of other activists on Saturday to say no to TTIP.

Get weekly updates on Europe A thoughtful weekly email of economic, political, social and cultural developments from the storm-tossed continent. Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData