Brexit: What now for TTIP, CETA and UK trade?
The UK was key to the worst elements of TTIP. Now the British people must ensure we never see its like again. This article was first carried by Huffington Post.
In the space of two years, trade - via the secretly negotiated EU-US deal TTIP - has gone from esoteric policy interest, to the heart of the biggest social movement in Europe for a generation, to an often misunderstood feature of a vitriolic referendum campaign.
TTIP and its parallel EU-Canada deal CETA have caused outrage across Europe. TTIP in particular often grabbed headlines during EU referendum campaigning.
And in a post-Brexit UK soon to be shorn of trade deals including its World Trade Organisation country commitments, trade will be front and centre of new policy-making for the foreseeable future.
Many will now rejoice that for the UK TTIP is dead in the water. Indeed, Brexit may be the killer blow to the deal across Europe. But while the UK has escaped TTIP’s corporate clutches as an EU member state, if the deal does survive the big picture will be a little more complex.
Key to understanding why TTIP may still have an impact on the UK is appreciating the extent to which the deal is intended to enable the EU and USA’s neoliberal agenda to be the template for world trade.
Defeated in previous attempts to secure a pro-business but anti-people and planet deal, the EU and USA simply decided to sidestep multilateralism to impose their will on the rest of the world.
As a secret meeting between the European Commission and Exxon Mobilrevealed, the Commission has been shamelessly colluding with the world’s biggest corporations to assure them that through TTIP they can force countries outside the deal (“third countries”) to accept its terms: the eradication of social, health and environmental protections, the locked-in privatisation of public services, and a private justice system so corporations can sue governments for any policies hitting their profits.
As the head of policy at the organisation which wrote the official report into TTIP told a House of Lords committee on TTIP: “They [third countries] obey those rules or they do not export [into Europe], just like Switzerland.” And now, the UK.
As for CETA, the danger is still very much clear and present: the European Commission intends for the deal to be sealed and implemented ahead of a formalised Brexit and without any national parliament votes. Crucially, elements of the deal could apply to the UK even after Brexit.
In the EU, the UK was the most neoliberal country in an avowedly neoliberal bloc.
The UK government opposed any reforms being made to the toxic ISDS ‘corporate court’ mechanism in TTIP and CETA and buried research it commissioned showingnegative impacts of ISDS on the UK. It ensured UK MPs could not read the secret texts of the deal when it could have granted them access. It has led the charge - against the wishes of the Obama administration - for financial deregulation to be included in TTIP.
It doesn’t stop there. The UK chose to include the NHS in TTIP when it could have excluded it, and the government then refused to release legal advice it received on threats to the NHS from the deal. And in spite of David Cameron’s “greenest ever government” claims, the UK teamed up with Canada, the US Trade Representative, BP and Shell to demolish rules that prevent high-polluting forms of oil from entering Europe - with profound implications for climate change and consequently the lives of millions in the global South.
It is this neoliberal elevation of corporate profit above democracy, human rights and protection of the environment which the UK is now free to follow unilaterally in trade deals - unless the British people come together to stop.
EU trade policy has been nothing short of devastating for Southern countries. In this regard, TTIP was little more than the same policies that have destroyed lives and livelihoods in the global South being turned onto Europe by its own leaders, with scant regard for any semblance of democratic process.
Brexit has created the potential greater democratic control of trade deals. And we must ensure we use that to craft a trade policy that is geared to justice for the many rather than profits for the few.
Mark Dearn is Senior Trade Campaigner at War on Want.