This is not a Surprise

As far as trade agreements are concerned, the recent focus here on Techdirt and elsewhere has been on TPP as it finally achieved some kind of agreement — what kind, we still don’t know, despite promises that the text would be released as soon as it was finished. But during this time, TPP’s sibling, TAFTA/TTIP, has been grinding away slowly in the background. It’s already well behind schedule — there were rather ridiculous initial plans to get it finished by the end of last year — and there’s now evidence of growing panic among the negotiators that they won’t even get it finished by the end of President Obama’s second term, which would pose huge problems in terms of ratification.

One sign of that panic is that the original ambitions to include just about everything are being jettisoned, as it becomes clear that in some sectors — cosmetics, for example — the US and EU regulatory approaches are just too different to reconcile. Another indicator is an important leaked document obtained by the Guardian last week. It’s the latest (29 September) draft proposal for the chapter on sustainable development. What emerges from every page of the document, embedded below, is that the European Commission is now so desperate for a deal — any deal — that it has gone back on just about every promise it made (pdf) to protect the environment and ensure that TTIP promoted sustainable development. Three environmental groups — the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth Europe and PowerShift — have taken advantage of this leak to offer an analysis of the European Commission’s real intent in the environmental field. They see four key problems:

The leaked text fails to provide any adequate defense for environment-related policies likely to be undermined by TTIP. For example, nothing in the text would prevent foreign corporations from launching challenges against climate or other environmental policies adopted on either side of the Atlantic in unaccountable trade tribunals.

The environmental provisions are vaguely worded, creating loopholes that would allow governments to continue environmentally harmful practices. The chapter lacks any obligation to ratify multilateral agreements that would bolster environmental protection and includes a set of vague goals with respect to biological diversity, illegal wildlife trade, and chemicals.

The leaked text includes several provisions that the European Commission may claim as “safeguards,” such as a recognition of the “right of each Party determine its sustainable development policies and priorities” but none would effectively shield environmental policies from being challenged by rules in TTIP.

There is no enforcement mechanism for any of the provisions mentioned in the text. Even if one were included, it would still be weaker than the enforcement mechanism provided for foreign investors either through the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism or the renamed investment court system.

This is how this is really supposed to work.

You make promises to protect the people, and then declare that an agreement is essential, so you cannot keep those promises.

The goals of these deals are, and have been for as long as I remember, has been to screw the ordinary citizen at the for the benefit of the already obscenely rich.

Leave a Reply