What we don’t get a referendum on
Like most people, I wear many hats (metaphorically). Readers of this blog will have become familiar with the woolly bobble-hat of my Christian/churchwarden mode, and also with the frilly bonnet of my writer-and-reader/book-lover persona. But there are others, and today I’m wearing the flat cap of the wishy-washy socialist.
I have been a member of the Labour Party since I was eighteen at least, although my actual involvement has oscillated somewhat over the years. (The 1997 election was a high point. For a few days in May that year, all of Scotland seemed to be rejoicing.)
Anyway, I’m now in a “slightly-more-involved” period, and the other night actually hosted the inaugural meeting of a small campaign group for Broxtowe Labour Party; a group that combines two interests: Climate Change, and TTIP.
We’re worried about climate change. So, you know, we want to encourage people to be aware of what they can do about climate change, maybe promote the issue within the party policy forums, help to hold the government to account after the Paris summit. We know what this is about.
TTIP? What’s that?
My readers may all be better informed than I was. I knew there were some kind of proposals that lefty organisations were opposing, that might allow multi-nationals to sue governments for not allowing them to make profits.
I am currently ploughing through some literature on the subject. I now know that:
TTIP stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and refers to ongoing negotiations about freeing up and encouraging trade between the US and the EU. A similar agreement, TPP, deals with the US, Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific countries, and has just been signed.
Opponents of TIPP (and TPP) are concerned that such agreements a) are being negotiated in secret, b) aim to encourage or even enforce the “lowest common denominator” in terms of regulation of say food standards and workers’ rights (currently tougher in the EU) or the financial sector (currently tougher in the US), c) allow companies to sue governments in secret arbitrations without a right of appeal (ISDS is the technical term, standing for Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement) for huge sums of compensation on the grounds that, say, a government policy is preventing them making a profit, and d) could even enforce privatisation on public services against the wishes of a country’s government.
(See for example an article by Lee Williams in the Independent at www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/what-is-ttip-and-six-reasons-why-the-answer-should-scare-you-9779688.html).
Some people say this is scare-mongering, and there are protections in place, or being put in place. There is a website, Alliance for Responsible Commerce, set up to be pro-TTIP. But if any or most of the concerns raised by charities like Global Justice Now, formerly World Development Movement, are justified, then TTIP surely represents a potential loss of sovereignty by the British and other European governments (the US government too, for that matter) in favour of the interests of multi-national companies, and their overriding “right” to make more and more money.
I thought these companies had quite enough power and influence already. Don’t most of us think this?
I don’t want to be unfair, and I actually don’t believe that all governments are automatically in the pocket of business and are necessarily indifferent to the welfare of the people.
So does anyone know what the evil or problem is that TTIP is supposed to be addressing? Who is going to get richer, as a result of this agreement? Who authorised our governments to take such risks on our behalf, and do ordinary citizens get a vote on the result of the negotiations? What does David Cameron, referendum-lover, think?
From the PPI Blogger
PS Following last post’s review, I have had two books recommended to me: “Kissing Fish” by Roger Wolsey, and “The Bible Tells Me So” by Peter Enns. If I read them, I will report!