After many twists and turns, MEPs decide today what sort of Transatlantic Trade and Investment deal (known as TTIP) they want the European Commission to negotiate on their behalf with the USA.
Negotiations were launched with many grand statements at the G8 Summit in Lough Erne in July 2013. TTIP was to be Europe’s saviour from austerity and to be the blueprint for all future world trade, wherever it takes place in the world.
Two years on and negotiations have been far from smooth. It was always going to be challenging to find common ground between the EU and US on public procurement, financial services and agriculture. But what has really got in the way has been the tremendous public opposition to TTIP itself. People do not want a trade deal which lowers hard won food, environmental and labour standards; weakens public services; or gives new powers to corporations to sue governments if public policy harms their profits (known as Investor State Dispute Settlement or ISDS).
Trade deals have traditionally been about lowering particular tariffs for imports and exports of goods from one country to another. Trade is not as simple as that any more and for TTIP tariffs are a tiny part of the negotiations because tariffs between the EU and US are virtually non-existent these days. Trade in TTIP is about issues that are relevant and important to us all: from which services are publicly provided, to the safety of the food on our plates; from the regulations which keep us safe at work, to the very decisions governments can make in the best interests of us all. TTIP is so broad, we have every reason to be bothered about its contents.
“People do not want a trade deal which lowers hard won food, environmental and labour standards; weakens public services; or gives new powers to corporations to sue governments if public policy harms their profits.”
But trade deals are not negotiated with any real democratic accountability. On TTIP we have seen democracy thwarted at every turn.
As a direct result of thousands of emails, tweets and public meetings, MEPs will decide today the sort of TTIP they want agreed. While MEPs are only agreeing a statement on TTIP which has no obvious part in the negotiating process, it will influence the way the European Commission proceeds with negotiations. This is because once the negotiations are complete, MEPs will get a vote to accept or reject TTIP. The Commission must ensure it negotiates a deal which is likely to get accepted.