Women for Independence National Committee Member Victoria Heaney has been campaigning against TTIP. She has written this blog to explain why.
If you have been hearing a lot about TTIP and are wondering why so many folk are still talking about that music festival, then you're not the only one.
Unfortunately TTIP comes with a bigger health warning than any festival. Although it is not in force yet, it is being hurried through the European Parliament with little democratic consultation with those who it will affect the most. Those people are us.
The proposal appears friendly at first. It aims to increase jobs, drive up the economy and make it easier for the EU and USA to do business in a range of areas. What could we not like or support about that strap line eh? After all don’t the global corporations who are pushing this (aggressively) have our and our children’s best interests at heart?
First of all what it actually is and what does it mean?
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade deal between the EU and USA. It is designed to make trade easier for both sides of the Atlantic by reducing compliance costs and cutting trade tariffs by “harmonising” regulatory barriers. If you replace the harmonising with the word diluting it helps to get sense of the real meaning behind the term. It has also been referred to as a covert vehicle which will push the privatisation agenda for all public services due to its ability to allow private firms bid for public contracts. (NHS, Education, Social work, Residential Services and the Prison Service, etc)
What are regulatory barriers?
Regulatory barriers are in place to protect us and to keep us safe from trade from outwith the EU. This is due to other countries (such as America) having less stringent laws when it comes to workers’ rights, welfare provision and public health.
TTIP aims to reduce the barriers between the EU and the USA, and make the regulatory regimes more compatible. Essentially this means that whichever side has the weakest safety standards, this will be the bench mark. The EU works on a cautionary legislative practice, proving things are safe before they are used using research, testing and evidence. The US in contrast works on the premise that things can be used before they are found to be unsafe (think about Erin Brockovich and the case against the gas company contaminating water).
One of the many aspects of this deal will affect how our food is farmed and the process it will go through before it reaches our plate. The difference in food standards between the EU and US is remarkable. It is common practice for meat and poultry to be rinsed in chlorine before going to the shelves in the US. This practice has been proven to mask the hygiene of the food and create carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds. This is prohibited in the EU with only water being permitted to be used when rinsing. There is also the issue of importing meat and poultry from the US that has been injected with growth hormones that are known carcinogens and at present are banned from our shelves. Moving onto cosmetic products, the EU has banned more than 1200 substances from cosmetics because of their potential risk to our health, whilst the US has banned only 12. This also applies to products that we use on children and babies.
This is a huge concern for public health as it is now looking possible that if this deal goes ahead we will have no inclination as to what we are consuming, due to clever packaging that does not identify these additives, additives which were once banned from our supermarkets and shops.
Another concern is the impact this will have on local farming communities in Scotland and across the EU. Small ethical and organic companies will be unable to compete against biotech firms that want to dominate the entire market with genetically modified food disguised as economic and family friendly.
The message that we are being sold is that food will be rock bottom cheap, despite the growing evidence of the health implications associated with over processed food.
Living in a world of TTIP
TTIP not only affects our food laws but opens the door for companies to come in and bid for public services. As we face increasing cuts to public services, local councils all over Scotland are looking for ways to make efficiencies and to cut jobs and services. Things we see as fundamental staple services that we rely on are now facing the prospect of being broken up and sold off to faceless companies. The NHS immediately springs to mind, but if we drill down further to things like homecare services, after school care and the education services, we can start to grasp the potential scale.
Our public expenditure budgets are now viewed as potentially profitable contracts by our American neighbours.
What if we resist public services being privatised? Don’t worry the global corporations are all over it with a nifty piece of jargon called ISDS (Investor Trade Dispute Settlement). This allows companies to sue the government if they feel they are being unfairly done out of business. This is already happening in America right now with McDonalds taking Seattle to court, stating that the new minimum wage of $15 (£7) per hour is damaging the companies’ profits. When we see the progress that Scotland is making working towards introducing a living wage we have to be aware that there is room for this to be undone under a TTIP deal.
Data Protection and privacy also enter this debate as the TTIP proposal could allow companies to force public services to hand over personal information in order to market services. Imagine sitting at home and getting (another) cold call from a health company who knows your family's medical historyseeking to register you for their new healthcare firm that they claim can treat you better than your local GP, dentist, chiropractor etc. It opens the door for scaremongering sales tactics.
What can we do about this?
The fight to stop TTIP will only be won by a collective struggle, by political parties and people from Scotland and from the rest of Europe coming together to say No to the deal.
The difficult part is that this deal is being done in secret behind closed doors in Europe with no democratic consultation with MSPs or MPs. It is so full of jargon that it is a minefield, making it difficult to grasp the direct impact that this will have one working people.
Stay in touch with your local WFI group and other grass roots movements to keep abreast of action around this matter.
A Scottish Coalition against TTIP was launched earlier this year which Women for Independence are part of.
There will be an international day of action against TTIP on the 11 of October this year join us if you can. http://www.nottip.org.uk/nationaldayofaction/
For more information check out Global Justice Now and sign the petition trying to stop the corporate power grab.
Lobby your MEP, MSP and MP and state that you are saying no to TTIP and urge them to do the same.
Victoria Heaney worked with the Radical Independence Campaign during Scotland's independence referendum. She has since been elected on to the National Women for Independence Committee, and is its youngest member. She leads for Women for Indy in the campaign against TTIP.
WFI Maryhill are hosting guest speakers from Global Justice Now at a meeting on August 12th. This will be a great chance to find out more about TTIP. More details here.