TTIP stands for TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which under the guise of a free trade deal, allows the largest corporations to seize ever more power away from people and even governments.
It is a far reaching agreement which in its present form includes a device known as ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement). This would bind signatories to a system of courts run by corporate trade lawyers who will decide cases on ‘free trade’ merits alone, without any democratic mandate, and without reference to environment, justice, rights, health, or any other such criteria.
Under ISDS, a corporation can take action if their future profits might be affected by any legislation brought in at any level.
Given that the sort of legislation likely to affect corporate profit would be things like workers’ rights, health and safety, environmental concerns, or human rights, it’s not hard to see how undemocratic and exploitative this treaty is likely to be.
Notable cases heard under ISDS clauses in established trade deals have already seen Argentina sued hundreds of millions of pounds for freezing energy prices to help its citizens after economic collapse, Egypt sued for raising the minimum wage, and Australia spending millions of dollars trying to defend its recently introduced cigarette plain-packaging laws from an attack by Phillip Morris.
Despite the deafening silence of mainstream media, a grassroots and global movement is growing to raise awareness and fight this dangerous deal, including the World Development Movement, and huge petitioning and campaigning groups like 38 Degrees.
One of the many issues highlighted for the UK is the effect the new law might have on the NHS, as it would not only give private health companies an undemocratic leverage over current plans, but also compensate them huge amounts of money if future governments reverse any privatisation with a democratic mandate.
Yesterday’s Westminster action was part of a pan-European call-out, with more than 400 events planned around the EU.
Several hundred activists gathered in Parliament Square to listen to speeches by various campaigners before heading on to Westminster Bridge for a banner drop.
Their sheer weight of numbers ended up closing the Southbound carriageway for a while, which simply added to the chaos enveloping Westminster as thousands of Kurds also staged a sit-in at Whitehall.
There, they hung their huge ‘#noTTIP Hands Off Democracy’ banner over the side of the bridge, while a throng of press photographers tried to capture a decent image hampered by the bright sun above Parliament.