Several dozen people from a variety of campaigns around York gathered in King’s Square York from 12 midday to warn people against a major trade deal being negotiated between the United States and the EU, which protesters say threatens democracy, the environment, and public services including the NHS. The York protest, featuring people dressed as ‘fat cats’ with puppets, was one of almost 20 demonstrations planned across the UK on 12 July.
The theme of ‘fat cats’ and ‘puppets’ was chosen to represent the democratic controls that this ‘trade agreement’ will hand over to multinational companies. The range of groups involved was unprecedented: Defend Our NHS York, World Development Movement, JustYork, York People’s Assembly, York Green Party, Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party.
Talks on the EU-US trade deal, also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), began in 2013. The next round of negotiations starts in Brussels on 14 July.
The deal aims to set up a secretive ‘court’ in which multinational companies can sue governments if they think a law might harm their profits. Tobacco giant Philip Morris is currently using a similar court to sue the Australian government for billions of pounds because Australia introduced plain packaging for cigarettes.
The deal would also limit workers’ rights, slash food, safety and environmental standards in the UK and the rest of Europe down to much lower US levels. Products like hormone-treated beef and pork, and chicken washed in chlorine, could go on sale in the UK.
The deal could also give big companies power to force further marketization and privatization of the NHS and education. Mick Phythian from York People’s Assembly, on behalf of the coalition of interested groups said that: “The EU-US trade deal is not really about trade. It’s about putting big business before ordinary people, and allowing companies to override elected governments. It’s a massive corporate power-grab. But there’s huge opposition to it, here in the UK, in the US and in other countries in Europe. If enough people stand up against this deal, we can stop it.”