The Stop TTIP petition was the focus of our action on Tuesday, 21 July from 11am to 2pm in St Helen’s Square, York. At least a dozen of us shared the task of publicising the dangers of this US/EU deal and getting passers-by to sign. To catch the public’s attention, a giant inflatable pencil dominated the Mansion House end of the square. Hazel Palmer reports…
The petition calls on the EU to stop negotiations with the USA on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which have been going on in Brussels and Washington since July 2013. They have been held in an extraordinary level of secrecy, which protesters feel needs breaking. The inflatable pencil is touring Europe, having come to us via Germany and France, and most recently Glasgow, accompanied by the Romanian couple who designed it.
Among those who signed were people already affected by the Government’s austerity measures and horrified at the prospect of more privatisation. One of the detrimental aspects of TTIP is that many parts of the NHS and other public services would be sold to US corporations. Their sale outside this country would make it even less likely that these services could be renationalised.
Some people said they would like to know more before signing but had at least had an opportunity to find out something about this toxic treaty. A nun promised to pray for us!
The reason for opposition to TTIP is that it is not what it pretends to be. Although it is called a trade deal, its purpose is not the usual one. The negotiations do not revolve round a reduction in import duties. They involve a reduction in standards and a transfer of power from democratic government to unelected corporations.
An example of the reduction in standards is the following: in America, cows can legally be fed growth hormones so that they grow faster, saving money. However, the hormones can cause cancer in humans. Under TTIP, our standards would be lowered to those of America.
Perhaps the most objectionable clause is one that undermines democracy and the value of our legal system. It allows corporations to sue governments for loss of profits; neither in our courts nor courts in the US, but in private tribunals separate from any country’s legal system. There is no guarantee that the lawyers aren’t biased and there is no appeal.
This is not just in the future. Under a similar treaty, Egypt has been sued for introducing the minimum wage. Australia and Uruguay have been taken before tribunals for changing cigarette packaging to protect their people’s health.