TTIP has to be stopped before the rich gain more power than ever

John Hand

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Massive oil companies and large corporations can have devastating effects on Ireland if TTIP goes ahead. Photo credit: Flickr

It is interesting that The Transatlantic Trade Agreement (TTIP) has not made any headlines yet. After all, it does favour the rich, big corporations and big companies.

So how have the big players in the media industry missed out on reporting this?

Oh yeah… it favours the rich, big corporations and companies. Now I can understand why that guy who owns a massive chunk of our media is not reporting on the issue. Some of his mates might want to come into the country and get a bit of cash off our taxes we pay.

Let’s not stray too far off the point… or get sued.

But journalist have to let the people know what this has agreement has the potential to do.

TTIP could have devastating effects on Ireland.

To put in as simple terms as possible: It’s an international trade agreement between America and Europe which will let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people.

This happens by giving firms the right to sue to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation when a law is passed which will affect their profits.

What can be allowed under this trade agreement is water privatisation, GM foods and fracking among many others.

This will mean our government will go and sit in front of corporate lawyers to listen to corporations suing governments over policies and laws they have in and look for compensation. And these Arbitrators are getting paid $600-$700 an hour, and all have worked in big corporations.

So take a look at Veolia – a multinational water company. They took the Egyptian government to court for intervening in their profits after Egypt brought in a minimum wage.

Essentially meaning, corporations can come into countries, lower the working standards and when they are accounted for, they can hit back by suing the government through this court of arbitration.

As well as all of this, we have our government cheerleading Investor-Sate dispute settlement. (ISDS).

This is a way to basically avoid our laws with special laws for these corporations.

As academic Barry Finnegan wrote: “This point was well made by Business Europe (the lobby organisation for 35 European national business federations – including our own IBEC) in their document, Why TTIP Matters To European Business, where they explained how they want to be able to use ISDS in TTIP to overthrow the right of the Americans to use the US constitution to protect themselves. They explicitly state: “If in the US a domestic law is adopted after TTIP enters into force and its content violates the [TTIP] Agreement, it can still be found constitutional by domestic courts. So the only possibility for the investor to ensure its adequate protection is to bring the claim to international arbitration.”

Again, this is overthrowing Irish laws in their interests, as well as overthrowing American laws.

One of the concerns with TTIP is the Tobacco industry.

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Tobacco industries could sue the Irish government for millions if not billions of TTIP goes ahead. Photo credit: Flickr

Tobacco organisations sent legal letters to the Irish government when they announced plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarette packets.

Three companies filed those letters to the Irish government:

-Phillip Morris

-Imperial Tobacco

-Japan Tobacco International Limited

Minister for Children who began the work on these laws whilst minister for Health, James Reilly came out against these measures. And it was a laudable response.

He told Newstalk: “They would seek to intimidate us with their billions they have in turnover.

“But we’re a sovereign state. We’re a republic and we reserve the right to have public health policies that protect our people and in particular our children from ever picking up this killer habit.”

But this statement is complete hypocrisy when you take into account the Irish government is actively supporting ISDS in trade agreements, which is shown by the letter which one signature on it is Richard Bruton’s, to the Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom for the inclusion of ISDS in TTIP.

YouTube / Comhlamh – via Iframely

Phillip Morris, the biggest Tobacco industry in the world, said in its legal letter: “As a dance is only meaningful when danced, so a trademark is only meaningful when used.” Sorry, what?

A statement like that can be used as a point in argument because Tobacco companies can argue it affects their profits.

And Tobacco companies are already suing the government without any ISDS agreement in place.

This will become more common if TTIP goes through because it will enable corporations from around the world to sue governments over changes to law and legislation.

And as above with Tobacco companies, they can have a detrimental effect on legislation across the board but on health and environment issues in particular.

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Journalists are not doing enough to inform the people about the consequences of TTIP. Photo credit: Flickr

Phillip Morris is currently suing the Australian government for the exact same measure of no branding on packaging.

Australia’s Tobacco Plain Packaging Act was passed in August 2011.

The argue that the introduction of the Tobacco Plain Packaging legislation constitutes an expropriation of its Australian investments under the 1993 bilateral investment treaty (BIT) between Australia and Hong Kong.

Philip Morris is using the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism to challenge the Tobacco Plain Packaging legislation and sue the Australian Government. The OECD have estimated that expenses for a single ISDS case can amount to $8 million – for legal and arbitration fees alone. Award payments would be additional to this figure and awards can and do amount to millions and billions of euros.

Are these concerns credible? Because when you look throughout history at ISDA’s ‑ they have failed time and time again.

Initially it was a good, credible idea. The bilateral trade agreement between Germany and Pakistan in 1959 was the first with the intention to encourage foreign investment by protecting investors from discrimination. But it has turned out to be a disaster.

And that can be seen with the German government when they decided to shut down their nuclear power industry following the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The Swedish company Vattenfall which has operated two nuclear plants in Germany demanded €3.7 billion under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments. This is still under arbitration.

In 2012 in the likes of these pursuits, 59 began. In 2013, 56 began.

The below graphic shows the investor-state dispute settlements from 1987 to 2013 which shows worrying signs:

TTIP pic

Occidental Oil Company has got the highest award yet from these cases, with $2.3 billion against the Ecuador government over the termination of an oil-concession contract.

We cannot go ahead with this. It will cost the taxpayer billions. It favours the rich and wealthy. It has devastating effects on work forces and standards on health issues.

Yet there has been very little or no coverage in the national papers or broadcasters on this. Why? Because it favours the rich as well as the big corporations and big companies.

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John Hand