TTIP — Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership — sounds innocent enough, but its range is frightening. And this trade deal being negotiated between the EU and the USA is SECRET. Even members of the European Parliament can read the draft documents only under supervision,and they are not allowed to take phones, tablets, computers or pens into the locked room where the documents are kept. It’s all about protecting commercial interests, you see.
We do know that about 3.2 million people have signed an anti-TTIP petition to the European Commission, and that if the treaty comes into force, open competition in the supply of goods and services — health, education, media and more — will favour powerful multinationals over small local businesses and community not-for-profit enterprises.
TTIP is profoundly, alarmingly anti-democratic. From what is known so far, it would give businesses power over governments. If a corporation believes a government law or regulation would reduce its profits, it could take that government to court. As it stands, a secret court.
More in ‘Solving the Grim Equation‘, pages 191-194
Official launch on Tuesday July 7th — ‘Solving the Grim Equation’, published by Cambria Books and written by me, Pat Dodd Racher
Upstairs at The Angel, Rhosmaen Street, Llandeilo, at 7.30pm.
Author and One Planet Council patron David Thorpe will lead a question and answer session and discussion.
The Grim Equation means that increased consumption now will result in lower consumption in the future.
Exciting pioneer projects in Wales show that families can reduce consumption dramatically and use less energy, and still live happily. Pioneers have had to battle against hostility in local government, but thanks to the Welsh Government’s ‘One Wales One Planet’ policy the chances of projects being approved are increasing.
The One Planet Development policy, and guidance in Technical Advice Note 6, and the establishment in Wales of the One Planet Council, can give Wales a leading role in the inevitable One Planet future — because we have only one planet on which to live.
Finding hard data on transnational corporations’ share of world trade is complicated. Perhaps the data is scarce because it is not in corporations’ interests to highlight the extent of their private trade flows, but whatever the reason, accurate information for the public is limited. The ‘shadow’ website http://www.gatt.org, which sharply criticises the World Trade Organisation (WTO), estimated[i] that just the 200 largest multinationals accounted for 28% of global trade. In corporations’ eyes, that was nowhere near enough. They want to grow, grow, grow, but the WTO’s Doha Round talks drag on and on inconclusively, and they became impatient.
So talks on three huge neoliberal trade agreements are currently under way, as far below public consciousness as possible. They would embody staggering concessions to corporations, in the form of investment treaties enabling corporations to sue governments for policy changes detrimental to corporate interests.
The first of the Super Three is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), between the USA, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia. Talks, which began in 2008, explore means of opening intellectual property and public services to open competition.
Secondly, the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), involving the EU and 20 other countries, came on the horizon in 2012. TISA would cover health, education, energy, water and drainage services, construction, finance, banking, insurance, transport and retailing, opening them all up to corporate competition. Such a deal would surely mean the end of public control of the UK’s National Health Service, because corporations would be able to sue governments for policy changes they disliked.
Summer 2013 saw the launch of talks between the EU and the USA on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The theme is competition right across the economy, including health and education, with corporations empowered to challenge prudent regulations, including regulation of finance, as barriers to trade.
Just why governments are so keen to hand power over to corporations is hard to fathom, unless politicians feel they are all on the same side – the side of private exploitation. Policy changes to which corporations objected would be impossible, unless the offending government, at the very least, paid compensation at full ‘market’ value plus compound interest.
Today’s generation of politicians and their negotiators are, it seems, intent on signing away democratic rights in perpetuity. How come they feel empowered to do this? Because they rely on people, us, not objecting in sufficient numbers to make a difference.
[i]www.gatt.org/trastat_e.html, accessed on November 6th 2010.
by Pat Dodd Racher
Who notices when a ‘service’ mutates into a tyranny? What, in fact, does a tyranny look like? These questions rose to the top of my over-cluttered mind on Saturday, November 17th 2012, at the first ‘Independence Day’ gathering, held in Wesley Methodist Church, Frome, Somerset.
The dominant topic was supermarkets and how to stop them closing down our town centres, but the issue is much wider and relates to the power of money, money used to finance psychological research; money for marketing and blanket advertising; and money to buy influence over political processes.
It’s also about the failures of local communities to create more humane alternatives. It’s about public spaces and how to protect them. It’s about resistance to apathy.
The many stories we heard of battles against supermarket giants gave me an acronym, PFUDS.
PFUDS stands for keep to the Point, communicate Fast, Use the skills and methods at your disposal to maximum effect, Delegate, and Simplify.
The hardest of these, I reckon, is Simplify. Distilling the complexities of reality into a memorable message is complicated, and failure means that your campaign is likely to sink with a negative pfud.
Another big message from the day was the importance of a positive vision. Just being against a supermarket development is not enough – there has to be a vision for a more satisfying future.
Keep Frome Local, the organisers, lined up an impressive range of speakers. Andrew Simms, of the New Economics Foundation and the author of Tescopoly, talked about the social benefits of small shops within communities, as places for meeting and for exchanging news good and bad. In the USA, he said, studies about the impact of mega retailer Walmart on communities showed that wages fell, voter participation fell and social contact declined.
Rob Hopkins, founder of Transition Towns, said that several local authority chief executives he had met recently were aware that years of economic growth had come to an end, and that more local resilience would be essential. Neil Lawson, chair of the left-leaning campaigning organisation Compass and author of All Consuming, spoke about the capture of the political system by what he called the consumer-industrial complex. Shop less, he said. Judith Whateley, co-ordinator of the Tescopoly network, stressed that there was no substitute for scrutinising the volumes of planning documents which have to be submitted with each application, to find points to challenge. Several speakers, including Dave Chapman of Bridgwater Forward, drew attention to the importance of communications with planning officers and councillors. In Frome itself, the group Independents for Frome has a majority on the town council.
The colourful presence of the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft, Bristol, included wares from their bone china decorating workshop, adorned with political and campaign slogans and graphics. The china has been rescued from closed-down factories in the Staffordshire Potteries. Brilliant idea from innovator Chris Chalkley, I thought.
Richard Hadley from Ledbury told how the townspeople defeated applications by both Tesco and Sainsbury. They used similar marketing techniques to their superstore opponents, and stressed economic damage, job losses, traffic hell, shop closures and falling house prices. They beat the superstore operators at their own game. Joanna Blythman in discussion with The Guardian’s John Harris spoke about the Fife Diet, a local eating campaign in Scotland and part of Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming. Joanna, author of Shopped: the Shocking Power of British Supermarkets, and of other books, has long campaigned against the superstore model of food retailing.
Independence Day was truly national, with participants from Scotland, Wales and all over England. For me it was a valuable educational workshop on campaigning – thanks also to David Babbs and Alex Lloyd from 38 Degrees – and now attention turns to ‘What Next?’ in the effort to revive retail diversity and end the rise of monopolies and with them the high risk of a tyrannical application of combined commercial and political power. Walmart in the USA is a form of tyranny, and I don’t want to travel any further down the road towards it, paved though it may be with good intentions.
The news is like being buzzed and occasionally badly stung by a cloud of wasps. There is too little time to react to each sting, to consider how to prevent them, before the next and the next. The news is a series of events – shootings, floods, fires, droughts, famines, crashes, explosions, unexpected deaths, race wins, tournaments, knock-outs, election successes, election losses.
The cameras speed in, speed out, and capture for a few televised minutes the impacts of prior decisions without properly interrogating those critical decisions. The occasional bit of ‘good news’ is put in to try and cheer us all up, but is often over-dramatised with hyperbole, such as Bradley Wiggins’ victory in the Tour de France being labelled ‘the greatest ever sporting achievement by a Briton’. A wonderful achievement for Mr Wiggins personally, but brought about by the complex support system that builds a top modern cycling brand.
The visual age ushered in by cinema and then by television has, I think, made it harder for us to think in abstract terms. We praise people and we blame people in circumstances that they do not control, because we can visualise people but not ‘circumstances’ or ‘systems’.
Bradley Wiggins is British cycling at its best, but Mr Wiggins – or Wiggo as even the BBC has called him – did not assemble the money that has made the Sky team he rides for, or British cycling overall, so successful. Money achieved the fine-tuning of bicycle and kit design, money paid for the coaches, the nutritionists, the physiotherapists and the other highly qualified back-room experts. Who sponsors the Sky cycle team? News Corporation is a sponsor. Who heads News Corporation? The chairman and chief executive is Rupert Murdoch, as we all well know.
Professional sport is about marketing, marketing is about brands, brands are owned by corporations, and corporations’ power is hijacking governments around the world. The ‘Monsanto coup’ in Paraguay last month is a current example.
We can’t see ‘power’ on our TV screens, and so we tend not to look for it. That means we let it grow, unseen, while we concentrate on people, their prowess, fame, fashion and lifestyle. While they can do amazing things, they – we—are the visual manifestations of the networks of money and power that are hidden from sight and thus also hidden from accountability.
When we say ‘We need to see the bigger picture’, we are identifying a problem: we can’t see context because it is not a picture, but a synthesis of complex and inevitably incomplete understandings.
 Statement in ‘Sky and Jaguar laud Bradley Wiggins’ historic cycling win’, by Daniel Farey-Jones, www,marketingmagazine.co.uk, July 23rd 2012.