by Dr. Vandana Shiva – L’Huffington Post, 3 February 2015
“Free trade” agreements like TTIP are presented as enhancing trade, and hence helping economies to expand. The reality is that “free trade” agreements enhance the rights of global corporations, at the costs of the rights of citizens, guaranteed under constitutions. “Free trade” for people, translates into un-freedom for people.
The TTIP being negotiated between the US and Europe is an example of how citizens rights and democratic processes are threatened.
Firstly, the negotiating process itself is secretive and non transparent. Secondly, at the heart of TTIP are ISDS clauses – investor state dispute settlement clauses – through which foreign investors can sue governments in international arbitration courts if they feel that their rights are being violated. Since corporate rights are about seeking markets and profits at any cost, all democratic decisions made by people to protect the public interest become subjects for ICDS suits. When the people of Germany voted to be nuclear free after the Fukushima disaster, Germany was sued by a Swedish Company Vattenfall for more than 3 billion Euro. Uruguay was sued by cigarette company Phillip Morris for health warnings on cigarette packs.
As the Greens in Europe have stated: “Democratic decision-making is forcefully going under the knife through international arbitration. The accused states have only two options: either they can be like others and take back the decisions they have made, or they can pay huge sums in compensation to the investor.”
Thirdly, it is the food and health safety standards put in place through democratic processes in Europe which are targeted in TTIP. Food and farm issues being negotiated under TTIP include: GE crops, GE labeling, animal drugs and hormones, animal welfare, livestock antibiotics, chemically washed poultry, nanotechnology, and other issues.
The GMO debate is already intense across the Atlantic. Europe has stayed GMO free because its decisions were based on science and democracy. A major difference between the US and Europe is the use of the precautionary principle. In Europe if science cannot determine risk with certainty, then the precautionary principle applies, and a product is not placed on the market. The US corporations are questioning decisions like the ban on neonicotinoids which have been implicated in the death of bees.
If TTIP goes through, European country bans on GMOs and hazardous pesticides will go. Given the control of agrichemical and biotechnology corporations on what is touted as science, TTIP threatens to dismantle all food and health safety in Europe. Once European laws and policies are dismantled, the rest of the world will be more vulnerable.
The final threat from TTIP comes from Intellectual Property Rights which are defined as property in the creation of the mind and the “recognition for the moral and economic rights of creators over their creations”. However, seeds and life-forms are being sought to be treated as products of the mind. In the US, where this false and unethical jurisprudence has crossed all limits, farmers are being sued for saving seeds, for growing crops from seeds bought in the market (as in the case of Bowman vs Monsanto). Farmers are even sued when their crops are contaminated by GMOs. My open letter to President Obama pointed out the multiple distortions in the US IPR law.
TTIP is not about trade. It is about whether corporations will be free to destroy our lives and freedoms, or we will stay free to shape democratic, free, just societies.
This post is also available in: Italian