Genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Fracking. Environmental destruction. Pharma drugs at the expense of natural healthcare. Corporations suing governments when laws get in the way of profits. All these and more are in store with two new ‘free trade’ agreements – and they’re being negotiated in secret. The choice is clear: stand up against this now, or see more of the power balance swing in favour of the largest and richest corporations.

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TTIPing the balance toward corporate power

This is as serious as it gets. The governments of the richest nations on earth are planning to hand over the reins of power to unelected representatives of profit-driven businesses: the ultimate in crony capitalism. Their chosen method? Two new ‘free trade’ agreements (FTAs), the European Union (EU)/USA Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the USA and 11 Asia–Pacific countries.

FTAs are designed to remove supposed barriers to trade, such as tariffs on imports, between individual countries or trading blocs like the EU. Politicians hail them as absolutely necessary to boost the gross domestic product (GDP) of participating nations, create jobs and drive development – promises that always seem to translate into increased profits for big business at the expense of citizens and the environment. What’s more, they sit at the top of the hierarchy of legislative threats to natural healthcare, rivalled only by the supra-national Codex Alimentarius framework.

NAFTA on steroids

The proposals contained within TTIP and TPP go way beyond even the infamous North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The TPP has, in fact, been described as “NAFTA on steroids” or ‘TAFTA’. Both the TTIP and TPP are being negotiated behind closed doors – a gigantic red flag that something dodgy is going on, despite the EU’s claim that more openness “would be like showing the other player one's cards in a card game”. To ensure the passage of the final TPP draft into law, President Obama is attempting to introduce legislation to ‘fast track’ the TPP – bypassing Congress’ constitutional duty to closely examine trade policy by restricting it to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. In a rare bipartisan display, Republicans and Democrats alike oppose Obama’s move, which could eventually prove crucial to defeating them.

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What are the issues?

Some TPP/TTIP documents have been leaked during the negotiations, so we do have some idea of what’s in store. These are some of the most important features that have come to light so far:

  • Regulatory harmonisation and mutual recognition of standards, not ‘free trade’, are key to the TPP/TTIP proposals. This is recognised by the Office of the US Trade Representative []. The EU is more cagey, stating: “Harmonisation is not on the agenda...Vehicles, medical devices and pharmaceuticals are three areas where there is particular scope for regulatory convergence
  • Harmonisation will be in the direction favoured by the corporations. So, for example, comparatively strict EU GM regulations are likely to be watered down via the TTIP to approach the biotech-friendly US model. This stands in stark contrast to EU assurances that “basic laws, like those relating to GMOs or which are there to protect human life and health, animal health and welfare, or environment and consumer interests will not be part of the negotiations”. However...
  • ‘Investor–state dispute settlement rights’ will give corporations the ability to sue national governments “for any loss of future profits resulting from any government action, such as the introduction of new laws to protect the public or the environment
  • Once the TTIP is in place, a permanent, supra-national ‘Regulatory Co-operation Committee’ will be set up to drive the harmonisation agenda
  • The TTIP/TPP will clamp down on Internet freedom

What are some of the likely consequences for natural health?

  • An increase in fracking, thanks to investor–state dispute settlement rights being exercised by corporations 
  • Investor–state dispute settlement rights will allow corporations to sue for damages over any environmental protection, labour rights or other legislation they don’t like
  • Drug companies will be able to obtain longer, more wide-reaching patents for their products – while the US Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) will be seen as an obstacle to ‘free trade’ and harmonisation
  • TTIP harmonisation will accelerate the process whereby restrictive EU natural health regulation is exported to the US

Of course, since we’re relying on incomplete leaks for our information, we don’t know exactly what’s in the legislation. The effects are likely to be even worse than those we’ve listed above, and may explain why certain corporations have made significant and public ‘retreats’ in recent months.

Not a coup, but a succession

What we can say, based on what we already know, is that the TTIP/TPP represent the most brazen power grab in history by corporations. But consider this. Governments – represented by the EU, US and the 11 Asia–Pacific nations involved in the TPP negotiations – have willingly entered into the negotiations. It would be more accurate to describe this as an orderly handover of power; a surrender or succession, rather than a corporate coup. This implies planning on the part of both sides, which is bad enough. The outcome may be even worse: the implementing of an effective, prototype world government, run by corporations rather than by national governments.

Only we, the people, can stop this anti-democratic, anti-natural, anti-anything but naked corporate power agenda. It’s time to make ourselves heard, using all the available channels, so that those involved in the negotiations understand that we have had enough. It’s time to Say No to the TTIP.

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