Campaign groups have claimed that a transatlantic trade deal between the EU and the US will impact on democracy and give corporations more power over a range of issues such as climate change and the environment.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a proposal to create a trade free area covering Europe and North America. An agreement has been under negotiation since last year and if agreed would become the biggest deal of its type. Supporters of the deal claim it will boost economic growth and jobs.
A campaign against the deal has been set up on the 38 Degrees Campaigns by You website. As of Wednesday lunchtime, the petition had received almost 4,000 signatures.
The campaign says, “[The trade deal] claims to improve international trade but is used by big international corporations to make it impossible (or at least very difficult) to impose environmental regulations and propositions if they are against their interests.
“It’s already being used in many parts of the world to kill regulations protecting people and the living planet.”
Through an investor-state dispute settlement, which grants a foreign investor the right to initiate dispute settlement proceedings against a foreign government, corporations can gain additional powers and block changes. Furthermore, panels of corporate lawyers, rather than a court, enforce the rules.
Speaking to the Guardian last year, one of the judges on these tribunals said, “When I wake up at night and think about arbitration, it never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to investment arbitration at all… Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulation emanating from parliament.”
An example of the power this gives big business is demonstrated in the case of tobacco company Philip Morris and the Australian government. Philip Morris is currently in the process of suing the Australian government for loss of intellectual property after the country decided that cigarettes should be sold in plain packaging. The company was able to start proceedings through a trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong although a decision has yet to be reached.
Campaign group World Development Movement is also calling on MPs to stop EU-US trade talks arguing that it will put the UK at risk of being sued for enacting a wide range of laws. The organisation added it has the potential to negatively impact on social and environmental protection.
Nick Dearden, director of the World Development Movement, said, “These talks are about embedding the power of big business into our society – guaranteeing corporations more privileges in public services, the environment, food safety and much more.
“It’s terrifying because this deal will set a new global standard which in time will affect almost all countries in the world.”