Why TTIP is not just an EU–US problem – And what you can do about it

By Cornelia Reetz, Stop TTIP European Citizens’ Initiative

 

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US is hotly debated. Critics fear a lowering of standards for agricultural products, public service provision and labour standards due to regulatory cooperation and particularly the introduction of so-called Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS). ISDS is a technical term for private tribunals that allow foreign investors to sue states if they find their investments and profits are adversely affected by state measures, even laws and regulations that are meant to protect public health, the common good or the environment.  

For trade justice campaigners the dangers posed by TTIP are not entirely new. TTIP is a bilateral investment agreement (BIT) like many others. The EU or EU Member States currently hold more than 1,200 BITs with third countries. Most of them are with developing nations and contain ISDS.

According to a new report released on 3 March by Fair Trade organisation Traidcraft, countries around the world are exploring alternatives to BITs in an attempt to regain their sovereignty and keep costs down. The number of ISDS cases has rocketed from 10 known cases in the beginning of the 1990s to 568 cases by the end of 2013. This is particularly problematic as developing countries are usually at the receiving end of disputes and that can be very costly. Even if the investor loses, legal costs are on average US$8 million. If the state loses or a settlement is reached, compensation payments can amount to many millions, sometimes billions of US$. This means that states sometimes don’t introduce new regulations simply because they are threatened by an investor with a lawsuit. This happened for instance in Togo, where the government planned to introduce health warnings on cigarette packages. Despite this being a measure that is proven to reduce smoking and lower public health costs, these plans were dropped after Philip Morris threatened to start an ISDS case. 

 

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It might not seem fair that TTIP is now receiving so much attention, considering the problem with ISDS has existed for many decades. However, the controversy around TTIP can help to shed a light on unfair BITs. If we manage to stop TTIP, this would have a knock on effect on the entire system, opening a window of opportunity for reforms. That’s one of the reasons why we started a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to stop TTIP and  CETA, a similar agreement with Canada. More than 1,600,000 people have signed our ECI in the past few months and we want to collect many more signatures until the deadline when the campaign ends, 6 October 2015. The Stop TTIP alliance that is running the campaign consists of more than 400 organisations – trade unions, consumer watchdogs, environmental and development organisations – from all over Europe.  

 You can support us in a number of ways. First of all, please sign the ECI if you haven’t done so yet. Then tell your friends and family about the campaign and repeatedly post it on Facebook and Twitter. Download signature collection sheets in almost all European languages to collect in local shops or public places near you. You can also participate in the Global Day of Action against free trade agreements on April 18. There will be hundreds of activities all over the globe. Together, we can stop TTIP and CETA! 

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