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Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

by A swedish kind of death Thu Jan 16th, 2014 at 01:27:47 AM EST

The EU informs us that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that is presently being negotiated under much secrecy will have positive results.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - Trade - European Commission

Independent research shows that TTIP could boost:
  • the EU's economy by €120 billion;
  • the US economy by €90 billion;
  • the rest of the world by €100 billion

That should be, according to Dean Baker:

Research by a pro-deal think tank shows that TTIP could in the best case scenario boost:

  • the EU's economy by €120 billion;
  • the US economy by €90 billion;
  • the rest of the world by €100 billion
in the year 2027, in 2027 euros. However it also shows that the more likely scenario is about 50 USD per person and year.


The US-EU trade deal: don't buy the hype | Dean Baker | Comment is free | theguardian.com

As growth policy, this trade deal doesn't pass the laugh test, but that doesn't mean that it may not be very important to a number of special interests and, for this reason, bad news for most of the public. Since conventional barriers to trade between the US and EU are already very low, the focus of the deal will be on non-conventional barriers, meaning various regulatory practices.

front-paged by afew


So what can we expect? Per Dean Baker, we can expect industries to try to minimise regulation on fracking and GMOs, make regulation on financial services irreleveant, force regulation of internet providers to police internet content and enhance the power of patents in pharmaceuticals.

This is all reasonable to expect and fits the established pattern of making "trade" deals in order to puch through changes in package that lack support in parliaments. However, there is a new twist.

Regulation - none of our business? | Corporate Europe Observatory

Citizens' groups on both sides of the Atlantic have repeatedly pointed out that on many issues such as health, food safety, consumer, environmental and data protection, the public interest is at risk of being sidelined, and concerns are spreading like bush fire. For that reason, revealing a massive all-in-one package of deregulation, with protection levels driven down to meet the other party's requirements, could be politically dangerous for the negotiators as it could lead to a rejection of the whole deal by citizens and even parliaments.

But that too has a solution.

Regulation - none of our business? | Corporate Europe Observatory

The business lobbies on both sides of the Atlantic have been painfully aware of the political complications, so for more than a year now, they have lobbied to convince negotiators about the need for long-term "regulatory cooperation" with new institutions and procedures that will allow them to capture regulatory decision-making more effectively and discreetly in the future.

While the US trade authorities have negotiated very ambitious agreements on regulatory cooperation in the past, the position of the EU in general and the Commission in particular has not been clear, including because of some  initial reservations to the proposals from business groups. However, a leaked document now shows that it has been won over completely. The document portrays a complicated system which will enable decisions to be made with no real public oversight or engagement, and with all doors wide open to business lobbying. Business will be involved from the beginning of the process, well before any public and democratic debate takes place, and will have excellent opportunities to ditch important initiatives to improve our food standards or protect consumers. Essentially, the proposal would allow business lobbyists to "co-write legislation".

So what it looks like is that instead of a package deal on the issues that all parliaments must pass - or else! - we will get get a package deal on the structures. Or a combination thereof. Parliments must still of course pass it - or else!

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by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 14th, 2014 at 08:10:11 AM EST
I'm not clear on the institutional process. Imagine that the EU and the USA sign this. There will be vast domains of economic (and human) activity within the EU which will be subject to  challenge by the US, on grounds of fair trade. There will be some organ of adjudication of claims.

Logically, EU law, and national law, would have to be amended in accordance with the treaty. If the treaty specifies that genetically-modified foodstuffs, or hormone-fed turkeys, are OK, than no entity within the EU would be allowed to ban it.

So the European parliament would have to change all the relevant laws, and every member nation would have to transpose that into national law.

Sorry, I can't see that happening. Not only will it take years, it simply won't go through.

So what's really going to happen? Is there some sort of fast track? Does the treaty automatically re-write our laws for us?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Jan 14th, 2014 at 10:37:18 AM EST
Perhaps this treaty supersedes EU and national law? Like WTO?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 14th, 2014 at 10:40:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
" Logically, EU law, and national law, would have to be amended in accordance with the treaty. If the treaty specifies that genetically-modified foodstuffs, or hormone-fed turkeys, are OK, than no entity within the EU would be allowed to ban it."

No, it's much "better". Every entity of the EU can ban whatever it pleases and pay compensation for these trade barriers. This is much more attractive than being allowed to sell GM food or hormone-meat and having the problem to make people buy it.

by Katrin on Tue Jan 14th, 2014 at 12:57:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm, yes.

I think Dean Baker is wrong, although his thoughts were exactly how I thought before today clicking around the Corporate Europe Observatory website. Because up until now, the method has been to do a deal that is as big as possible and try to ram it through while denouncing any opponents as backwards trade opponents.

However, if Corporate Europe Observatory is right in their interpretation of the leaks the US Chamber of Commerce and BusinessEurope has a new strategy. Instead of ramming through a big pile of stinking proposals, they will try to get a new structure in place that will then be used to water down existing regulations and halt new regulations (which also helps in getting around current regulations.

Regulation - none of our business? | Corporate Europe Observatory

Business interests on both sides of the Atlantic are pushing hard to get an institutional structure, an "oversight body", into the agreement, mostly referred to as an EU-US "Regulatory Council". This would be based on a set of rules for regulatory cooperation that would enable the parties to deal with their differences in a more long-term fashion, through procedures that will give business the upper hand. It might very well be that the final TTIP text will not include immediate concessions on public health and environmental regulation. But it could include an approach for the future, giving the basic message to citizens that regulation is none of their business, but first and foremost the business of business. 

Regulatory cooperation is a long term project. It is meant to deal with differences that could not be settled at the negotiating table at the highest level and also to respond to new regulations as they occur. In the course of the negotiations, the parties will see to what extent they can agree on common standards, or recognise each others' standards as basically similar. But in those areas where this is not possible in the short term, they will set up procedures to deal with them in the future. The idea is to make TTIP a "living agreement", not confined to what they can agree on in the first place, but a continuous process of ever deeper integration . That raises the prospect of the parties reaching a conclusion on even the most difficult issues, such as food safety. For corporations  from the EU and US, it raises hopes for better access to each other's markets including in sectors that meet obstacles today, and for that reason it is being promoted vigorously by the business lobbies on both sides of the Atlantic.

That formula has been pushed systematically by the business lobby since 2012; in particular, a proposal on "regulatory cooperation" from BusinessEurope and the US Chamber of Commerce is at the center of the debate (see box below on the two lobby groups).



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by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 14th, 2014 at 03:03:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here in the US, they've come to the realization they don't have to ram big legislation through and spend a lot of political capital to do it.  They control the regulatory agencies and can accomplish everything they need there.
by rifek on Sun Jan 19th, 2014 at 07:24:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
responding to "is there some sort of fast track?" I don't know. But as this is a mirror of the TPP agreement for the Pacific states, and there is most definitely a fast track section of that agreement... one might well assume there is one here as well.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 14th, 2014 at 04:17:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The primary purpose of this treaty is, essentially, to clarify the institutional process.  Treaties themselves are institutions that obligate, but don't guarantee, the changing of laws and regulations and ways of doing things among signatory countries. As political economists have noted, the record of the WTO actually leading to major changes among signatories domestic laws and regulations is pretty mixed, even when required by the treaty. Essentially the WTO works as little more than big political endorsement for pro-trade advocates in domestic contests over policies of all kinds, not as a force of law in any way.

But given the long, deep, and comprehensive nature of trade, communications, and investment between Europe and North America, I'm not sure why anyone would think an agreement like this should be opposed, a priori.  Why shouldn't Americans and Europeans get on the same page regarding regulation of commercial activity between them?

by santiago on Fri Jan 17th, 2014 at 01:33:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic are sufficiently infected by neoliberal brain rot that any institutional revisions they make are more likely than not to be bad ones.

You generally do not want people who believe in absurd fairie tales to conduct major institutional revisions. That's how you get stupid ideas like Art. 123 written into your constitution.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jan 17th, 2014 at 01:45:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I first read the title I dropped the EL and read Transatanic Trade And Investment Partnership - probably a more accurate title. I recall from the summer of '60, in Political Science, one of my first university courses, the professor warning us that treaties, when confirmed, supersede the Constitution. Obama and the other national CEOs are such slimy corporatist, planning to slip this through before too many people notice. The only 'fast track' these turds need is one straight to Hell, to follow on with the misread.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jan 14th, 2014 at 11:55:31 AM EST
No, you got it right.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 14th, 2014 at 04:18:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember the Doha Round?

The World Trade Organisation?

The Doha Round started in 2001, under GWB's presidency. Bearing in mind his ideological horror of multilateral institutions, the collapse of negotiations in 2008 may be seen as one of his crowning achievements in foreign policy. It still exists in zombie form, but it isn't going anywhere.

Basically, the US doesn't want an fair, open, transparent international trade system. The US wants to negotiate leonine treaties bilaterally with everyone.

This would appear to be the the basis for the Pacific and European agreements they are currently negotiating. I suppose that most of world trade will be regulated by these two treaties.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Jan 15th, 2014 at 06:41:45 AM EST
eurogreen:
Basically, the US doesn't want an fair, open, transparent international trade system.

But it didn't mind international rules as long as they were the right rules. My impression of the Doha round is that once the south got their cooperation going the old model broke down. Once it was no longer EU, Japan and USA negotiating for real and everyone else getting stuck with ratification - or else! - the differences were insurmountable.

eurogreen:

I suppose that most of world trade will be regulated by these two treaties.

I think I saw it stated in the leaked document from TTIP that one purpose is to create global rules by covering a large enough area that the rest of the world has to simple adopt its rules.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jan 15th, 2014 at 08:49:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And those of us who believed that the election of Obama heralded a new era of multilateralism... oh well.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed Jan 15th, 2014 at 10:11:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Multibilateralism...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 15th, 2014 at 10:15:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Violent traces of NAFTA and Columbian FTA...
by das monde on Wed Jan 15th, 2014 at 09:28:20 AM EST
I can see where such negotiations might lead to an agreement that many of us do not like, but, with some strategic engagement by progressives on boths sides of the big lake, I can also see where regulatory homogenization can be a big win for progressive advocates on both continents as well.  Europe can gain from the more comprehensive and systematic nature of data gathering and reporting by industrial entities as occurs in the US and Canada, for example, if required in some way to implement the provisions of such an agreement. The US can gain from a European regulatory framework geared toward assuring more more environmental and local community sustainability and consumer protection than occurs in the US.

Of course industrialists will try to capture the process -- that's the liberal democratic process, after all.  But that doesn't prevent progressives from being in the contest and trying to capture as much of structure as well. I see more opportunity here than threats at this point, much more than in north-south trade agreements where the disparities of power are so much greater.

by santiago on Fri Jan 17th, 2014 at 01:42:47 PM EST
There are plenty of a priori reasons to oppose anything brokered by EPP-PES. Particularly anything they've brokered with the US State Department.

But we are also far enough along the process that we do not actually need to make any decision a priori. There's plenty of data to go by in the conduct of the process alone, and all that data points toward the proverbial fix being in.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jan 17th, 2014 at 01:54:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know. It looks like a lot of Dean Baker's concerns have been dealt with already or are being dealt with as advocates make enough noise to get them on the agenda, as its supposed to work.  For example, according the EU's negotiators,"

"ISDS is not about giving unlimited rights to multinationals to challenge any legislative measure taken by sovereign states in any area of regulation. Under TTIP, investors will not be compensated with taxpayers' money just because of a fall in profits due to a change in the law. Nor will it be possible for investors to override bans of practices like fracking. (emphasis mine)"
by santiago on Fri Jan 17th, 2014 at 03:19:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by das monde on Fri Jan 17th, 2014 at 03:29:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are three major red flags for me in this proposal.

The first is the subordination of regulators to "independent," so-called, third party arbitration. Regulators are fundamentally political control functions, and as such should answer first and last to parliament.

The second is the clear intent to further restrict states from imposing conditions upon cross-border money and security market activities. This is a clear destabilizing influence, because whatever they are in life, financial market players are very much national in death. The ability to restrict the movement of money across borders is therefore a vital national security matter.

Finally, I always keep a hand on my wallet and an eye on my constitution whenever somebody mentions "technical barriers to trade," or words to that effect. In the context of the European Union, this is almost always an attempt by the trade branch of the EU bureaucracy to usurp powers traditionally held by the regional development, consumer protection, or interoperability standards branches. And since the trade branch has a materially greater concentration of swivel-eyed neoliberal crazies, this is normally not a good thing.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jan 17th, 2014 at 06:02:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ISDS is not about giving unlimited rights to multinationals to challenge any legislative measure taken by sovereign states in any area of regulation. Under TTIP, investors will not be compensated with taxpayers' money just because of a fall in profits due to a change in the law. Nor will it be possible for investors to override bans of practices like fracking.

When I read a statement like this my base assumption is that it is misleading, misdirecting public relations blather:

*ISDS is not about giving unlimited rights to multinationals... Translation: Well, yes. They will be given almost unlimited rights.

*investors will not be compensated with taxpayers' money just because of a fall in profits due to a change in the law. Translation: Put 'just' in bold.

*Nor will it be possible for investors to override bans of practices like fracking. True! That is what all of the rented politicians are for.

There should be an award for beneficial candor regarding public affairs from a public official. The inaugural award should go to Jean-Claude-Juncker for his statement: "When it is serious you have to lie." How do you tell if it is serious? If it involves $billions that oligarchs can make by fleecing the public and/or polluting the commons it is very serious.

The ancient Greeks had the tradition that any citizen could scratch someone's name on a pottery shard, or 'ostrakon' and drop it in a depository. With a sufficient number of such 'votes' the designated person would have to leave the city or commit suicide. Were there such an option today most of our leaders would, quite deservedly, fall victim.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 18th, 2014 at 12:58:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This seems like the right place to reply overall - here are my reasons to oppose this, a priori:

  1. Assurances like the above have been part of many recent treaty negotiations - in each case they have turned out to be false.

  2. There is every reason to believe that the US will use influence with smaller EU states, esp. the more recently joined ones, to disrupt opposition in Europe to things it would like to see dismantled - REACH is an obvious target.

So while the "trade blocs" appear to be of equal power, the US has a significant tactical power advantage.

3) I won't repeat all of Jake's reasons, although they all seem worthy of consideration - but I'll add that there are specific provisions not only around "freeing up finance" but also "freeing up health care for US investment" and of course the ongoing issue of GM foods.

I guess what I'm saying is, as a European, with relatively good knowledge of the quality of the people involved on the negotiation on the European side, I can see no way this trade deal is in any way likely to benefit Europeans in total.

A final point for reference, this legislation could make my business life much easier, I wrestle regularly with the arcane US rules on imports. Still, I can still see how overall, it's unlikely to benefit me as a European...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Jan 18th, 2014 at 02:19:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU's negotiators wrote that with a shovel.  The US isn't even pretending about that.
by rifek on Sun Jan 19th, 2014 at 08:31:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see how homogenization can be even remotely good.  Our regulatory structure in the US is something out of the 14th Century.
by rifek on Sun Jan 19th, 2014 at 07:29:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First, I don't agree that US regulatory structure in general is "out of the 14th century." In many ways, particularly information gathering and transparency it is far ahead of Europe and everywhere else.  However, in the areas where it does need improvement -- particularly privacy concerns, food traceability, GMO regulation of grain traceability, and pesticide and agricultural chemical regulation , the US stands to gain a lot by adopting some of the European frameworks and forcing US industries to adapt to those. Europe stands to gain by opportunities to increase the democratization of regulatory information, while the US stands to gain by adopting some of Europe's more consumer-friendly protections.
by santiago on Mon Jan 20th, 2014 at 07:51:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Transparent?  Our regulatory agencies are a revolving door - between themselves and the industries they are supposed to regulate.  They are owned.  Nothing in this treaty will change that.  Further, I do not see Europe's consumer-friendly regulations being adopted here but rather the anti-consumer (and anti-labor, anti-environmental, etc.) regulations here being used to attack regulations in Europe.
by rifek on Tue Jan 21st, 2014 at 01:41:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While environmental legislation may be stronger in Europe, regulation is recognized by activists on both sides of the lake to be much better in the US, even after accounting for the EPA's chronic lack of funding to achieve its broad mission. The reason is the broad central authority and data collection capabilities of the US EPA and associated agencies.  I don't know that this treaty will be able to provide an opportunity for homogenization of environmental regulations, but if it does European environmentalists stand to benefit by using the process the push for common regulatory frameworks closer to the US data-driven system (while US heavy industry pushes for a European model which notoriously allows for cheating and honor system reporting). Almost the exact opposite is the case with food and drug regulation.  
by santiago on Tue Jan 21st, 2014 at 02:12:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The exceptions to the regulations here eat the regulations.  Industrial "agriculture" is effectively exempt from water pollution regs.  Our air pollution regs are a joke.  Don't believe me?  Walk out my front door and breathe.  Better take a chainsaw to cut the air.
by rifek on Wed Jan 22nd, 2014 at 07:11:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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