Corporate watch

TPP and TTIP: the corporate coup behind the acronyms


TPP, TTIP, it really does sound like just another profoundly boring alphabet soup, doesn’t it? Its probably not even on your radar – it’s barely been mentioned in the media. And even if it has crossed you path, your eyes have probably glazed over at the deliberately obscure jargon it is cloaked in.

But its important: it amounts to a corporate coup, with corporations dominating national sovereignty, and the laws and standards we create through the democratic process.

What are they?

In essence, both TPP and TTIP are free trade agreements.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – “the biggest trade deal in the world” – is a free trade agreement between the US and Europe. In the UK, it is very much part of the Thatcherite Atlantic Bridge project to make the UK a wholly-owned subsidiary of the US.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement between the US and the Pacific Rim countries: Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and others.

What’s in it?

These free trade agreements aim to “harmonise” standards between trading partners. It claims to be cutting tariff barriers and working out technical details, but it really goes a lot further than that: includes areas such as intellectual property and copyright, food safety, health policy and financial stability.

It’s supporters claim it will bring new investment and boost the economy.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • Secrecy

Both of these agreements were negotiated in secret and rushed through without debate. We only know what’s in TPP because Wikileaks released it. If these trade deals are so good for us, why can’t we see what’s in them? Our societies need an open debate about agreements that are going to have such a deep impact on our lives.

  • Sovereignty

States have a democratic mandate from their citizens to set certain standards. This has, for example, allowed European countries to sue Google and Facebook for breach of data protection, or to oppose the planting of GMO crops. TTIP will end this.

But as George Monbiot points out, these trade agreements have something called investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms, which allow companies to sue governments for losses due to their policies. For instance, the tobacco company Philip Morris sued the Autralian government for putting cigarettes in plain packaging. This allows “a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of parliament and destroy our legal protections.”

In the UK, for example, this could lead to foreign health care providers suing the government if NHS privatisation doesn’t happen quickly enough.

Our democracies are weak enough as it is. In the current system, our lives are already dominated by corporations. These trade agreements give corporations more power than governments.

  • Corporate control

These agreements remove democratic checks and balances on things like the safe use of nano-technology (for instance GMOs), standards in the finance sector to prevent destructive banking (such as the Robin Hood Tax), and just about any place where governments stand in the way of corporations.

Who is opposing it?

Because these agreements have been sneaked through without debate or oversight, most people are not even aware this is happening. But a wide variety of groups, including unions, social movements and NGOs, is leading opposition to these agreements. A letter (pdf) signed by unions and other organisations in the US and Europe highlights a number of very important concerns.

The US Teamsters union raises the fact that, among other things, it will make it much easier to outsource to countries with lower labour standards.

Also strongly opposed to these trade agreements are organisations fighting for online freedom, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Open Rights Group.


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