If you’re reading this, you likely already have a distrust of corporate media. But for the sake of this conversation, go ahead and tune in to one of the major multinational news outlets, or visit its homepage. You choose which one. I’ll give you a minute.
Okay. What did you see? Of course, lots about the election. That’s to be expected. It’s probably all Drumph all the time (except what you ought to know about him) especially since he’s the last republican standing. I bet Hillary Clinton is already the presumptive democratic nominee, right? There’s not much about Bernie (but that will change). There’s ISIS, some celebrity gossip, fear of the Zika Virus, and cyber-security. Climate change? Of course not. Any mention of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, aka “TTIP”? Probably not. What the hell is that anyway?
As progressives, this should concern us for two reasons:
- That our so-called “liberal” media outlets are as beholden to their corporate overlords as Walmart and GE (no big surprise there); and
- Those who still rely on corporate media are not being informed about the protests in Europe over secret trade negotiations of which the United States is a principal player.
Why should we care about what the European media is covering? Well, as the document Greenpeace Netherlands released this week and the organization Public Citizen indicate, much more than we know we should. Of course not everything that happens in Europe should make our shores. But you’re going to want to know about “NAFTA on steroids.” Faiza Oulahsen, a lead campaigner for Greenpeace Netherlands, says “whether you care about environmental issues, animal welfare, labor rights or internet privacy, you should be concerned about what is in these leaked documents.”
According to the BBC, the objective of TTIP is to remove “barriers between trade and foreign investment.” At the onset of negotiations, President Obama said TTIP will promote “new growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.” We’ve heard that before, haven’t we?
Bernie Sanders won the Indiana primary mostly because he was speaking the language of Carrier employees who lost their jobs to trade deals that shipped operations to Mexico. Sanders opposes the Transpacific Partnership – the Asian component to TTIP – because he understands, as he always has, “new growth and jobs” traditionally means “new growth and jobs” elsewhere, not here, where we want competitive, fair, secure wages , and conditions commensurate to the standard of living we expect in America. In the 1990’s, Sanders called out the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for what it eventually became, a source of tremendous job loss. He daily decries permanent normal trade relations with China, and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) for the same reasons. This resonates with workers all over this nation, and they’re not going to fare well under the TPP or TTIP either, if history is any indicator.
So what about TTIP is revealed in Greenpeace Netherlands’ leaked 248-page document? For starters, TTIP is a secret trade deal that promises to challenge internet privacy, environmental protections, labor rights, food quality, and governments’ sovereignty over big business. It would create “the world’s biggest free-trade zone, scrapping tariffs and other obstacles to the trade of goods and services between the US and the EU.”
Nowhere in the document is there a reference to the “General Exceptions Rule”, which for seven decades protected the environment by preventing over-consumption of natural resources. The recent Paris Climate Accords provisions limiting temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees would also be affected after TTIP erodes EU regulations on importing Tar Sands oil and other CO2-leaden materials. The leaked document also exposes that TTIP would invite to Europe a glut of U.S.-produced genetically modified (GMO) food currently prohibited for health reasons. And of course, what would a US-led trade deal be without corporate control?
Although secret to the general public, corporations are allowed full access to the negotiations, because, naturally, they stand to benefit from the decreased regulations. Central to this is something called “the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause”, which would encourage multinational corporations to sue governments over lost profits. That’s right – a corporation can sue a government if that government attempts regulations that put the environment and/or public health and safety before the corporation’s profit potential. This is a major goal for Washington, and it is nothing new. Tobacco industries have already done this, as satirist John Oliver covered in a segment of Last Week Tonight.
For America, what this deal will create is yet another avenue for cheap labor practices against which the American workforce must compete. According to Public Citizen, it will “roll back financial reforms”; “weaken food safety standards”; “halt green energy policies”, “remove GMO labels and limits”; “allow exposure to untested chemicals”; and “ban buy-American, green, and local products”.
Faiza Oulahsen said,“TTIP is about a huge transfer of democratic power from people to big business. We call on all elected representative and other concerned parties to read these documents and engage in the debate.”
Join in the debate. Call and/or email your representatives. Let them know trade deals that affect so many Americans’ livelihoods should be negotiated with full transparency. No more secret wranglings. No more profit over people.