In his second term, President Obama has made trade a key issue on his agenda. He is pushing not one but two large-scale and potentially fateful free trade agreements (FTAs): the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including 12 countries along the Pacific Rim, and the Transatlantic Free Trade and Investment Partnership, between the United States and the European Union.
The political motivations for these major initiatives are clear. After the failure of the Doha Round and subsequent cooling of the World Trade Organization process, FTAs are increasingly viewed as the best tool to help maintain or even strengthen Western influence in the global market. Intimidated by the rising economic prowess of the BRICS countries, particularly China, the U.S. and E.U. seek to establish new trade partnerships that revive their original vision of the WTO as a mechanism to lock into place comparative advantages in the world economic system.
In light of these interests, political leaders in the U.S. and the E.U. tend to follow the demands of corporations while promising job growth to their citizens. However, they do not talk publicly about the negative implications of market liberalization, which, as NAFTA has shown us, can be devastating. Indeed, TTIP is being negotiated mainly in secret. As officials from both the U.S. and E.U. acknowledge, its main goal is to remove regulatory barriers that restrict the potential profits of transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.
Yet these “barriers” include some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations, such as labor rights, food safety rules (including restrictions on GMOs), regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws, and even new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis. The stakes, in other words, could not be higher.
This report, written by John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, provides an overview of TTIP and outlines how it will affect us if it comes into force. The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung recognizes the need to cast light on this secretly negotiated treaty, and to encourage resistance by bringing together experts, civil society actors, and politicians through workshops and conferences across Europe and the U.S.