Europe-wide anger at TTIP

PROTESTERS against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) filled Parliament Square last Saturday to draw attention to this pernicious international agreement that will allow big business to ride roughshod over democratically elected national and local governments to extract maximum profits, regardless of damage to the population or the environment.

The protesters were part of a Europe-wide day of action and during the protest they marched on to Westminster Bridge and hung a long banner over the parapet, saying: “HANDS OFF DEMOCRACY # NO TTIP”.

The Con-Dem Coalition is supporting the deal, claiming it will add billions to the national economy. But it will expose all public services, at local and national level, to the full effects of the free market.

Healthcare and education companies from anywhere will be able to bid to supply services provided by the National Health Service and our education system — and the contract must go to the lowest bidder, regardless of the quality of the service they render or the jobs, wages and conditions of the people currently providing those services.

Anyone trying to block them from making maximum profits can be accused of unfair trading practices and sued.

It will be an open door to fracking companies, regardless of possible damage to clean water supplies, subsidence and destruction of the environment.

And it will expose every aspect of our society to privatisation. Food standard regulations and health and safety laws could be scrapped as an “unfair” impediment to profiteering. This could see the return of banned food products in Europe like chicken bleached with chlorine and growth hormones in beef — a major factor in obesity in the United States.

In order to match US standards, Britain could be forced to reverse its ban on asbestos — which has been linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma.

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“There is a significant danger with TTIP that large corporations will muscle in on the now compulsory tendering procedures for any public services,” London GP Naomi Beer told East London Online.

“The ethos of these corporations does not match our own public service ethos,” she said. “They are profit driven companies. Where there are limited funds and profit targets, the only way they can make money is by delivering a lower standard of service or getting less qualified staff or downgrading wages and conditions for their employees.”

Explaining how this could happen, technology writer Glyn Moody told the press that such companies with a stake in the NHS could sue the Government if it decided to pursue a programme of renationalisation.

“This clause would kick in and the companies that have taken these parts of the NHS will say then: ‘Hang on, you’re taking our future profits. We are going to sue you for billions of euro’,” he said.

“That is exactly what will happen with the NHS,” Moody said. “So basically privatisation will be locked in. You couldn`t reverse it or rather you could reverse it, but you’d end up paying billions or possibly tens of billions of euro if you did so.”

Speaking at the TUC in Liverpool last month, Unite Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail urged congress delegates to oppose the TTIP and rally support amongst people in the UK to demand Prime Minister David Cameron keep Britain’s health services out of the TTIP agreement.

“It is clear this government thought they could do this deal in secret — a deal that would mean the irreversible sell-off of our NHS to America,” Cartmail said.

“Wall Street financiers like Blackrock and Invesco are already heavily invested in the NHS — over 70 per cent of new contracts are now in private hands. Over £11 billion of our money in the hands of casino capitalists,” she added.

Although TTIP is the largest bilateral trade deal ever brokered, it is currently being developed behind closed doors. But the Government denies the deal would mark a precursor to NHS privatisation or the selloff of any other public service.

Nevertheless, British MPs have urged Cameron to remove the NHS from TTIP’s agenda, with Labour’s shadow health minister Andy Burnham saying that a “market” was not an adequate solution to healthcare in the 21st century.

A YouGov survey commissioned by the group found that most Britons (54 per cent) do not trust the British government to negotiate a good deal for the country in the trade talks.

The deal is being thrashed out in secret by unelected mandarins. Green Party MEP Keith Taylor told HuffPostUK: “Even my colleagues who sit on the European Parliament’s Trade Committee don’t get a proper look at the negotiating document, and most MEPs don’t get any say on the deal until we’re presented it as a fait accompli.