BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 24 February '16

Greenpeace blocks secret negotiations to give multinationals ‘unprecedented power’

On Monday (22 Feb), Greenpeace activists from seven countries blocked the entrances to the Brussels building where EU and US negotiators were due to hold secret talks for a trade deal that would give multinational corporations unprecedented power.

Vivienne Westwood and Lush vs TTIP – Vivienne Westwood, War On Want and Lush come together to support groups fighting against TTIP

‘Dead end trade deal’

The protesters warned that TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – is a threat for democracy, environmental protection, health standards and working conditions. As a result, Greenpeace has called for an immediate end to TTIP negotiations.

The activists used wooden and metal barriers to block the entrances, while climbers unfurled a banner depicting a ‘dead-end’ road sign that read: ‘TTIP: dead end trade deal’.

A transfer of power

In the two-and-a-half years since TTIP talks began, negotiators have revealed almost nothing about the negotiations, while continuing to threaten environmental, health and labour standards. According to Greenpeace, there is no reason to believe that this round of talks will be any different.

‘This trade deal is not about trade. It’s about the transfer of power from people to big business. What the Commission calls barriers to trade are in fact the safeguards that keep toxic pesticides out of our food or dangerous pollutants out of the air we breathe.

‘The negotiators who were supposed to meet in secret today want to weaken these safeguards to maximise corporate profits, whatever the costs for society and the environment. It’s our responsibility to expose them and give a voice to the millions who oppose this trade deal.’

Susan Jehoram Cohen, Greenpeace Netherlands TTIP campaigner

What’s at risk

Negotiators from the European Commission and the US trade department were due to begin a five-day round of talks on controversial plans to allow foreign investors to challenge rules and laws that protect people and Nature, including on food, chemical pollution and energy.

The scheme favoured by the Commission – known as Investment Court System (ICS) – would give a new quasi-court jurisdiction over democratic states to defend the interests of investors . ICS would:

  • Set up a privileged judicial system by allowing multinational corporations to bypass national courts
  • Allow ICS judges, who are not permanently assigned to the court, to also act as lawyers for corporate clients, raising serious conflict of interest concerns
  • Allow preferential treatment for foreign companies over national or local businesses
  • Flout democratic principles and the right for governments to adopt and enforce laws
  • Have a ‘chilling effect’ on public authorities by discouraging them from adopting or enforcing standards in the public interest, for fear of being challenged

‘The Commission’s plan for a special court to protect corporate profits is a threat for democracy and the rule of law. It discriminates against local businesses and threatens the right of governments to adopt laws that are in the public interest. Multinational corporations are not above the law. The same rules should apply to them as to everyone else.’

Andrea Carta, Greenpeace EU legal counsel

TTIP

The aim of TTIP is to remove so-called barriers to trade between the EU and the US, and to protect foreign investments above all else.

With tariffs on transatlantic trade already very low, the focus of negotiations is on removing ‘non-tariff’ barriers from laws and regulations in almost every sector of the economy, from farming to textiles, and IT to banking.

Concern about TTIP is growing and involves a wide spectrum of society, including NGOs, the health sector and businesses. Millions have signed petitions and taken to the streets in defence of EU standards on food safety, toxic chemicals, healthcare and workers’ rights.

Click here for Greenpeace’s Q & A on the TTIP.