James Bruges, brought up in Kashmir, returned to England aged twelve and, after formal schooling, went on to study at the Architectural Association in London. He was a practising architect in London, the Sudan (University of Khartoum 1962-65), and Bristol, founding the Bruges Tozer Partnership in Bristol, Bruges Tozer Limited in London, and the Concept Planning Group in Bristol with two other firms to undertake urban planning projects. In 1995 James left architectural practice to concentrate on environmental issues which had become, through his architectural work, a major concern for him.
Top post in 2011, his work on biochar has attracted many visitors to the site and may be read here. James also has an interest in promoting monetary systems which serve people, reviewing A Guide to the UK Monetary and Banking System, by Josh Ryan-Collins, Tony Greenham, Richard Werner and Andrew Jackson, published by nef.
in a 2015 article originally published in the Friend, James asked, “Why bother about TTIP?”
It would give corporations an exclusive form of justice, enabling them to sue governments should their profits be threatened.
- reduce social, environment and food-safety regulation;
- open up public services such as the NHS for privatisation;
- prevent government from returning them to the public sector;
- eliminate preferential treatment for local suppliers;
- weaken workers’ rights;
- and curtail the regulation of banks.
So what is it?
The European Commission says: “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. It aims at removing trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US.
“On top of cutting tariffs across all sectors, the EU and the US want to tackle barriers behind the customs border – such as differences in technical regulations, standards and approval procedures. These often cost unnecessary time and money for companies who want to sell their products on both markets. For example, when a car is approved as safe in the EU, it has to undergo a new approval procedure in the US even though the safety standards are similar. The TTIP negotiations will also look at opening both markets for services, investment, and public procurement. They could also shape global rules on trade.”
The harmonisation of regulations causes concern. It seems likely, for example, that the more rigorous safety standards in Europe would be reduced in order to harmonise with lower standards in the USA. This could, among other things, open the floodgates to growth hormones in meat, chicken washed in chlorine and pesticides harmful to bees. TTIP deals with social and environmental regulations from the point of view of business alone without taking into account the affect on society or nature. Corporations could determine aspects of government policy.
“Extrajudicial tribunals comprised of three private attorneys” would judge disputes using the ISDS (Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement) formula to impose fines, with no right of appeal. QCEA says it “completely rejects the inclusion of ISDS as part of the TTIP . . . We consider that the existing national judicial structures in both the US and the EU provide adequate, unbiased, and democratically sound legal systems”…
QCEA refers to the ‘chill effect’: “governments could potentially change policy to suit the preferences of big business rather than risk losing large sums of tax-payers’ money, even if the claim is potentially frivolous.” For example New Zealand has decided not to go ahead with plain-pack cigarettes due Australia’s experience. The threat of huge compensation claims could make it impossible for any future British government to stop the further privatisation of the NHS. And finance? “ISDS would empower the world’s largest banks to launch investor-state claims against US and EU financial regulations, which could chill regulators’ resolve to enact the bold financial stability measures needed to prevent another crisis.”
Our government claims that TTIP would enhance growth. QCEA says, “The stated purpose of the proposed Free Trade Agreement is to increase incomes for citizens in both the EU and the US. In this situation, the profits will most likely go to those who are already wealthy, the investors . . . giving large multinational corporations an advantage over Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) . . . The potential cost to governments is enormous.” During recent decades, growth has led to stagnant wages and spiraling inequality. . .
Even without ISDS being included, the remaining provisions of this trade deal could greatly damage public services, the environment and health & safety. The full proposals were not published until the end of the year though implementation is scheduled for 2015. The situation is urgent.