Guardian readers on TTIP

Phillip Inman reports that MPs have “won” access to TTIP documents, but can only view and not record them (MPs to see TTIP papers under strict rules, 19 February). What can the justification for this secrecy be when at the same time the government (and the EU) insist that TTIP is a good deal for all of us? Usually, when an individual or organisation has something that will benefit you, they are eager to tell you about it. With the honourable exception of Caroline Lucas, and I would hope some others, it seems incredible that our MPs either are, or are pretending to be, insouciant to the irony that they are being grudgingly granted limited access only to the details of a treaty that will demote the interests of democratically elected governments below those of multinational corporations.
Dave Hunter
Bristol

Because Dave, it’s still being negotiated. Contract negotiations are not held in public. It’s the final agreement that is then presented for approval or rejection.

I can understand why Unite is concentrating on the NHS, which it hopes will be exempt from TTIP, but the implications go far wider (Report, 22 February). Few commentators seem aware of the negative effect of TTIP on our ability to tackle climate change. Suppose in 10 to 15 years that several fracking firms were operating in the UK and the government decided the continued extraction of shale gas or shale oil were incompatible with our climate change commitments. Under TTIP, those companies could sue the British government and the result would either be massive compensation or the repeal of the UK’s Climate Change Act. The decision will not be taken by politicians, but by unaccountable lawyers meeting in secret and applying the terms of the trade deal.

Yes, quite, that’s the point of the ISDS provisions. To stop investors being screwed over by politicians changing their minds after they’ve made their investments. Andthey get to do so in courts not run by the governments or politicians doing the screwing over.

That’s the whole fucking point.

It’s absolutely no different at all from compulsory purchase of your house for a railway line. Government can do this, undoubtedly, because the public good of the railway line overcomes your property rights. But they’ve got to pay you full market value, before the railway line plans, when they do so. Government can pass a law stopping fracking any time it likes. It’s just got to compensate those who have spent money developing fracking operations under the previous laws that allowed them to do so.

32 thoughts on “Guardian readers on TTIP”

  1. One of the beauties of this coming to prominence now is that is coincides with the EU referendum. So those who are congenitally unable to join up their arguments are explaining in a letter to the Guardian one day why TTIP is a subversion of all democratic principles we should hold dear to us. The next day they argue that leaving the EU would cut us off from all our international treaties on which we rely so very much.

  2. Anything political slime are involved with should be totally transparent with the single exception of defence–and leaving them that is still iffy.

    I don’t give a rats for the lefts deceitful “wicked corporations rule the world ” bollocks but if this is just some harmless little scheme undergone to correct a few problems them my name is Hertz Van Rentals.

    Because the polit-scum are vermin who will take advantage anyway they can. Free trade is what we need. Scummy intergovt agreements damage trade and leftist dross then say that free trade is no good/doesn’t work etc.

    The obsessive need for “commercial” secrecy is just a fig leaf. In private business ok. But as an excuse for Nancy Piglosi style “we have to pass the bill to find what is in ” it is an obvious scam.

  3. This must be the only international treaty in the World the Left don’t want us to sign up to. Kyoto was ‘essential’, The Universal Declaration of Oooman Rights was ‘essential’, yet something which increases international trade is a disaster.

    “demote the interests of democratically elected governments below those of multinational corporations.”

    Dave et all don’t give a fuck about democratically elected governments. In fact, they hate, fear and despise the electorate. If a democratically elected government tore up the Climate Change Act Dave would have an embolism.

    So, no more crap about democracy, please chaps. We all know you don’t want it.

  4. I am of a similar mind as Mr Ecks.

    If everyone puts their cards on the table the politicians have nowhere to hide from their local electorate and that is why the negotiations are so secretive. We would be able to see exactly what they prepared to give away.

    TTIP will interfere with global market feedbacks too. If a jurisdiction is dodgy then don’t do business there. Signing up to TTIP won’t make that corruption disappear it will just take some other form.

  5. Witchsmeller Pursuivant

    Slightly OT, but did any body see this story in the
    Telegraph?

    Wages will rise if Britain votes to leave the European Union and the number of EU migrants coming to the UK falls, the head of the “in” campaign has admitted.
    Lord Rose, the former head of Marks & Spencer who is leading the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, told MPs on Wednesday that if a British exit leads to restrictions on EU migrants, then “the price of labour will, frankly, go up”.

    Whoops.

  6. Witchsmeller Pursuivant

    I’m not entirely sure that I buy your argument that mass immigration of low-skilled labour will have no effect on low-skilled wages. In your Forbes article you refer twice to research showing this to be the case, but you provide no link to any. Would you care to provide one here?

  7. Witchsmeller Pursuivant

    Cheers for the link. The Migration Watch paper says in its opening paragraph:

    “On the impact of immigration on average wage levels, the evidence is again inconclusive, but there is a strong consensus of opinion that immigration has harmed the earnings of the most poorly-paid UK-born members of the labour force.”

    And the government report to which they refer (which is nearly six years old now) says “In contrast, the studies do broadly agree that migration is more likely to increase wages at the top of the distribution, and reduce wages at the bottom of the distribution.”

    Given that net migration to the UK has been 2.5 million (much of it low-skilled) over the past decade, I really can’t see how this cannot have produced a downward pressure on low-skilled wages.

    But as you say on Forbes, the most delicious irony is the head of the In campaign providing one of the better reasons for electorate to vote Out.

  8. “TTIP will interfere with global market feedbacks too. If a jurisdiction is dodgy then don’t do business there. Signing up to TTIP won’t make that corruption disappear it will just take some other form.”

    TTIP isn’t about corruption, not the illegal sort any way. Its about the legal sort of corruption, where a government signs an agreement with you rips it up when the terms move against it, or it changes its mind. And that will make corrupt governments behave better, because in todays world of interconnectedness if government X is found in breach of its TTIP obligations and told to pay Y compensation, and refuses, then the claimant will be able to use international law to start seizing assets, imposing restrictions etc etc. So unless a government wants to end up like North Korea, they will be forced to comply, and honour their agreements.

  9. “Dave et all don’t give a fuck about democratically elected governments.”

    _I_ don’t. Not sure who ‘et al’ is in that context.

    “Wages will rise if Britain votes to leave the European Union and the number of EU migrants coming to the UK falls, the head of the “in” campaign has admitted.”

    Er, ‘admitted’? It’s the out campaigners who’d ‘admit’ that, given that it’s a downside to their plan. (We do still only care about consumers, not producers, right?)

  10. then the claimant will be able to use international law to start seizing assets, imposing restrictions etc etc. So unless a government wants to end up like North Korea, they will be forced to comply, and honour their agreements.

    Hmmm, so just how many battalions will the average claimant have ?

  11. I don’t know enough about TTIP to be for or against it, but surely the logic of the leftist position outlined in Tim’s piece is suspect, as it binds governments to all contract decisions made – regardless of future revision.

    So, for example, if TTIP had been in place during the last 10 years then every single lunatic climate policy that promised eye watering subsidies until the end of recorded time would be protected from revision. Even if conclusive new scientific evidence came along that showed climate policy to be based on as sound a basis as unicorn horn aphrodisiac.

    I thought the left was dead keen on being able to fix their long-term plans regardless of democratic oversight.

  12. I get your point Tim, I just don’t agree with it, primarily because anti-free-trade treaties like TTIP grant privileges to multinationals which are denied to us plebs. For example, if it’s determined that diesel fumes are causing a greater harm to health than previously estimated and diesel duty is increased or the use of diesel vehicles is restricted, I wouldn’t expect to be compensated if I owned a diesel car. I don’t see why a fracking company should be treated any more favourably.

  13. Because we think foreign investment is a good thing for an economy. This is entirely utilitarian: will more people invest in foreign if they’re not entirely at the mercy of corrupt governments? Yes? Good, then do it.

    It’s also note really about the UK. But think Russia, Argentina, Venezuela, Zimbabawe. do investors in those place need protection from the government and the courts the government controls? Yup, sure do. so, why should Britain subject itself to those same rules? Because trade deals are always reciprocal.

    The End.

  14. “I just don’t agree with it, primarily because anti-free-trade treaties like TTIP grant privileges to multinationals which are denied to us plebs.”

    Nonsense. It wouldn’t matter how big or small you are, if you have a contract with the State you should (and would) be able to get it enforced. And if the State bans your car because its a diesel, you would expect to be compensated for your loss, just as handgun owners were compensated when they were banned. The same goes for businesses – if making or doing X is legal, and you have a profitable business doing it, then the State comes along and bans that activity you’d expect compensation. All TTIP does is make it 100% sure you can get compensation, and you can’t be banned from your lawful activity without compensation.

    And TTIP has nothing to do with tax, the State could still put a 100% tax on fracking revenue if it liked. But it can’t just ban fracking without compensation. All its doing is holding States to the same standards us little people are expected to keep – if we sign a contract we have to abide by it, or suffer the consequences, and we have to pay for losses our actions cause others.

    Why should States be held to a lesser standard?

  15. Tim – if it’s a utilitarian decision, then clearly, TTIP is not worth the significant costs associated with it. The corruption aspect isn’t a material concern given the parties involved, so, given the negative impacts it would have on sovereignty, liberty and freedom of trade, it’s very obviously a bad idea.

  16. Dave

    That was the ‘Dave’ who wrote the letter to the Guardian.

    As for what “Lord” Rose said, what he said after was also interesting:

    That’s not necessarily a good thing

    It is for the low paid, of which Lord Rose clearly is not one of.

  17. Bloke in Germany in Hong Kong

    Actually, when the government wants your property, it doesn’t pay you full market value at the time when the decision is made that it wants your property.

    Instead the local council will blow for years about how they are going to demolish, say, Gorton (just to take an entirely fabricated example that hasn’t happened in real life at all) – to drive down those market prices. So they can buy the lot up for a lot less and fuck over the local homeowners (among the poorest homeowners in the country). Can’t do much when the house, your only asset, that you paid £40,000 for is now worth £7,000, can you? But that’s government paying you free market value for you.

    Anyway, international investors can trust the local courts as far as I am concerned. If they aren’t happy with the jurisdiction rules it is perfectly legal to choose a different jurisdiction by contract. If everyday courts in Europe or the USA ain’t good enough there’s always China, Argentina, and North Korea to go jurisdiction-shopping in.

  18. Bloke in Germany in Hong Kong

    @Jim,

    Multinational megacorp will be able to import and export what it likes tarrif-free whereas plebs like you and me will still be subected to the €430 limit when bringing trophies back from our holidays over the pond.

    That is not free trade – it is special roolz for the megacorps.

  19. Jim said: “And that will make corrupt governments behave better, because in todays world of interconnectedness if government X is found in breach of its TTIP obligations and told to pay Y compensation, and refuses, then the claimant will be able to use international law to start seizing assets, imposing restrictions etc etc. ”

    Who will impose the restrictions and/or seize assets? It would *all* fall to national governments and courts to enforce action against another government that reneged. Which gets you back into the realms of politics and diplomacy as much as law.

    Jim said: “And TTIP has nothing to do with tax, the State could still put a 100% tax on fracking revenue if it liked. But it can’t just ban fracking without compensation. ”

    You’ve immediately highlighted a problem. The outcome would be largely the same as banning but without any protection via TTIP. Even with TTIP a dodgy government would be incentivised to include loopholes in its licencing regime in order to maintain its arbitrary authority.

    The heart of TTIP seems to be about trading european sovereign immunity for USA market access. Why on earth is it being made so complex and secretive? My suspicion is they don’t want the public to understand.

  20. “Multinational megacorp will be able to import and export what it likes tarrif-free whereas plebs like you and me will still be subected to the €430 limit when bringing trophies back from our holidays over the pond.”

    Its not tariffs that are the problem, they are very low anyway. Its VAT thats the problem for the members of the public. I can import a tractor from the US no problem, I know people who have done exactly that, because its actually cheaper than buying the same machine via a UK dealer. The import tariffs are low. But as a business I would get the VAT back (in fact you never pay it in cash terms as you just put the input tax on one line of the VAT return and claim it back on the next), as I would if I bought a UK sold machine, but Joe Public (not being in business) can’t. He has to pay 20% VAT on all his purchases. The 430 limit is the tax free limit, you can import what you like over that if you pay the VAT on it.

    So don’t blame ‘free trade deals’ for making importing goods from abroad expensive for the little man, blame the State that imposes 20% VAT on all domestic UK purchases, whether from here or abroad.

  21. And anyway, import tariffs are the same for GlobalMegaCorp Inc and Bill Smith of Acacia avenue. If they are 10% for one they are 10% for the other. Its just that poor old Bill Smith has to hand over 20% of his purchases to the State in tax before he gets his hands on them.

    Thats where your unfairness comes from. After all GlobalMegaCorp aren’t importing flat screen TVs to the UK to sit them in a big warehouse and just look at them. They are imported for sale in the UK, when 20% VAT will be applied, and will be paid by BIll Smith when he buys one in Currys.

  22. Hmmm, so just how many battalions will the average claimant have ?

    Not necessary. As Venezuela found out under that idiot Chavez, ExxonMobil has the ability to file suit in the courts of New York and have their overseas assets frozen.

  23. “All TTIP does is make it 100% sure you can get compensation, and you can’t be banned from your lawful activity without compensation.”

    So let’s see if I have got this right. If I were a street dealer in legal highs, which are then subsequently banned, do I get to tap up the government for compensation for wrecking my business?

  24. Say an investment in electricity generation takes place because the resulting sales are guaranteed an index-linked price of 95p per KWh, then TTIP would presumably prevent the government that guaranteed that index-linked price from welshing on the deal without compensation.
    I wouldn’t know whether to cry or to cry.
    The EU could do better and swifter work by banning members from guaranteeing prices in anything.

  25. “So let’s see if I have got this right. If I were a street dealer in legal highs, which are then subsequently banned, do I get to tap up the government for compensation for wrecking my business?”

    If the government had previously promised you that they weren’t going to ban them, in order to get you to invest in their country, then yes. Otherwise, no.

  26. 1. ISDS provisions: I’m leaning towards the position of Gareth et al. Don’t do business with dodgy regimes (let you competitors do instead and hopefully get they will get burnt), or price the risk appropriately. When no-one is willing to trade or invest with them, or insists on the money up front, perhaps the regime will be changed for the better. Like IMF bailouts, ISDS may be counter-productive in the long term. The classic problem with much of economics is that it is obsessed with quantity, and neglects quality in decision making.

    2. Effect of immigration on low-skilled wages: I’m skeptical of any study that discusses wages but fails to mention costs of living. Something like “low-skilled immigrant from poor country to rich increases their wage by 5x while low-skilled worker in rich country has no/almost no change”. What about housing costs in crowded property markets like London, NYC, SF? Is either or both worker(s) actually better off? Or does the benefit mostly go to the rentier class?

  27. Under TTIP, those companies could sue the British government and the result would either be massive compensation or the repeal of the UK’s Climate Change Act.

    He has unaccountably neglected to mention a third outcome: the investor losing the case. Like wot happens in approximately two thirds of cases.

  28. Bloke in Germany in Hong Kong

    @Ed,

    Those of us whose wages are capped by the fact the job can be done by an Indian in India (for Indian values of “job done” of course) would welcome some additional wage competition in the industries whose services we purchase locally.

  29. 1. ISDS provisions: I’m leaning towards the position of Gareth et al. Don’t do business with dodgy regimes (let you competitors do instead and hopefully get they will get burnt), or price the risk appropriately.

    Well, how does one go about pricing the risk of, say, investing in nuclear power in Germany when the government is saying, “please invest millions into new plant, we need the electricity and the jobs” and the deal seems just dandy?

    (before Fukushima, to be clear)

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