The safety standards on which we rely daily for our food, medicines and cars. The energy and climate policies needed to save our planet. The new financial regulations designed to prevent banks from gambling with our money and creating another crisis. These are policies that should be determined in open, democratic venues where we have a say.
But a group of the largest U.S. and European banks, agribusinesses and other powerful industry groups want to rewrite these safeguards behind closed doors. For over a decade, they have pushed for a new U.S. “trade” deal with Europe – the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), which corporate proponents have tried to rebrand as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – a deal that would roll back protections on both sides of the Atlantic. Launched in July 2013, TAFTA negotiations are currently underway.
In the official document outlining TAFTA, the Obama administration has made clear that TAFTA will not primarily target trade, but “behind-the-border” policies such as health, environmental and financial protections. U.S. and EU corporations call these safeguards on which we all rely “trade irritants,” and have asked that they be eliminated via TAFTA:
• The U.S. airline industry wants the deal to eliminate "needless regulations [that] impose a substantial drag on our industry." A proposed European emissions control policy to prevent climate change catastrophe tops their list.
• EU banks have openly targeted U.S. financial regulations enacted after the 2008 financial crisis to rein in Wall Street, calling the new financial stability policies “barriers to trade” that should be watered down or dismantled via TAFTA.
• The deregulatory wishlists of EU and U.S. corporations reveal that the deal could also threaten food safety labels, access to affordable medicines and Internet freedom.
Incredibly, Obama administration officials, and their European counterparts, have also proposed that TAFTA include the extreme investor privileges of past “trade” deals. These extraordinary privileges have empowered foreign corporations to circumvent domestic courts and drag sovereign governments before extrajudicial tribunals authorized to order taxpayer compensation for public interest policies. But U.S. and European domestic courts and property laws are among the strongest in the world. Including such provisions in TAFTA would only empower corporations with a new way to attack our laws and grab our tax dollars.
Foreign corporations have used these privileges when included in past “trade” deals to attack domestic renewable energy policies, patent standards, bans on toxins, and green jobs programs, extracting $3.5 billion so far from taxpayers under U.S. deals. The foreign tribunals authorized to rule against such domestic policies and order compensation are comprised of three private attorneys, many of whom rotate between acting as “judges” and bringing cases against the governments on behalf of the corporations.
If this extreme system is expanded through TAFTA as proposed, the thousands of EU corporations with U.S. subsidiaries (and vice versa) would be newly empowered to attack domestic health, environmental and financial safeguards that they see as inhibiting “expected future profits.” This radical provision alone makes TAFTA an unacceptable liability for consumers, workers and the environment.