Opinion: Threat to Europe? Countering the TTIP scaremongering

It was with a certain degree of shock that on Thursday 2 April, I read the opinion article “We should be alert to this threat to Europe!“. How was it possible that the concerns expressed in it about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – which echo what many segments of Europe’s radical left have been peddling – could be given credibility from within one of Europe’s most influential liberal parties? After some consideration, I concluded that clearly the anti-TTIP propaganda war is proving to be very successful and that there is still much work to do to counter those arguments.

Here are a number of facts that all Liberal Democrats should be aware of and should readily share whenever the subject arises, regarding in particular transparency, public services, and democratic rights of public authorities:


The media and the public rarely show much interest in highly technical trade negotiations. Clearly, however, times have changed. The EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, a Swedish liberal and one of the most respected politicians in Brussels has recognised that there is a public demand for greater openness. Since taking office in November 2014, she has taken steps to address this demand, such that only weeks later, on 29 January 2015, the spokersperson on TTIP for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake, congratulated Commissioner Malmström for “taking the concerns of citizens seriously” after it was announced that transparency rules would apply to the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). Furthermore, only a few days ago, on 23 March 2015 the European Ombudsman commended the European Commission for the progress made.

Public Services

On 20 March 2015, Commissioner Malmström and the US Trade Representative, published a Joint Statement on Public Services. Anyone concerned about the NHS, environmental policies, public procurement, or the democratic freedoms of public authorities in Europe, should read it. Here’s an extract:

U.S. and EU trade agreements do not prevent governments, at any level, from providing or supporting services in areas such as water, education, health, and social services. Furthermore, no EU or U.S. trade agreement requires governments to privatize any service, or prevents governments from expanding the range of services they supply to the public. Moreover, these agreements do not prevent governments from providing public services previously supplied by private service suppliers; contracting a public service to private providers does not mean that it becomes irreversibly part of the commercial sector. The United States and the European Union are following this same approach in TTIP and TiSA.

SMEs and the purpose of TTIP

The European Commission’s Directorate General for Trade has a very useful citizen-friendly website answering many questions, covering the content of TTIP, its impact, and the process of negotiations. As Commissioner Malmström’s predecessor, Karel De Gucht, a Belgian liberal explained in October 2014 at a debate during a plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions, which I attended:

TTIP is mainly about helping SMEs; large corporations can easily get around the red tape that exists in transatlantic trade, but it’s Europe’s small and medium sized companies that we are trying to help access the U.S. market.

This was confirmed at the same plenary session by U.S. Ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner:

Small and medium sized enterprises are expected to gain significantly from TTIP because SMEs tend to dominate the sectors where increased trade is expected to result from an agreement. For example SMEs account for more than 95% of the processed food, machinery, and motor vehicles and parts sectors.

This is a Oppoint which the ALDE spokesperson on TTIP, Marietje Schaake, hadput across extremely well in this 3 minute video interview already back in June 2013:

there are still quite a few barriers in the [transatlantic] trade, whether these are tariffs, differing standards, or non recognition of safety procedures. And this costs a lot of paperwork for our small and medium sized enterprises, and eventually it slows down growth…. We shouldn’t approach this as a zero-sum game, but seek an end result where our high standards, our protection of fundamental rights, our environmental standards, and consumer rights are protected and safeguarded, but where the bureaucratic burdens can be limited or even removed where possible.

* Sean O'Curneen is Secretary General of the Renew Europe Group in the European Committee of the Regions, the EU's Assembly of Municipalities and Regions.

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  • Whilst I applaud LDV giving space for a viewpoint from the ALDE on TTIP, I have concerns, not just about this article but also previous articles.

    TTIP is currently in negotiation and whilst the team heading up the negotiations might be very capable, they are not immune to “failing to see the wood for the trees”. Hence it is at the present time that largescale review and input will give the most benefit, for the least amount of cost. So I’m a little disappointed that once again we see little real invitation for the public to get involved, just simply reassurance that reads more of just let the ‘experts’ get on with it… As I’ve said before TTIP is forcing procedural change within the EU, I would of expected the ADLE to be among those pushing hard against this opening door…

  • David Evans 7th Apr '15 - 12:30pm

    I’m afraid the devil is in the detail in these agreements and the points raised here just confirm that. To take just one example, the comment “these agreements do not prevent governments from providing public services previously supplied by private service suppliers” is not an answer to the question “Does TTIP allow companies to take legal action against governments to get compensation?”

    As such it just sounds like a “There, there. There is nothing to worry yourself about,” sort of comment.

  • Tsar Nicholas 7th Apr '15 - 12:35pm

    If you don’t want TTIP scaremongering, then just publish the text of the draft treaty. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Apr '15 - 12:38pm

    First of all I worry that TTIP is becoming to liberals what the EU is to conservatives with constant rounds of infighting. Liberal democracy won’t disappear with or without it.

    I’m willing to follow senior Lib Dems on this matter, whichever way they go. However if there was a 50-50 split I would go with the anti TTIP group.

    I worry that the agreement is going to be too difficult to amend in the future. We need to set up a kind of democratic body to constantly look over this, even if it is appointed.

  • Do you believe in transparency, openness , and democratic accountability? I only ask because the defenders of TTIP give the impression they are actively hostile, even contemptuous, of an politically engaged and questioning citizenry. The attitude seems to be very much – Trust the corporate lawyers and the technocratic elites and don’t worry your little head about things which you don’t understand.

  • Mark Blackburn 7th Apr '15 - 1:45pm

    Modern reality is that despite climate change, economic hardship/instability and finite natural resources, global corporations continue get stronger at the expense of sovereign states and their citizens. Does TTIP do anything to reverse this trend? I don’t believe so. When companies like Monsanto and Nestle are already suing nations and individuals to pursue corporate profits unencumbered, it’s time to turn the tide, not encourage it. This isn’t about the free market, it’s about corporate power and its potential abuse.

  • Stephen Campbell 7th Apr '15 - 1:53pm

    @AndrewR: “the defenders of TTIP give the impression they are actively hostile, even contemptuous, of an politically engaged and questioning citizenry. The attitude seems to be very much – Trust the corporate lawyers and the technocratic elites and don’t worry your little head about things which you don’t understand.”

    Exactly. I find it odd (but not surprising these days) that so many Lib Dems support TTIP. The very notion of TTIP goes against the preamble to your party’s constitution. It has been a very secretive process, with details only released reluctantly after legal challenges. It will further concentrate power in the hands of unelected, unaccountable global corporations (which is at odds with your stated aim to “disperse power“. If the supporters of TTIP are so certain it is a 100% Good Thing, why not give the people a vote on this treaty? After all, your constitution states that one of your party’s aims is to let people “contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.” This will affect all our lives; surely we deserve a say? Or do Liberals now believe such decisions are best left to unelected people in the European Commission and dodgy corporate lawyers?

    Further, there will be people saying “but Liberals have always believed in free trade.” That may be so, but this is not free trade. I hardly think, say, Victorian-era Liberals would have been in favour of giving multinational corporations (many of which are now more powerful than nation states) more power. I hardly think Classical Liberals would’ve supported rent-extracting, monoploy-seeking, small business destroying globalised multinationals who wield more power than democratically elected governments.

  • What’s becoming increasingly obvious is that TTIP Proselytisers are losing both their numbers and their arguments.

    When you can’t deal with the honest and open criticisms that critics of TTIP make, you try and undermine their points by association: “which echo what many segments of Europe’s radical left have been peddling”. Further, don’t address legitimate and democratic concerns but try to undermine that legitimacy by terms like “scaremongering” or “propaganda”.

    I hear the sound of voters running away.

  • @Bolano – no, it’s just that the pseudo-religious frothing of the anti-TTIP warriors has become incredibly tedious, and most real Lib Dems are out trying to win elections right now, instead of whipping up hysteria.

  • Sean O'Curneen 7th Apr '15 - 2:32pm

    I fear a number of you have missed the point of my article. I am not saying “just close your eyes and accept what is negotiated for you”. I too want to see the end result, but it isn’t ready yet!
    Furthermore, to imply that there is some sort of conspiracy doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Yet, it IS the case that there have been wild rumours spread around with no basis whatsoever other than fear and lack of trust. The latter requires greater transparency, and that is why there have been significant efforts made to make this trade negotiation more transparent than any prior one. I strongly urge you to click on the links provided to get the full picture. And for anyone interested in reading actual documents here’s another link http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/ttip/documents-and-events/#/transparency.

  • Conor McGovern 7th Apr '15 - 2:54pm

    The greatest scandal is that 95% of the public won’t have even heard of TTIP due to the zero coverage on the main news stations in people’s living rooms. Real economic liberals would clock that this isn’t about opening up free trade, but about breaking down the few remaining barriers to corporate freedom. How does this treaty benefit small businesses or disperse power to citizens or even national governments? Unfortunately we’re still generally too starry eyed about the EU’s benefit to the peoples of Europe, but just a glance at our neglected preamble should at least put us resolutely against TTIP.

  • Sean O’Curneen 7th Apr ’15 – 2:32pm
    “..Yet, it IS the case that there have been wild rumours spread around with no basis whatsoever other than fear”

    Sean , I do not think I have missed the point of your article at all. It is entirely possible to understand precisely the point you are making but to either disagree or not feel able to fully endorse your point.

    When for example you talk about “wild rumours” “with no basis other than fear” it is possible that what you are in fact saying is “things that I do not believe are true”.

    It is not entirely clear if you are writing in a personal capacity or if your article is the policy position of the ALDE Group on The Committee of The Regions.
    However, your language is informative when you of the views expressed within the UK Liberal Democrats as — “..echo what many segments of Europe’s radical left have been peddling

  • Stephen Hesketh 7th Apr '15 - 3:06pm

    MBoy7th Apr ’15 – 2:30pm

    “@Bolano – no, it’s just that the pseudo-religious frothing of the anti-TTIP warriors has become incredibly tedious, and most real Lib Dems are out trying to win elections right now, instead of whipping up hysteria.”

    MBoy – You don’t regard “pseudo-religious frothing of the anti-TTIP warriors” as being ever so slightly hysterical then?

    Anyway, I’m glad you have time in your busy campaigning schedule to lecture the rest of us 🙁

  • Stephen Campbell 7th Apr '15 - 3:11pm

    @Sean O’Curneen:

    The test which Liberals should apply to TTIP in deciding to support or reject it should be, in my opinion, this:

    Does TTIP “build and safeguard a fair, free and open society”? From the way it has been negotiated so far, I’d say no.

    Will TTIP help free us from the “enslavement of poverty” when global corporations are further increasing their own wealth at the expense of the rest of us?

    How will TTIP “champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals” when the corporations it will undoubtedly benefit are often at odds with our own freedom, dignity and well-being?

    By further concentrating power into the hands of already-powerful entities such as multinationals, how exactly will TTIP “aim to disperse power”? Is it not the case that it will do the opposite of dispersing power, especially at the expense of small, local businesses who cannot ever hope to compete with multinationals?

    The electorate has had precious little say in TTIP and have had to fight tooth and nail (through lawsuits) just to be able to know some of the details of TTIP. How is this compatible with your party’s stated aim of letting people “contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives”?

    If you read even further through the preamble to your party’s constitution, it becomes even clearer that the substance of TTIP and the way it has been negotiated is the total opposite to your party’s supposed aims.

  • Stephen Campbell 7th Apr '15 - 3:14pm

    @MBoy: “it’s just that the pseudo-religious frothing of the anti-TTIP warriors has become incredibly tedious”

    If wanting greater transparency and a democratic vote on TTIP as well as having great concern about giving more power to the already too powerful makes me a “pseudo-religious frothing anti-TTIP warrior”, well, I’m guilty as charged.

  • Stephen Hesketh 7th Apr '15 - 3:16pm

    Conor McGovern7th Apr ’15 – 2:54pm
    ” … just a glance at our neglected preamble should at least put us resolutely against TTIP.”

    I agree Conor and will personally only consider changing my mind following full disclosure, analysis and democratic agreement – and following the said corporations paying their due taxes etc. No corporate responsibility, no TTIP.

  • Perhaps LDV should change its name to TTIP discussion forum.

    Neither side is saying anything new.

  • For an article that accuses fellow Lib Dems who disagree with the author as being de facto radical leftists, the line –

    “Here are a number of facts that all Liberal Democrats should be aware of and should readily share whenever the subject arises”

    – has more than a whiff of the Soviet to it.

  • “How does this treaty benefit small businesses” [Conor McGovern 7th Apr ’15 – 2:54pm]

    This is one of the issues I have with TTIP, however Sean does provide a potentially illuminating quote:

    “For example SMEs account for more than 95% of the processed food, machinery, and motor vehicles and parts sectors.” {U.S. Ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner]

    Whilst all of these sectors do contain SME’s, I wonder whether there is a difference in perception: I certainly don’t regard: Unilever, Ford, BMW etc. as SME’s. And in fact it is questionable whether brands such as Aston Martin and Lamborghini are SME’s given that they are now parts of much larger automotive groups. Alternatively the measure being used to arrive at the 95% is open to discussion.

  • I did not consider the article by Chris Bowers as scaremongering, he seemed to be raising legitimate concerns about the possible effect of the TTIP. However this article does not address those concerns and does not convince me that the possible effects of TTIP will not come to pass.

    People have raised concerns about Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) but this article doesn’t address them.

    @ Sean O’Curneen
    “Yet, it IS the case that there have been wild rumours spread around with no basis whatsoever other than fear and lack of trust.”

    This does not answer AndrewR
    “Trust the corporate lawyers and the technocratic elites”.

    I have no wish to read lots of EU papers, but I am happy to read an article setting out how ISDS will ensure that EU laws are enforced on all who trade in the EU and there are no special rules for any group, but this article is not that.

  • Sean O'Curneen 7th Apr '15 - 6:00pm

    @Bolano – You mustn’t take offence to my opening statements. They were simply an honest description of my reaction to the article. From where I stand, some of the most vehement opposition that has circulated has been coming from Europe’s radical left. I don’t in any way accuse people who accept that view of being radical leftists themselves – in fact I went on to say in my opening statement that some of the views and fears of the radical left in Europe have clearly caught on more widely, hence the need to provide some balance.

  • Sean O'Curneen 7th Apr '15 - 6:06pm

    @Michael BG – An article about TTIP that in its headline states that TTIP is a threat to Europe, is in my view scaremongering. My article was not intended to address the issue you raise, but rather to share some information which I am aware of and which in my view deserves to be shared and dispel some of the fears that there is some kind of conspiracy going on.

  • Sean O'Curneen 7th Apr '15 - 6:39pm

    @Stephen Campbell – If the outcome to TTIP were to be what you describe, I would totally agree with you and be fully opposed to it. But as I have described in my article, neither is that the intention of TTIP (click on the links in my article), nor is it clear yet what the final outcome of TTIP will be, because the negotiations and parliamentary scrutiny of it are far from over yet.

  • @Sean O’Curneen 7th Apr ’15 – 6:00pm

    I don’t take offence at your opening statements. I disagree with your advocacy of TTIP for reasons I’ve posted in response to the various pro-articles that have appeared here – reasons that have not been unique to me, reasons that have not been addressed by these various articles that have appeared.

    I do think your opening statements were spectacularly ill-judged if you were aiming to win anyone over to your cause. The next time you write an article I’d suggest you give some consideration as to whether your prime aim is to convince readers of your argument, or to give an “honest description of (your) reaction(s)”. Unless you’re a substantial figure in the party, I don’t think the latter is likely to be of over-riding interest to readers.

    Why bother writing an article to win over dissenting party members if you’re just going to disengage them from your arguments by insulting them in your opening?

  • Sean O'Curneen 7th Apr '15 - 8:33pm

    @JohnTilley – please see my reply to Bolano above.

  • @Sean O’Curneen 7th Apr ’15 – 6:00pm

    “I don’t in any way accuse people who accept that view of being radical leftists themselves”

    No, you accuse them of thinking the kind of thoughts radical leftists think. Hence my comment “you try and undermine their points by association”.

  • Sean O'Curneen 7th Apr '15 - 8:40pm

    @Bolano – I’m sorry you feel insulted. That was not the intention. As I said, you should not take offence at my opening statement. Again, the substantial point here is that a lot of the concerns are being addressed by the European Commission, but the information isn’t getting through easily to the public. Regardless of how you may feel about my article, do have a look at the links.

  • Philip Thomas 7th Apr '15 - 8:42pm

    I’m still confused… I think I’ll keep with my plan of not making up my mind until I see the actual text.

  • @Sean O’Curneen 7th Apr ’15 – 8:40pm

    Don’t worry. I don’t feel insulted. I repeat again – “I don’t take offence” at what you’ve written.

    Let me just repeat – I feel neither offended, nor insulted – nor even insulted and offended. I’m merely pointing out your article in its introduction is really badly done – as an article, as an argument. It’s a technical issue.

    When we get into the actual body of your article – well, it just doesn’t convince me. Let me take one very simple example, as mentioned above by Michael BG – ISDS.

    Now every pro-TTIP article on LDV seems to follow the same pattern. Bit of an introduction explaining what idiots or commies the opposition to TTIP comprises, and then a body of links. Many, many links, generally all well-meaning and full of good intent but a little light on the actuality, so-to-speak. And lo and behold, below the line, there’s always at least one person who brings up ISDS – brings up how concerned they are about it, about it’s impact on democracy, about the way it empowers corporations over states, and how it will work with TTIP.

    And none of you Ttippers ever engage with that concern. You evade engaging with it. You run. You just point to more wordy, well-meaning documents that by themselves guarantee absolutely nothing.

    This is why you guys aren’t winning us all over. You don’t need to give me these “I’m sorry you feel” meaningless corporate apologies. What you Ttippers need to do is engage with the arguments raised by your critics; not just point to links which are meaningless in the light of those critics’ concerns.

  • Steve Comer 8th Apr '15 - 12:12am

    I agree with my Bristol colleague Mark Wright. I’m getting tired of all the usual suspects from the authoritarian left claiming that this is all part of some gigantic world conspiracy to destroy the UK’s National Health Service!

    The point about transparency is well made, but this appears to be recognised by Commissioner Malmstrom, and indeed Marietje Schaake from D66/ALDE. Can I suggest we actually engage better with our two LIBERAL allies, rather than be spooked by socialists who run websites like 38 degrees?

    I really don’t know if I’m pro or anti TTiP at this stage, for the very simple reason that it is work in progress, the negotiations have not ended. However I have had 20 years of experience as a negotiator at all levels in my Trade Union, and 8 years on the Employers Side as a Councillor (locally an nationally). You have to have a certain amount of confidentiality in the negotiations process to enable dialogue and discussion to proceed, but you also need time for those negotiating round the table to go back and consult with those they are representing. This can be a difficult balance at time, too much information can abort discussions before they start, too little leads to suspicion. It looks to me as if Cecilia Malmstrom is attempting to get that balance right, and we should encouarge our fellow Liberal to achieve that.

  • Steve, when I read your post together with Bolano’s, it sounds like an illustration.

  • Sean O'Curneen 8th Apr '15 - 1:33am

    @Bolano and MichaelBG – Two things to say about ISDS in response to your requests:
    1. ISDS as a concept goes back to the 1950s and many European countries have included it in their trade agreements even with other European countries. It has existed for a long time and the public authorities have continued to exercise their democratic sovereignty.
    2. Nobody knows how ISDS will work in TTIP for the simple reason that it’s still too early in the negotiations. More so given that Commissioner Malmström announced a delay in the decision on ISDS as a result of the public concerns. Here’s a newspaper article about it:

  • brian watson 8th Apr '15 - 3:39am

    Doubts about TTIP/ISDS are not confined to leftists . There are many sceptical about the benefits of TTIP and TPP in the US Republican camp . This is much more than a simple left versus right spat . Please do not trivialize the debate with
    overuse of labels like leftist ; there are real concerns which need to be properly addressed.

  • @Sean O’Curneen 8th Apr ’15 – 1:33am

    1) The history of ISDS as a concept is meaningless here. The issue is not theoretical but that, since the late 90s, there has been a rapid expansion in international companies seeking recourse to it.
    2) Of course democratic sovereignty is affected by it. You vote for representatives who make a decision on your behalf to try and reduce lung cancer deaths by introducing plain paper packaging and a foreign tobacco company seeks to undo this by recourse to an ISDS.
    3. “Nobody knows how ISDS will work in TTIP for the simple reason that it’s still too early in the negotiations”. Well. let’s examine the very article you link to: “The executive pointed out that it was given a unanimous mandate by all EU governments to include ISDS in the free trade agreement, provided certain conditions were met.” So, I ask you, what are the conditions that the coalition government have asked to be met that would allow the usage of an ISDS in relation to the operation of TTIP? Nobody might know how the negotiations will end, but someone certainly knows what the mandate is, and to what degree that mandate constitutes a red line.

  • Sean O’Curneen 7th Apr ’15 – 8:33pm
    “@JohnTilley – please see my reply to Bolano above.”

    Sean O’Curneen,
    I have done as you requested and have seen your reply to Bolano.
    It does not help me — but never mind.

    I think the comment from Steve Comer describes what ought to be the rational conclusion to everything that we have seen, heard and read so far about TTIP.
    Steve says —
    “..I really don’t know if I’m pro or anti TTiP at this stage, for the very simple reason that it is work in progress, the negotiations have not ended”

    Your article has muddied the waters perhaps by your extravagant use of language to demean those whom you clearly do not like on the “radical left”.
    I believe the natural position of Liberals is on the Radical Left. So I find it curious that you believe that I or anyone else might be “insulted” or “offended” to be associated with the thoughts of people in that part of the political spectrum.
    Your use of language tells me a great deal about your own prejudices but tells me very little about TTIP.

  • Sean O'Curneen 8th Apr '15 - 9:20am

    @Bolano – Indeed, by referring to the mandate you prove the point of my article, i.e. a lot has happened since the mandate was given, not least that there is a new commissioner (who is a highly respected liberal and whose democratic credentials are beyond doubt) who is taking a series of steps to change the way things are done. Therefore, to hold the same view as when the mandate was first leaked without acknowledging the changes that have been made does not, in my view, help to move things forward. It seems only reasonable to me to give her a chance. And it is for that reason, I shared the info on my article.

  • Sean O'Curneen 8th Apr '15 - 9:39am

    @JohnTilley – I see that there is a misunderstanding in terminology. You are right. Radical Left in the Lib Dem sense does not mean the same as radical left in the Brussels sense (i.e. neo-communists). After many years in Brussels, that is how I understand the term. I regret not spotting that distinction when writing the article, but my point still stands: describing TTIP as a “threat to Europe” is over the top, creates unnecessary fear about something which requires a discussion based on evidence, and when the evidence itself shows that concerns are being addressed making this the most transparent negotiation ever, but that there is no global conspiracy. Hence, the usefulness of sharing the information that many I am sure were not aware of. I also agree with you that Steve Comer summed it up very well.

  • Sean O'Curneen 8th Apr '15 - 9:44am

    @JohnTilley – By the way, I happen to follow Spanish politics closely, and just last night the radical left (or neo-communists) of the Podemos party were mobilising their grassroots activists with alarmist messages about TTIP, which again simply do not hold up against the evidence. One thing is to have genuine concerns, apply pressure to ensure there is a dialogue, and something quite different is to carry on as if nothing had been done to take those concerns on board. That is what I object to, and which many in the most left wing groups in Europe are doing.

  • @ Sean O’Curneen
    A headline of TTIP being a threat to Europe is eye catching in a tabloid sort of way to get our interest with the details in the article.

    The article you link to states, “The conditions for ISDS include that it:
    • Provides the highest possible level of legal protection and certainty for EU investors in the US
    • Promotes European standards of protection
    • Provides a level playing field for EU and US investors
    • Builds on experiences of bilateral investment agreements with third countries
    • Ensures that the EU can regulate public policy objectives such as social, environmental, security, stability of the financial system, public health and safety
    • Promotes and protects EU cultural diversity”

    It also states that there was the largest ever response to an EU consultation and that the EU Parliament’s Trade Committee opposes ISDS in TTIP, while it appears that big business say having ISDS is crucial. It also states that MEP Helmut Scholz is not convinced that the Commission understands how much of a threat ISDS is seen. However it also seems that the negotiators still believe that ISDS has to be included.

  • Sean, your comment “More so given that Commissioner Malmström announced a delay in the decision on ISDS as a result of the public concerns.” is a very good demonstration of what public awareness and press has done, even if the protests may be misdirected!

    The concept of ISDS goes back much much further than the 1950’s. Fundamentally ISDS puts someone (or corporate entity) above the law. This principle was fundamental to the struggle that resulted in the signing Magna Carta: No one, not even the King was above the law. I suggest the Magna Carta principle is highly relevant to the modern EU. With established legal systems in both the US and EU that are (largely) independent of the politicians, there is little need to establish a third system that gives citizens no recourse to the law.

  • SIMON BANKS 8th Apr '15 - 11:30am

    David Evans’ point is massive and Sean does not appear to have answered it. If the agreement allows companies to sue governments for legitimate changes in public policy that disadvantage them, that is directly anti-democratic and illiberal.

    It’s not just the “radical left” that’s campaigning against TTIP. Major environmental organisations are too.

  • David Evans 8th Apr '15 - 1:12pm


    I’m afraid Sean strikes me as a typical bureaucrat in this matter. Answer the easy questions, obfuscate the tricky ones and ignore the important ones. So much like the UK beaureaucrats’ Decide and Defend aproach to policy, rather than the Liberal approach of Consult and Consider.

  • SIMON BANKS 8th Apr ’15 – 11:30am

    Yes – quite right Simon, it is not just the Radical Left. The Public Health community have cause for concern about TTIP.

    Their simple question is — ” Why is Big Tobacco lobbying so hard in favour of TTIP?”

  • @ JohnTilley 8th Apr ’15 – 5:51am

    His replies to me don’t help me, either.

    Sean O’Curneen 8th Apr ’15 – 9:20am

    “Indeed, by referring to the mandate you prove the point of my article, i.e. a lot has happened since the mandate was given.” Seriously, that’s not your main point. And as an answer to my question your post is again evasive. TTIP allied with ISDS has the potential to immensely damage the fabric of our democracy and society. You can’t provide an argument against that threat because you have no clear idea of what the negotiators are trying to achieve, let alone what they will achieve.

    I no more believe the advocates of TTIP than I did those of WMD. Not because I’m a “pseudo-religious frothing anti-TTIP warrior”, but because you don’t have the evidence to back up your claims. Democracy is always struck a blow when we’re urged to forget the evidence and place our faith in a higher authority. Ttippers are not merely anti-democratic because they urge the adoption of a system that harms democracy, but in their subversions of a democratic system that aims for participation via informed decision making – just trust your betters is the message, you don’t need to concern yourself with the details. This is Liberalism? I think not.

  • @JohnTilley 8th Apr ’15 – 1:35pm

    My question would be why are there so many who claim to be Liberals on the side of Big Tobacco rather than on the side of ordinary folk in society?

  • Bolano – “My question would be why are there so many who claim to be Liberals on the side of Big Tobacco rather than on the side of ordinary folk in society?”

    Why are so many “ordinary folk in society” on the side of Big Tobacco? They are the ones buying their products.

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th Apr '15 - 3:59pm

    Sean O’Curneen

    Is it possible to answer the question posed by David Evans, “Does TTIP allow companies to take legal action against governments to get compensation?” ?

    It seems to be quite a fundimental issue.

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Apr '15 - 4:25pm

    “Does TTIP allow companies to take legal action against governments to get compensation?”

    Is this problematic?

  • Simon McGrath 8th Apr '15 - 4:27pm

    @john Tilley ” Why is Big Tobacco lobbying so hard in favour of TTIP?”
    Can you give us your evidence that they are ?

    @Stephen Hesketh “Does TTIP allow companies to take legal action against governments to get compensation?” ?”
    You do know companies can already sue governments?

  • @Simon McGrath 8th Apr ’15 – 4:27pm


    ‘The Transatlantic Business Council (TABC), for example, brings together British American Tobacco, IBM, BP, Pfizer, Deutsche Bank and Nasdaq. Under the “partnership”, it wants new laws to undergo mandatory assessments of their likely impact on trans-Atlantic trade [PDF]. At first glance, this may appear technical and innocuous. Yet the idea of mandatory impact assessment was pioneered by cigarette-makers during the 1990s in a bid to stave off anti-smoking measures.

    Big Tobacco’s fingerprints smudge quite a few of the initiatives that paved the way for the trans-Atlantic talks. From 2007 until 2012, the Brussels office of the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue (as the TABC was then known) was headed by Jeffries Briginshaw, who had previously spent 14 years with British American Tobacco. Briginshaw is now the managing director of BritishAmerican Business, a London-based outfit that has threatened to stage a “road show” [PDF] promoting the trade deal to the public.

    It is not hard to see the attraction of the planned deal for the cigarette industry. The European Commission is committed to having a clause in it that will allow corporations to sue governments over laws that constitute a “barrier” to their activities in a specialised court. The history of arbitration panels resulting from trade liberalisation agreements is that they are headed by pro-corporate lawyers, not impartial judges. Last year, the World Trade Organisation ruled that the US would have to lift its ban on clove-flavoured cigarettes, which have been designed to entice teenagers. Shielding the young from sweetened carcinogens is not permissible, according to the zealots of the “free market”.’

  • Things must be pretty desperate when Ttippers have to resort to allegations of “scaremongering” when in fact opposition has been mostly cogently argued and well supported by examples of bad and often thoroughly undemocratic outcomes. Meanwhile, Ttippers have mainly relied on vague assertions or highly dubious economic studies.

    It’s all very well to argue that, “The media and the public rarely show much interest in highly technical trade negotiations. Clearly, however, times have changed and that “transparency rules would apply to the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlements.” In fact the EU Commission’s conversion to transparency has come late in the day and only under threat of legal action. Cecilia Malmström’s intervention is welcome but, since I don’t know her, I can’t help wondering how much it’s driven by conviction and how much by tactical necessity in the face of mounting opposition and in any case the supertanker that is the EU bureaucracy is unlikely to have changed its view materially.


  • Simon McGrath 8th Apr '15 - 7:05pm

    @Bolano – so another way of putting it is that tobacco firms like other firms in a whole variety of industries from the US and EU are in favour of TTIP.

  • @jedibeeftrix 8th Apr ’15 – 4:25pm

    ‘“Does TTIP allow companies to take legal action against governments to get compensation?”

    Is this problematic?’

    It clearly is around issues of public health, global warming, the environment, etc, etc. Whether its pollutants or carcinogens, you don’t want to find health issues impossibly expensive to resolve because the act of banning a pollutant is simultaneously a restriction on trade and therefore subject to punitive resolution outside your sovereignty.

  • @Simon McGrath 8th Apr ’15 – 7:05pm

    You asked for evidence, I provided it. You want to twist the evidence, go find your own and present it.

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th Apr '15 - 8:44pm

    jedibeeftrix 8th Apr ’15 – 4:25pm
    Simon McGrath 8th Apr ’15 – 4:27pm

    Sorry been out canvassing 🙂

    The biggest issue I foresee is TTIP further shifting power from governments (under less than perfect democratic control) to very large, powerful and wealthy businesses simultaneously acting solely in pursuit of short term economic gain, having state-levels of wealth and being completely outside the control of ordinary people.

    It is a giant leap on the path to a Liberal and Democratic nightmare.

    The bigger the corporation and the more entrenched are their rights in law, the harder it will be for governments to resist their demands to access certain ‘markets’, to pay taxes, obey employment legislation etc. Governments could all too easily become involved in a race to the bottom. Only then will the democratic deficit really hit home.

    Being a 19th century Liberal, I do hope Jedi can at least understand my fears for democracy. I do not entertain any hopes at all with the other person.

  • Despite claims to the contrary it’s quite apparent that it’s the voice of big business and NOT that of the people or civil society groups that matters in the EU halls of power as Corporate Europe Observatory reports – scroll through the several graphics and check out articles listed in the side bar.


    If the party really wants to support TTIP it should really change its name to ‘Liberal Corporatists’ which would be much more accurate of its position.

  • @GF 8th Apr ’15 – 10:16pm

    Brilliant link – thank you!

  • @GF – The link just confirmed what I’ve been saying – the Libdems have been too Westminster focused in their demands for more transparency in lobbying, when the real lobby money is being spent in Brussels…

  • Just to add to my previous post, it would be interesting what Sean, given his role in the ALDE, has to say about what ALDE are doing about EU lobbying…

  • @jedibeeftrix (8th Apr ’15 – 11:17am)

    I think you may of missed my point, Magna Carta came about because certain ‘corporate’ entities (including the King) considered themselves above the law and hence massively abused that position… So the obvious lesson, is that if you permit any group to be above the law of the land, you can practically guarantee they will avail themselves of the opportunity this status gives them. Hence, given the emphasis the EU puts on it’s high standards, why I the EU would be well advised to take on board a principle that English law established hundreds of years before many of the European ‘republics’ existed.

    The concerns you raise about differences between EU member states, raises an important question: is the EU Commission negotiating TTIP and hence will also sign TTIP, on behalf of the EU and thus bind the member states of the EU to the treaty, or is it simply facilitating the creation of a common draft on behalf of the EU member states, who will individually sign the treaty as per the Extradition treaty? Note in the first instance the whole treaty would apply across the EU, in the second there should be provisions which only apply to particular member states.

    My understanding (and I suspect that of many others) is that the EU are negotiating TTIP and will sign it on behalf of the member states, hence any differences in the rule of law between member states should be resolved within the EU’s internal framework which every member state has signed up to…

    As an aside, the EU-US extradition treaty seems to have managed to come up with a formula for “judicial cooperation” without the need for an ISDS…

  • @jedibeeftrix 9th Apr ’15 – 11:03am

    From the Australian Government:


    I think the extrapolations from here are fairly clear.

  • @jedibeeftrix 9th Apr ’15 – 12:09pm

    “I’m not sure I have much sympathy with the plain packaging lark.”

    You may not. I do. The great thing about democracy is that you get to vote for representatives that don’t have sympathy with plain packaging; I get to vote for those that do. Unfortunately, TTIP with ISDS seeks to get around this by putting the decision making process outside of the democratic process.

    In this instance the act would be in your favour. It may not always work out that way. History’s littered with examples of those who gave up democratic control for a specific gain – it never seems to work out well in the end, though.

  • Stephen Hesketh 10th Apr '15 - 1:11pm

    jedibeeftrix9th Apr ’15 – 11:17am

    Sorry Jedi – you typed ‘SK’ so I hadn’t spotted that you had replied to me specifically.

    “But the challenge I have for you is this: sometime in the next five years we’re going to have a referendum on the EU, do you think the british electorate will respond “yes” after a botched and acrimonious failure to achieve free trade with the US from within the EU?”

    I accept the challenge but – and I see it as a big BUT – if the EU wishes to lose the support of its progressive egalitarians and libertarians (and I use the latter term in the positive British sense rather than the US Republican Right sense), they should cast caution to the wind and declare for TTIP.

    If the final version of TTIP does indeed still look as though it will result in the transfer of further power and wealth to the rich and powerful, I would rather leave the EU than accept it.

    Just as Free Trade was one of the defining (and party-splitting) ideas of 19th century British politics, TTIP and free for all economics of the neo-Corporationists, may yet cause a similar event in the 21st century.

    Realignment anyone?

  • @Stephen Hesketh 10th Apr ’15 – 1:11pm

    Very interesting points.

    I think there’s an analogy to be drawn. I’d say the Lib Dems are the most European of our parties, in a way that the EU is an ideal of spreading the very best of Europe’s liberal and democratic ideas both internally and externally; that there’s a natural antipathy towards the EU on the part of – part of – the Tory party thus in no way surprises me. And the very success of the EU, seeking to balance the needs of the market with the needs of the people, leads to this kind of blowback: those on the political right, no native supporters of this kind of ideal EU, are trying to use a vehicle for exporting the best liberal ideals as a vehicle for importing the most anti-liberal ideology, an unfettered market-fetishism.

    This is rather like the way the Lib Dems have themselves suddenly suffered from a blowback of market-fetishism – and, unsurprisingly, supporters of both are often the same people. What have these cries from the right done for the popularity of the Lib Dems?

    When I say cries from the right I mean not the traditional right, of course. Bringing TTIP into the EU isn’t going to win over the traditional right, be they Kippers or Tories, to the European project: but it will turn away support from the traditional left, both socialist and non-socialist. And in that way the disintegration of the EU looms (withdrawal), as the EU becomes an ideal of a small sliver of the population, a curiously thin band of the political spectrum, natural Cleggies. It’s done for the party at this year’s election – I can see no reason why it can’t do for the EU eventually, too.

  • @Bolano & Stephen Hesketh – I think, in the context of the up coming UK referendum on our relationship with the EU, declaring for (or against TTIP) is actually the wrong move. What is the right move is to use TTIP as a vehicle to show both the relevance of the EU and that it is changing and becoming more open and democratically accountable.

    So for example, what is quite telling is the absence of any real coverage of what our MEP’s are doing. Sean here has missed an opportunity to say what exactly the ALDE group are doing. Because yes, if you believe the MEP’s, TTIP in its current draft does represent a threat to Europe! specifically in that it does not make any reference to EU data protection legislation and adopts the vastly weaker US protections… I suspect that Sean omits this because the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) is headed up by a Green/EFA MEP…

  • Chris Manvell 25th Apr '15 - 10:27pm

    As I have poor eyesight, going through the mass of comments isn’t really an option so I apologise if this has already been raised.
    What protections will be in place to stop US based multinationals from moving in and gradually buying our (UK) more successful SMEs? I deplore the taking over of Terry’s and Cadbury by a company that produces poor quality foodstuffs and which promptly shuts down factories and moves production to cheaper countries. Taken to its logical conclusion we could end up being owned by the US, a country which, in my opinion is the largest terrorist nation in the world. Are companies like Monsanto going to be able to sue our government for lost profits when we pass legislation to protect the health of our citizens? The last thing I wish to see is the imposition of the US way of life being gradually imposed on my country. I’ll stop now!

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