22 Nov 2014

Congress General Secretary David Begg has described as “profoundly anti-democratic” a proposed trade deal between the United States and Europe and warned it would make it almost impossible for Governments to introduce any progressive legislation in the future.

Addressing delegates at the Technical Engineering & Electrical Union’s (TEEU) Biennial Conference, in Kilkenny, Mr Begg said the proposed Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) would effectively complete the ‘subjugation of society’ to corporate needs.

Mr Begg said: “Ireland is a very small open economy and, generally speaking, it is in our interest to have a rules-based trading environment.

"But it has to be fair, and TTIP is anything but fair. In fact the rules are stacked in favour of business from the beginning.”

He said a provision of the deal known as ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)’ would “allow corporations to sue Governments before an arbitration panel composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people have no representation and which is not subject to judicial review.

“This…..could allow a US multinational to sue a future Irish Government for raising the minimum wage on the grounds that such a policy decision affected its profits.

“Consider the chilling effect that would have on Governments and civil servants. We would never again as a Congress be able to achieve legislative change to benefit workers,” Mr Begg said.

He cited several examples of major corporations which are already suing national Governments in Germany, Uruguay, Australia, El Salvador and Ecuador, using similar mechanims.

“In short TTIP is a manifestation of an aggressive neoliberalism aimed at so circumscribing the policy space for Governments that politics will be separated from economics such that is will matter little what kind of Government is elected…….it will complete the subjugation of society to markets,” Mr Begg said.

He also warned that TTIP could result in the alignment of “European labour markets with those of the United States with all the inequality and insecurity this implies - a kind of transatlantic ‘Race to the Bottom’.”

Mr Begg said this would serve to reinforce a global drift away from mainstream politics:

“If you have free trade and free circulation of capital and people, but destroy the social state and all forms of progressive taxation, the temptations of defensive nationalism and identity politics will very likely grow stronger than ever in Europe and the United States.

"Is that not the evidence suggested by the victories of the Tea Party Republicans in the US, UKIP in Britain and a similar pattern with FN in France and many other European countries too?” Mr Begg concluded.

Congress is hosting a seminar on TTIP on December 10. Full details here.