How can you represent the concerns of local people, if you have to put the interests of big business first? This is the question that the Greater Bristol Alliance and Global Justice Now will be putting to local councillors at the next full meeting of Bristol City Council at the Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, Nevil Rd, on Tuesday 15th March, starting with question time at 5pm.
Speaking on behalf of the Greater Bristol Alliance, Sue Kilroe commented: “This is not a hypothetical question. If the massive free trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (otherwise known as TTIP) is agreed by the EU and the US this year, local councils will have to make sure that none of their decisions can be legally challenged by a transatlantic corporation. This is because TTIP will give transatlantic corporations the right to sue any EU or US government or local authority in secret courts, if they make any decision that adversely affects their future profits.
“All sorts of decisions could become harder or impossible under TTIP. For example, Bristol City Council may want to boost the local economy by giving contracts to local businesses, but that could be challenged as ‘anti-competitive’. If a private corporation fails to provide an adequate public service, the council may face a huge compensation claim if they try to terminate the contract. Councillors may want to regulate the use of dangerous pesticides or carcinogenic substances such as growth hormones in meat, but TTIP would sweep aside many of the regulations that currently protect public health. The council may want to refuse planning permission for fracking under south Bristol, but Quebec is currently being sued under a similar free trade agreement (NAFTA) for imposing a ban on fracking – and that is what could happen here.”
Global Justice Now has been leading the campaign to encourage local authorities to declare themselves TTIP Free Zones as a way of highlighting their opposition to this secret free trade deal. Martin Powell from Global Justice Now says, “TTIP is not an ordinary trade deal. It is an agreement designed to benefit transatlantic corporations, who want to take over the NHS and other public services and to reduce safety regulations in the EU and the US. Already 35 local authorities in the UK, including Birmingham, Bradford, Glasgow and Edinburgh, have declared themselves TTIP Free Zones. We hope that Bristol will do the same. Indeed, this would be appropriate for Bristol as the 2015 Green Capital of Europe, because the threat of huge compensation claims under TTIP would make it impossible to phase out fossil fuels – something we urgently need to do in order to tackle climate change.
“Over 3 million people have signed a European Citizens’ Initiative opposing TTIP, and even Peter Lilley, a former Conservative trade minister, has described TTIP as a threat to democracy. It is time for all the political parties to unite against this corporate power grab. We need to defend our future and stand up for our democracy now.”
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For further information see the Global Justice Now briefing, The EU – US trade deal: How TTIP could cripple local government.