Images from the Stop TTIP demos in Bristol’s Bearpit

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On Friday 21st August, Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, joined local group, Greater Bristol Alliance, in the Bearpit outside Debenhams to raise awareness that free trade is driving us towards catastrophic climate change. Greater Bristol Alliance is putting up new billboards in the Bear Pit about global warming and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the massive trade deal which is currently being negotiated in secret by the EU and the US.

This initiative was supported by 38 Degrees, The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, The Bearpit Improvement Group and The People’s Assembly.

On Saturday 22nd August supporters of 38 Degrees, the online campaigning group, marched down Whiteladies Road to the Bearpit to demonstrate against TTIP.

These protests are occurring at a critical time, as the International Energy Agency has warned that if we do not get our emissions under control by 2017, our fossil fuel economy will ‘lock in’ extremely dangerous global warming.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change conference is due to start in Paris on 29th November, but the protesters fear that if TTIP is agreed it could weaken decisions on climate change to the point of irrelevance.

Molly Scott Cato, who was only allowed to view TTIP documents after agreeing not to share the information with her constituents, commented: “I left without any sense of reassurance either that the process of negotiating this trade deal is democratic, or that the negotiators are operating on behalf of citizens. It is a corporate discussion, not a democratic one.”

She has also criticised the British government’s decision to impose the Climate Change Levy on renewable generators as “illogical and punitive”, pointing out that their “ideological opposition to renewable technologies is destroying thousands of potential jobs”.

Speaking on behalf of Great Bristol Alliance, Hilary Saunders commented: “We are appalled by the Government’s announcement this week that they have awarded fracking licences in 27 areas, and that a further 132 areas including parts of the West Country could also be licensed for fracking. Drilling for oil and gas will inevitably increase our emissions, while the toxic chemicals used in fracking could also contaminate our water, land and air.

“This is directly relevant to the people of Bristol, because the area covered by fracking licence PEDL 226 includes the reservoirs which supply our drinking water – and this area extends as far as Parson Street in Bedminster! This licence has currently been relinquished but could easily be awarded again. Anyone who thinks this technology is safe should have a look at the film Gaslands.

“Like other free trade agreements, TTIP contains measures which enable multinational companies to sue governments whose policies limit their future profits. How can governments seek to control carbon emissions by regulating, taxing and penalising companies which produce or make heavy use of fossil fuels, if this inevitably triggers thousands of huge compensation claims? It is worth noting that a fracking company is using a free trade agreement to challenge a fracking ban in Quebec. That is what we would expect to happen here if TTIP is agreed.”

Alison Allan from the Greater Bristol Alliance commented: “As free trade will make it impossible to tackle climate change effectively, we hope that our Mayor will show international leadership by declaring Bristol a TTIP free zone.

“We also want to know how Bristol can reduce its carbon emissions substantially. We would like the Mayor to consider the possibility of generating our own electricity using renewable sources, as many towns do in Germany.

“Large parts of Somerset have already experienced severe flooding, but this is nothing compared to the catastrophic climate change that our children may have to face in 30 or 40 years time. All of us need to take action now to ensure that our children have a future – and that means the Government saying no to the multinational corporations who want us to sign up to TTIP.”

For further information, contact:

Hilary Saunders: h.saunders@clara.co.u

Alison Allan: alisonallan9@gmail.com

Notes for Editors:

Greater Bristol Alliance is working towards the establishment of a new politics based on the principles of justice, compassion and equality. It aims to enable co-operation between locally based and like-minded campaigning groups, unions and political parties in order to highlight root causes and key symptoms of environmental, economic and social abuses.

Contact:

Steve Timmins : GreaterBristolAlliance@gmail.com

Facebook: Greater Bristol

Is democracy threatened if companies can sue countries?

This very comprehensive report comes from the BBC’s Michael Robinson.

 

Those protesting against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the proposed new trade treaty between the European Union and the United States, are part of a growing international opposition to pacts that allow multinational companies to sue governments whose policies damage their interests. Opponents claim this right, known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), poses a threat to democracy.

But what is ISDS and why does it provoke such controversy? Continue reading

The Greater Bristol Alliance’s Manifesto

To encourage, in the greater Bristol area, (Bristol, N. Somerset and S. Gloucestershire), co-operation between organisations which will highlight key issues regarding the introduction of TTIP, threats to the Environment, the need to protect public services and the damage to the country caused by tax avoidance particularly by multi-national corporations – (“the Issues”). The Greater Bristol Alliance is not linked to any one political party.

Manifesto Aims:

  1. To co-operate with existing campaign groups within the Greater Bristol Area on issues of common interest.
  1. To continue to monitor the treatment of the Issues and campaign for them to be included in mainstream political discourse by all elected representatives.
  1. To campaign against TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and other international trade deals which could enable corporations to take over our public services, reduce safety standards and undermine our democracy.
  1. To work with environmental groups and all progressive political parties to help resist fracking and fight against fossil fuel aggravated climate change.
  1. To work with campaign groups attempting to resolve Bristol’s housing crisis.
  1. To work with campaign groups help protect the NHS and maintain its status as a health service for all citizens of the UK, free at the point of need, funded by government and not commercialised or sold off to the private sector.

A Video on TTIP from SumofUs

The excellent campaigning group http://sumofus.org/ has produced this excellent video (link below) which sums up what is going on in Brussels and Washington.  They say:

Just last week, a new leak on the world’s dirtiest trade deal emerged that confirmed our worst fears about TTIP. The deal gives big business unprecedented power over decision-making across Europe. And the losers will be us — European citizens.

The leaked text started out as complicated legalese — but when our legal experts broke it down into plain language, the news was the most shocking of all the leaks we’ve seen so far. Chlorinated chicken, GMO veggies, and chemicals in our food that can damage the development of our children are just three examples of the devastating effects TTIP will have on our day-to-day lives.

http://action.sumofus.org/a/ttip-video/?akid=9195.6544249.rOINzU&rd=1&sub=fwd&t=2

 

War on Want on TTIP

This piece and the original Vince cable letter to MPs can be found at:
http://www.waronwant.org/news/latest-news/18214-vince-cable-letter-to-mps-a-point-by-point-refutation

War on Want members and supporters have been contacting their MPs to protest about the dangers of TTIP, the EU-US trade deal that threatens to undermine jobs, public services and our democracy itself. Last year MPs were contacted by Vince Cable, the Secretary of State responsible for the negotiations, with a letter trying to downplay our concerns. The letter is a wilful misrepresentation of the truth, and we have been asked to provide a blow-by-blow refutation of his claims. (For those who would like an introduction to what TTIP is, see the piece in our magazine here.) http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18206-up-front-ttip<!–more–>

1. NO ECONOMIC BENEFITS

Vince Cable claims that “plausible economic studies suggest that a successful agreement between the EU and the US could bring economic benefits of up to £10 billion annually to the UK.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. His own government has already admitted to us in private meetings that these claims are anything but plausible, and that no one takes them seriously. For more detail on the true economic impact of TTIP, and the widespread rejection of the government figures, read our mythbuster for MPs here. http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18196-ttip-will-cost-one-million-jobs-official

2. ONE MILLION LOST JOBS

To suggest that TTIP will bring more jobs is a perversion of the official impact assessments. According to the main report commissioned at the start of the negotiations, TTIP will lead to the direct loss of at least one million jobs in the EU and USA combined. If the negotiations conclude with the ‘ambitious’ deal that they hope for, then at least two million people will lose their jobs. For full details, click here. http://www.thebrokeronline.eu/Blogs/Employment/TTIP-don-t-mention-the-job-losses

3. SMALL BUSINESSES AT RISK

It is also completely untrue to suggest that small firms will benefit more from TTIP. The consequence of almost all free trade agreements has been the further concentration of markets in favour of monopoly capital, not smaller enterprises. For this reason, the association of German small businesses, the BVMV, has rejected entirely the new powers that TTIP would give to big business.

4. DEREGULATION

It is entirely disingenuous for Cable to suggest that TTIP aims to maintain high environmental and labour standards. The entire point of TTIP is to remove the regulations that corporations have identified as ‘barriers’ to their operation, including through the ‘mutual recognition’ process that he accepts will continue. For more detail on this, read War on Want’s longer study on the threat of TTIP here. http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18078-what-is-ttip

5. NHS UNDER ATTACK

Cable is conscious that many people are concerned about the threat of TTIP to the NHS – and rightly so. His claim that the NHS is safe from privatisation under TTIP rings particularly hollow, seeing that his government is responsible for having already opened up the public service to private providers through the Health & Social Care Act 2012. Ken Clarke MP, who was previously responsible for promoting TTIP to the British public, admitted openly that the NHS is vulnerable under TTIP, and the European Commission has also confirmed that health services are included in the TTIP negotiations. Read our full account of this here. https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/john-hilary/on-ttip-and-nhs-they-are-trying-to-bamboozle-us

6. NEW POWERS TO CAPITAL

Cable also tries to downplay fears over the new rights that TTIP will grant US corporations to sue the UK and other European states before secret courts. Yet the government’s own impact assessment, commissioned from the London School of Economics, has stated clearly that we will face an onslaught of these claims from US corporations if we sign up to TTIP, with no extra investment as a result. The European Commission was forced to hold a public consultation on these controversial new powers earlier in the year, and they received a record 150,000 responses telling them to reject them outright. For more on this investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), see here. http://www.redpepper.org.uk/capital-courts/

7. LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

Finally, Cable suggests that it is unfair to accuse the government of a lack of transparency over the EU-US negotiations. Yet even his own government officials have complained to us that they are being kept in the dark by the European Commission! All the key documents relating to the TTIP negotiations have been marked with a 30-year ban on public access, and our own elected MPs have no access to anything but the ‘position papers’ (propaganda) of the EU. In trade negotiations, there is no substitute for the detailed negotiating documents themselves, and these are completely hidden from all of us except through leaks.

CONCLUSION

War on Want rejects the specious arguments put forward by Vince Cable to ‘reassure’ people over TTIP. We encourage all citizens to contact their MPs and to voice their concerns in the strongest possible terms. TTIP represents the greatest single transfer of power to transnational capital that we have seen in a generation. It is up to us to stop it.