The snappily-named Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been in the offing for three years but despite there being a wealth of information about the deal, most people have little idea what it is or what it could mean for them personally. Its deliberately dull name and the even duller way it is usually described means that the importance of this proposed deal is lost on most people.
On the surface, TTIP is a trade agreement between the USA and the EU which aims to promote economic growth and ensure accessible markets. Making trade easier between the two largest markets in the world, with 820m consumers and 60% of global GDP between them, might seem like a good idea.
In a reality, the deal will remove almost all barriers to trade and will cement the rights of multi-national companies into law. In some cases, using the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) “corporate court” mechanism, corporations will be able to sue governments if their ability to rake in cash is curtailed by pesky things like national laws.
The deal could give genetically modified food producers free reign over EU markets, make it easier for US firms to sell shale gas in the EU and allow private companies to chip off large parts of the NHS. All of this will be regardless of national, or even EU, regulations.
Earlier this week 248-pages of TTIP negotiations were leaked, giving the world a chance to see the inner workings of the deal.
Following the leak, John Hilary from War on Want said: “We have long warned that TTIP is a danger to democracy, food safety, jobs and public services. Now we see it is even worse than we feared. Today’s leak shows the European Commission preparing to sell us down the river, doing deals behind closed doors that will change the face of European society for ever.”
Like dragging a vampire into the light, leaking the negotiations may well see the deal consigned to history.
Hilary continued: “Today marks the end of TTIP. Total secrecy was the only way the European Commission could keep the European people from learning the truth about these appalling negotiations, and now the cat is out of the bag. We call on the governments of Europe to halt the TTIP talks immediately.”
Some of Europe’s leaders seem to agree. French President, François Hollande, has already said he would reject TTIP because he is opposed to unregulated free trade. German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel has also spoken of TTIP collapsing, and has blamed the US for the failure.
For TTIP to become reality, all 28 EU member states and the European parliament will have to ratify it before it comes into force. The leaked documents suggest Europe is a long way from reaching agreement with the US, with issues like consumer protection, the environment and animal welfare standards proving particularly contentious.
Last year, David Cameron described TTIP as “a deal we want” and promised to put “rocket boosters” under the talks. It’s now looking like those rockets may have misfired and with Barack Obama, TTIP’s biggest fan, coming towards the end of his time in the White House, Europe might escape this awful plan, for now at least.
Anti-Semitism and racism in politics
It’s been a strange week for Labour. The Tories decided not to help 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children, junior doctors were out on an historic strike and parents kept their children out of school in protest against the test culture that they say stop kids from being kids. Then #ToryElectionFraud was exposed thanks to a Channel 4 News investigation..
Yet despite all of this, the story of Labour and its apparently rife problem with anti-Semitism has dominated the news coverage.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said this morning (Wednesday) that Labour has a “severe problem” and criticised the “poisonous invective” and “politics of distortion” within the Labour party. I’m not keen to simply brush these allegations under the carpet but it’s hard not to treat the Tory party’s apparent outrage as anything other than political opportunism. But let’s be clear: “the fact that there is a smear campaign against Corbyn’s Labour doesn’t mean there isn’t real antisemitism“.
So far Labour has suspended 16 members from the party for either racism or anti-Semitism. Some accuse the party leadership of being slow to act but to me this feels a little knee-jerk. 16 members may sound like an endemic problem but when you remember that Corbyn’s rise to Labour leader saw the party add 400,000 members this is put into perspective.
The Left’s desire to support the Palestinians and highlight their plight has always made it vulnerable to claims of anti-Semitism but, as has been pointed out by many, criticism of the state of Israel should never be confused with being anti-Jewish.
If the line between the two is crossed, action should be taken but Labour needs to be careful not to hum the Tories’ tune. Labour party members, and Jeremy Corbyn in particular, have a long proud record of fighting racism and anti-Semitism. No one should rest on their laurels but I have much more faith in the Labour leadership than the press or the Tories to deal with this issue.
From Bollywood to bashment, Zac will try anything
If the Tories are on the hunt for racism and religious intolerance, they need look no further than their own candidate for Mayor of London. There are elections all over the country on Thursday and the capital is one of the biggest prizes on offer, with Conservative Zac Goldsmith facing off against Labour’s Sadiq Khan.
Zac Goldsmith has been accused of playing divide and rule with London’s Asian communities already in this campaign and his article in the Daily Mail this week showed that he is pushing ahead with the strategy.
After asking Mail readers, “Are we really going to hand the world’s greatest city to a Labour party that thinks terrorists is [sic] its friends?” Goldsmith goes on to try and loosely link Sadiq to various extremists and the article is illustrated with a picture of the destroyed bus from London’s 7/7 bombings. Billy Bragg said: “I recall the BNP using the image of the 7/7 bus in their campaign literature in Barking – and the text of their leaflet was more or less the same as that of this article by London Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith.”
But have no fear, Zac is a massive fan of Bollywood (and probably bashment while he’s at it). Unfortunately he can’t name any films or actors from the genre.
Talking of bigots striving for power…
As I’m writing this Ted Cruz is standing down from the race for the Republican nomination for US President after defeat in Indiana. I can’t say I’m sorry to see him go. He may be more verbally cautious than Donald Trump, but make no mistake, Ted Cruz as “leader of the free world” is just as terrifying a prospect as his elaborately-haired opponent. Cruz is a religious fundamentalist who wants to impose a kind of Christian Sharia law on the USA, possibly including severe sanctions for homosexuals and other “sinners”. Whereas Trump is a snake oil salesman, peddling racist bile because he knows he has an audience, Cruz is a true believer. Whereas Trump would invade countries for their oil or resources, Cruz would invade simply to spread Christianity.
The only Republican left in Trump’s way now is John Kasich. Kasich is more mainstream Republican. He’s also currently running fourth in a two-horse race.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, the only candidate who will actually improve the USA, beat Hilary in the Democratic Indiana primary. Even so the cards are so stacked against him the stage still looks set for a Clinton/Trump showdown.
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White Men Dancing is a weekly column. Kiri Kankhwende and Maurice Mcleod keep an eye on Westminster. Politics is too important to leave to politicians.
Maurice Mcleod is a social commentator with Jamaican/Swazi heritage. He is director of his own communications company, Marmoset Media, and writes regularly for The Guardian and The Spectator among other titles. He has commissioned for the Guardian, Media Diversified, Engage Magazine, Open Mind, Single Step and Voluntary Voice. Before setting up Marmoset, he had a 15-year career as a national newspaper journalist working for The Express, The Independent, The Voice, The Evening Standard and The Sunday Times among others. He is also a trustee for campaign group Race on the Agenda. Maurice often appears on Sky News as a talking head and writes about social issues, behaviour, racism, politics, diversity and housing. On Twitter he is @mowords
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