Photo: Obama- Merkel (Downing Street cc by-nc-sa 2.0)
United States President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both pushed for finalising the TTIP trade deal between the United States (US) and the European Union (EU). Obama is visiting Germany where he told Merkel he would like the deal to be reached by the end of the year, before the end of his final term as president.
By Laurens Bammens*
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) does not yet directly include Turkey. Turkey as a customs agreement with the EU and would be affected that way. The deal promises to give Europe a chance to compete with developing economies such as China and Africa. TTIP will supposedly create 800 million jobs.
The partnership is not a surprise and might actually be a logical step. The US and EU are each other’s biggest trading partners. TTIP would create a free trade zone where the parties would get rid of unnecessary regulations and trade barriers.
Turkey does not actually have a say in how TTIP would work, but they believe that non-inclusion would mean Turkey loses $5 billion a year. It may cause the cancellation of the customs union agreement with the EU according to Minister for EU Affairs Bozkir last year.
Shortly after, in May 2015, Prime Minister Davutoğlu announced a renewal of the customs union agreement which gives Turkey more influence in transatlantic trade. Essentially, Turkey is still dependent on the EU. If TTIP finds a life, Turkey would open their markets to American goods, without having a direct agreement with the United States.
Greater of two evils
While countries like Turkey are jumping to be part of TTIP, protesters and large opposition can be found in all countries. Al Jazeera reported that 35 000 people took to the streets in Hanover on Sunday. The place Obama is visiting.
While the promises surrounding TTIP sound great, many say it would give too much power to companies. It would essentially force the EU to adopt American legislation that are often weaker than the ones in Europe.
70 per cent of processed foods in the US contain genetically modified ingredients. The EU does not allow any modified ingredients. With TTIP, Europe would import these foods without question. Pesticide restrictions are also lower in the US. They use growth hormones which in the EU are illegal, because they can cause cancer.
The Union is also far tougher on toxic materials. While the philosophy in Europe dictates that a new substance has to be proven ‘safe’ before it can be used, the US works the other way around. Any substance can be used until it is proven otherwise. According to The Independent, the EU currently bans 1 200 substances. The US bans 12.
Take what you can
TTIP would also touch on something Americans do not have, public health care. The trade partnership would mean that Europe’s health, education and water services are open to American companies. Essentially, it would privatise the public healthcare systems of the European countries.
The partnership goes so far it could potentially undermine everyone’s privacy. In 2012, the European Parliament voted against The Anti-Counterfeit ing Trade Agreement (ACTA). It was a law that would require all internet service providers to monitor individual online activity. TTIP could bring back some of the core elements of ACTA. Providing a back door when a democratic approach does not work.
Even though the trade deal is promised to create 800 million new jobs, many think we will actually lose jobs. There are many bi-lateral trade agreements like TTIP (but smaller) that proof agreements like these cost jobs. The NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) between Canada, United States and Mexico was the downfall for one million US job in the past 12 years.
State versus Vattenfall
TTIP would also give companies the power to sue governments because of legislation that hinders them. Other agreements have already led to such court cases. Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing Germany because the German government is phasing out their nuclear power plants after the Fukushima earthquake. To put things into perspective: a legislation is passed in favour of the people’s safety, but is being sued by an international company because of a loss of profits.
The only American regulations tougher than ours are those of the banks. After the 2008 crisis, the US set up tough banking laws to avoid it from happening again. TTIP would actually remove some of those restrictions, handing back more power to the bankers. It is like we learned nothing from an economic crash caused by the Unites States.
And the cherry on top of the cake is that we, the people, cannot actually decide anything about TTIP. The agreement is being handled by European politicians, the people have no say in it. So Turkey might have to think a few times more before joining it.
**Laurens Bammens, PXL Journalism student and he is Dağ Medya Intern during the 15 February – 3 June 2016