One of the easiest – and most slippery – ways to try and win an argument is to debate not the opponent’s actual case but set up an ‘Aunt Sally’ of your own, proceed to demonstrate how easily you can knock it down and then gleefully claim victory. I say this in relation to Gary Campkin’s defence of the inclusion in the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty of a system of parallel courts unaccountable to the normal processes of law or democracy. In his article (Gazette 24 November) he suggests that the only purpose of including this in the treaty would be to deal with cases of what he calls ‘expropriation’ (that is, nationalisation). But this is only part of the powers that such tribunals will have.
These parallel courts would deal not just with cases of nationalisation but would enable transatlantic corporations to sue our government for any action it takes which the corporation claims would put a dent in its profits. That would include, for example, government measures to address environmental protection, chemical additives in food, increases in the minimum wage – pretty much anything you can think of designed to protect consumers and employees. Since the whole point of TTIP is to harmonise trade regulations on either side of the Atlantic, the intention is that where lower standards apply in the US, these will then be enforced here.
This is not idle scaremongering: it is already happening elsewhere. The German government has been sued for trying to close down its nuclear energy programme (to protect its citizens in the light of the Fukushima disaster) by the corporation that was hoping to build the reactors. The government of Egypt was sued when it tried to raise the minimum wage. This is real and coming soon to a town near you.
Campkin says TTIP is strongly supported by big business. Of course it is – no surprises there, since it is entirely for their benefit. The rest of us, however, had better watch out.
Peter F Bolwell, Hastings, East Sussex