Trade unionists must take a principled position opposing the TTIP between the US and EU. It is an anti-democratic treaty that will enhance corporate power, reduce regulations, provide for further privatisation and intensify the ongoing race to the bottom in workers rights, wages and protections.

The ICTU has produced an overview document available at http://www.ictu.ie/publications/fulllist/congress-sub-to-public-consultation-on-modalities-for-investment-protection-and-isds-in-ttip/ and their initial overview is below. While this is welcome trade unions need to coordinate a campaign with environmental groups, 3rd world justice groups and communities to mount a serious opposition. TULF activists are now working with other groups to establish this. We call on ICTU to join this effort.


The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), is a proposed trade deal between the US and the EU. It is currently the subject of intense negotiations and given the scale of the two economies, which together account for more than 50 percent of world GDP and one-third of global trade flows, the sheer magnitude of the potential deal means there is a lot at stake. The stated aim of TTIP is to provide a boost to the EU economy, and create jobs for citizens. There are numerous economic forecasts of the benefits of the deal however these forecasts may be exaggerated.

However the TTIP is about far more than trade. The agreement under discussion will tie governments’ hands in many areas that are only loosely related to trade. It does this in six ways

1) TTIP aims to remove or reduce tariff barriers but not just taxes on good on goods and service, instead the main focus of TTIP is removing or reducing ‘non tax barriers’ (NTBs) such as regulation. This means, to be successful, regulations with regard to chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food environmental protection, patent protection for drugs, local government purchasing, public services and labour rights must be removed or reduced under TTIP.

2) Where ‘NTBs’ cannot be removed or reduced TTIP plans to harmonise the regulatory standards, the plan is to accomplish this by means of mutual recognition of standards. There is a concern that higher regulatory standards will be undermined by mutual recognition of the lower standard, for example the EU uses the ‘precautionary principle’ that requires where proof that new products causes no harm before it can be marketed or used in the workplace, there are no such safeguards in the US.

3) TTIP aims to further liberalise the trade in services, including public services. It is not clear what public services will be included and whether any public services will be ruled out of the TTIP provisions.

4) A central concern about TTIP is the threat to democracy, labour rights and public services posed by additional ‘investor protections’ these allow investors to challenge state actions which they perceive as ‘expropriation’ and’ indirect expropriation’, i.e. threatening their investment.

5) Investor protections do not automatically prevent the EU or a Member State from adopting laws in the future, nor will it necessarily mean that States have to pay compensation to investors whenever doing so. However, the results of companies being able to sue for compensation and the resulting cost to the exchequer are likely to have a significant chill factor resulting preventing any new regulatory initiative and effectively preventing the reversal of privatisations.

6) Companies who launch a claim under the enhanced investor protections do so not in courts of law but in secret and unaccountable private arbitration known as ‘ISDS’ Investor State Dispute Service. Usually a three person tribunal comprised not of judges but lawyers who specialise in company law. Their decisions are final and binding. There are no matching rights or mechanisms for citizens, workers or communities harmed or abused by investors‘ projects and products.

The Irish Congress Trade Unions is not alone in raising concerns, the trade unions throughout the EU and US have called for improvements to TTIP with AFL-CIP President Trumka stating that ‘Trade policy for the privileged few must end. TTIP must work for the people, or it won’t work at all. ” and ETUC General Secretary, Bernadette Ségol, stating that “European and American trade unionists are united in supporting a free trade deal between the EU and US only if it promotes workers’ rights, generates quality jobs, upholds public services and procurement, democratic decision making and international conventions.”