What is TTIP and what does it mean for Ireland?

What is TTIP? How much do you know about it? Would it be good for Ireland? Would it be bad for Ireland? How come coverage has been pretty low key for something that could lead to the world’s largest free-trade area.

Did you even know it involved trade negotiations, which began in 2013, between Europe and the United States of America?

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, has been a controversial topic, but has managed to mainly fly under the radar, unless you were focusing on certain parts of the newspapers.

So what is it? TTIP is a trade and investment treaty currently being negotiated between the European Union and the USA.

It’s fully explained and fleshed out on the European Commission website. The goal is to get rid of the red tape that makes trade between the two continents difficult, and the argument is that it will boost economies and create jobs.

A good lot of the concerns are answered on the same European Commission website as well. Some of the main concerns relate to hormone fed beef from the US, whether corporate business could overrule EU law, environmental issues, job losses to the US, online provacy, and whether TTIP could affect public services in EU member states.

How much you take those at face value is another thing though. On the face of it, you could say that it’s a good thing for our economy.

Do you know what ISDS means? One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). This would let companies sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits.

So unelected transnational corporations could dictate the policies of democratically elected governments. Now you can see the controversy?

Only today, The Guardian released a video called ” why artists are saying no to ttip”

http://www.theguardian.com/business/video/2015/jun/09/why-artists-are-saying-no-to-ttip-video

Ok, but what does this all mean for Ireland and what are our MEPs doing about it, and more importantly, whose side are they on? Are they for or against it?

Do you even know how many MEPs Ireland has in Europe? Do you know who they are? Well, we have 11, and they are: Lynn Boylan, Matt Carthy, Liadh Ni Riada (Sinn Fein), Deirdre Clune, Sean Kelly, Brian Hayes, Mairead McGuinness (Fine Gael), Nessa Childers, Luke Ming Flanagan, Marian Harkin (Independent) and Brian Crowley of Fianna Fail, who is currently not in attendance for health reasons.

Most MEPs would be affiliated to European political parties, who would then call the shots in the European Parliament when it comes to debating and voting on issues such as TTIP.

In relation to TTIP and Irish MEPs, who is for and against TTIP pans out as follows:

Generally Against

Lynn Boylan, Matt Carthy, Liadh Ni Riada, Luke Ming Flanagan, Marian Harkin, Nessa Childers

Generally For

Brian Hayes, Sean Kelly, Mairead McGuinness, Deirdre Clune

That is not to say that each MEP does not have their own concerns or issues

You would have thought you might have heard more about it in the media? I suppose in the last year or so there were more pressing issues in Ireland, such as water charge protests and the likes.

Much of the TTIP negotiations have been in secret. The “conspiracy of silence” is the main issue.

The fact that a lot of people are not informed is also another issue. It’s something which citizens of Ireland should be able to have a say in, whether they are for or against.

Supporters of TTIP will point out the economic potential on both sides of the Atlantic, where unnecessary red tape would be removed in order to boost market access and trade. It is believed it would help SMEs in Ireland.

Frank McDonald wrote a piece for The Irish Times last October which highlighted some of the concerns about TTIP.

He wrote: “One of the core issues at stake is the right of countries to make regulations in the public interest. The US side is seeking to have enshrined a provision that would allow companies to seek redress for any “violations” of their investor rights through an arbitration tribunal set up under the deal, rather than the courts.”

In other words business interests could trump public interests. Big business could yield more power than an EU member state.

There is a wealth of information out there, from corporate lobbyists in Brussels to environmental implications, to food implications, to jobs. You name it! It’s all out there, but I’m not going to take sides here.

The European Parliament were due to vote on the latest round of TTIP amendments tomorrow, Wednesday, June 10, 2015, but it has been postponed at the last minute, according to some:

TTIP suffers political setback after MEPs table over 200 amendments.

Here is the official press release from the European Parliament on the latest twist in the tale:

TTIP: Rapporteur Lange welcomes postponement of vote

Some good places to start reading about TTIP are the Facebook and Twitter pages of our Irish MEPs.

I’m not going to post links. Search online and engage with them!

The best place to start is the European Parliament website. There are some useful videos which explain what it’s all about. You can work from there, and once you scratch the surface, you’ll be able to see the pros and cons of it all.

TTIP: Risks and Opportunites (from the European Parliament website)

http://www.politico.eu

http://www.theguardian.co.uk

http://www.euractiv.com

http://www.corporateeurope.org

If you search online for the advantages of TTIP and the disadvantages of TTIP, you’ll find a wealth of information.

The best thing to do is to inform yourself. How will it affect you? Your country? Your town? Where you work? What you eat? Get in touch with your local MEP.

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