Article published: Saturday, October 10th 2015
The national stop TTIP campaign and their giant Trojan Horse appeared in Manchester this week to protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade deal currently being negotiated between the USA and the European Union. The international Stop TTIP petition also reached 3 million signatures this week, just one year after it was launched, making it the most successful petition of its kind.
The ground breaking petition, calling for TTIP to be scrapped, had 3,263,920 signatures, including over 500,000 from Britain. It was presented to the European Commission, at almost the exact time that David Cameron was defending the trade deal as a vote winner at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. The Stop TTIP campaign and their giant inflatable horse, symbolising the ‘Trojan Treaty’ of TTIP, was present at protests taking place in Manchester throughout the Tory Party Conference. The horse reared its head at a massive People’s Assembly anti-austerity demo on Sunday, and the anti-TTIP protest outside Manchester Town Hall, which was followed by a packed out public meeting at Central Hall on Monday.
John Hilary is the Executive Director of War on Want, a social justice charity leading the fight against TTIP. In an interview with the Mule, he explained the connection between the anti-austerity and anti-TTIP movements:
“War on Want sits on the committee for the People’s Assembly, so we are committed to the fight against austerity and for a socially just Britain. .. austerity is closely linked with the same agenda being driven through TTIP, which is an agenda of more rights for business, fewer rights for people and really squeezing society out of the equation altogether.”
Today is the Stop TTIP campaign’s fourth global day of action, bringing together international, national and local groups in actions across Europe and the US. Their aim is to raise public awareness about a trade deal which, considering its potential impact, has gone largely unreported since negotiations began in 2013. Stop TTIP Mcr had previously staged a flash mob in Manchester Arndale which highlighted the controversial issues surrounding TTIP, helping to swell the rising tide of public opposition to TTIP.
Supporters of TTIP claim the deal will be good for economic growth, and create jobs, in both the USA and EU. Opponents have described it as a ‘corporate power grab’, strengthening the power of big businesses and endangering public services such as the NHS, as well as being a threat to environmental and food safety regulations.
Critics are particularly concerned about the inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) in the deal. Corporations can use ISDS to sue governments, in secret extrajudicial courts, for any action that may harm their profits; meaning that unaccountable businesses would have the power to affect government policy in the interests of their profit margins.
Hilary also pointed out specific concerns around public services, warning that the privatisation being carried out by the Conservative party will be much harder to reverse in the future if TTIP goes through. “In a way the Tories don’t need TTIP to do their dirty work, but TTIP locks it in forever and says that they’re not just trying to re-engineer society for the 5 years they’re in power, they’re trying to do it for the foreseeable future. And that’s where the real threat comes to our future as a society.”
Despite being an anti-TTIP movement, the campaign has also opened a debate around what people do want to see in Europe. On Monday the People’s Assembly hosted a packed out public meeting in Central Hall on the fight against TTIP and possibility of a ‘People’s Europe’, with speakers including journalist/author Owen Jones and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. Owen Jones urged citizens to “build solidarity across Europe” quoting a banner hanging from the wall which read “Unity is Strength.”
Reflecting on the week of action in Manchester and the Stop TTIP campaign’s progress so far, Hilary had this to say:
“We’re seeing a new era dawning where people recognise that there is a genuine broad based movement against government policies devoted to the interests of tiny minorities at the expense of everyone else, and people are recognising that the politics of exclusive greed is not acceptable in the 21st century… There’s a great energy around us and a great sense of belief that we can achieve something better.”
Alice Toomer – McAlpine
Today is the fourth international day of action for the Stop TTIP campaign, which will involve actions taking place across Europe and America, including a rally in London (https://www.facebook.com/events/1116033228421966/) with speakers including Green Party leader Nathalie Bennett, actor Juliet Stevenson and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell MP.
For more detailed information on TTIP, including videos and a free downloadable resource, and to sign the European Citizens’ Initiative petition against TTIP see www.waronwant.org/eci
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