Tech & Rights

Belgian Coalition Calls for Immediate Suspension of TTIP Talks

A broad coalition of human rights organizations, including the Belgian League of Human Rights, calls for an immediate suspension of the TTIP negotiations.

by David Morelli
Image: Global Justice Now - Flickr/CC content

The impact of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is potentially devastating.

For workers, who risk becoming the biggest losers. Contrary to the impact analysis advanced by the European Commission in 2013, which suggests that 4,000 jobs could be created in Belgium alone, TTIP could in fact cost more than 60,000 jobs in Belgium.

For the healthcare sector, on which Belgium only spends 11.2 % of its GDP, yet still guarantees a large coverage for all of its citizens. This will be put in competition with the US system, where health costs represent 17.1% of the GDP, yet with big inefficacy and well-known social injustices.

For consumers, as product standards are less restrictive in the US and are much more in favor of multinational corporations, as the cosmetics industry shows: 1,300 products are prohibited for public health reasons in Europe, while only 11 are prohibited on the other side of the Atlantic.

Dispute mechanism

The impact of TTIP on the environment and development is equally contested, notably in the context of an even greater protection foreseen for private investors through the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism.

Through ISDS, foreign private investors will be able to sue countries for any new laws that the investor thinks are damaging for the company’s expected return on investment. These could be social or environmental laws improving standards and rights.

The dispute system in ISDS is private, beyond the reach of Belgium's national court system. A win for investors could leave our country with a multi-million dollar debt to pay. This is a totally unacceptable situation, and the reason why multiple organizations call for an exclusion of such a mechanism. The campaign NO 2 ISDS! is asking MEPs to not support such a mechanism during the forthcoming vote.

Data protection

TTIP is also a question of human rights and data protection. In a "knowledge society" or a "digital economy," trade with data constitutes a commercial issue of first importance for multinationals such as Google, YouTube or Amazon. Multinationals such as Axciom already own data files from 700 million citizens in both the US and Europe.

Half of all citizens in European countries are in data registers without knowing it most of the time. In the context of TTIP and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which is another extremely contested agreement negotiated in total secrecy, and which focuses on the liberalization of services, American companies are lobbying for the suppression of existing European regulations concerning data protection.

If they succeed, this will undermine a liberty as fundamental as the respect of private life for exclusively economic reasons. This, too, is totally unacceptable!

Transatlantic trust

Two years ago, Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian MEP and leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, demanded that TTIP respect the rights of European citizens after the revelation of a massive data theft committed by the NSA.

It is more than one year ago, European Parliament President Martin Schulz called for a suspension of the negotiations in the context of this debate, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, advised Americans to listen to Europeans rather than put them under massive surveillance.

Today, as more and more surveillance scandals are being revealed, we demand that these questions are urgently clarified. We call for the immediate suspension of the negotiation of TTIP, which, against all the reassurances from authorities, constitutes a severe danger to the future of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights in Europe.

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