Big business-funded committee must not influence TTIP talks, says campaigner

© Niklas Halle'n
Secretive EU-US trade negotiations that could enable corporations to sue governments were infiltrated by a British committee that peddles the interests of the City of London while bypassing parliament, it has emerged.

Academic and campaigner Linda Kaucher, who has long criticized the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty, said the negotiations are heavily influenced by Big Tobacco and British financiers.

The high-profile activist, who is a member of StopTTIP UK, made the remarks after it emerged the European Commission (EC) had met with powerful tobacco lobbyists in recent months.

Redacted documents, which confirmed the meetings, sparked outrage across the continent and compounded fears TTIP would allow tobacco giants to sue governments that attempt to legislate in the public interest.

The EC took the decision to release the files after pro-transparency think tank Corporate Europe Observatory filed a Freedom of Information request.

Kaucher said Britain has a far-reaching influence on trade policy across the EU. She said this influence favors the financial services industry, and is orchestrated by the Liberalization of Trade in Services Committee without parliamentary consent.

Kaucher said an All-Party Group (APG) promoting TTIP is at the forefront of parliamentary action on the EU-US trade deal. She noted that the APG’s secretariat is funded by transatlantic lobby British American Business, the CEO of which has worked for British American Tobacco for at least a decade.

The controversial clause embedded in TTIP, which would allow corporate giants to wage lawsuits against governments, is known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). It is a tool of public international law that gives investors the right to sue foreign governments.

It has been a deeply controversial subject throughout the TTIP talks and has sparked fierce opposition from MEPs, civil society and national governments.

Kaucher warned that the ISDS would act as a permanent regulatory barrier, protecting the interests of corporations.

“This is how it undermines democracy. Regulation can never develop, never improve, because of the risk of governments being sued by these corporations,” she said.

“Only transnational corporations can use ISDS against states, states and citizens cannot use it against corporations.”

Kaucher said that the British government should challenge the EC over its lack of transparency and transatlantic trade deals that consist of ISDS clauses should be debated in a thorough and informed manner in parliament.

“The big business-funded APG should not be part of the UK parliamentary context,” she said.

“The UK should get out of the EU, which is corporate-dominated as it was set up to be, including by Big Tobacco, and thus cannot be reformed.”

As TTIP negotiations roll onward, global finance, technology, pharma, tobacco and telecoms giants are dominating the discussions.

Between January 2012 and February 2014, the EC’s trade department (DG Trade) had 597 clandestine meetings with lobbyists, internal Commission files obtained by think tank the Corporate Europe Observatory reveal.

An overwhelming 88 percent of these meetings were with business lobbyists, while only 9 percent were with non-profits such as trade unions and NGOs. The remaining meetings were with public institutions, academics and others.