Council takes stand against corporate takeover treaty

I’m delighted that Edinburgh Council has today unanimously approved my motion to highlight the threat to local services from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Protocol, or TTIP for short. I won’t go into long detail about the problems with TTIP – the work of Global Justice Now and Unison amongst others has done that admirably. And this morning’s council meeting heard from Liz Murray from Global Justice Now Scotland and Amy McNeese-Mechan from Unison in some detail on the threats that TTIP poses.

But I am glad that Edinburgh has joined councils from around the UK and across Europe in ringing the alarm bells about the potential impact of this treaty on local services, environmental protection, labour rights and above all, on local democracy.

We don’t know all we should know about TTIP, because the negotiations between the EU and the USA have been shrouded in secrecy, but what we do know should send shivers down the spine of all who value democracy.

Thumb3 ChasBooth_hires3-611x1024Because that’s an essential element of TTIP – it takes decision making away from democratically elected and accountable councils and governments, and puts it in the hands of unelected and unaccountable multinational companies and their well-paid lawyers. Through the notorious Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process, corporations can take governments to court if they consider that public policy positions have led to a lack of corporate profits.

In practice, this has meant the Canadian Government being taken to court by Exxon Mobil over clauses in some public sector contracts encouraging local employment, and the Venezuelan Government being taken to court over health messages on cigarette packaging.

In Edinburgh, we are proud of initiatives such as the Edinburgh Guarantee which aims to ensure employment or training for school leavers. Likewise the Edible Edinburgh initiative aims to encourage local and seasonal food. These are just two of the possible targets from corporate lawyers if TTIP goes through unchallenged.

So I’m glad that Edinburgh Council’s decision today is helping to ring the alarm bell over TTIP. I hope more councils will join us in standing up for local democracy and against corporate takeover.

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Text of the motion as agreed:

This council notes:

1. That the EU and USA launched negotiations in July 2013 on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

2. That negotiations are underway to determine which goods and services TTIP will apply to and if new rules can be agreed to protect investors, harmonise standards, reduce tariffs and open new markets throughout the EU and USA.

3. That there has been no assessment carried out of the impact on local authorities.

4. That there has been no scrutiny of the negotiating texts by local government and no consultation on the negotiating texts with local government representatives.

5. That MPs and MSPs are also unable to scrutinise the negotiating documents.

6. That the proposed Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism has been used by corporations to overturn democratic decisions by all levels of government at significant public cost.

This council believes that:

7. TTIP could have a detrimental impact on local services, employment, suppliers and decision-making.

8. A thorough impact assessment of TTIP on local authorities must be undertaken before the negotiations can be concluded.

9. Local decision-making must be protected from ISDS.

10. The EU’s food, environmental and labour standards are generally higher than those in the US, and that TTIP negotiations must raise and not lower these standards across the EU and USA.

11. Sourcing supplies and employment locally is important to strengthening local economies and meeting local needs. TTIP must not impact on local authorities’ ability to act in the best interests of its communities.

This council therefore agrees:

12. That the leader of the council will write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution & Economy; Edinburgh MPs and MSPs and all Scottish MEPs raising the council’s serious concerns about the potential impact of TTIP on local authorities and the secrecy of the negotiating process.

13. That the leader of the council will write to Cosla to raise our serious concerns about the potential impact of TTIP on local authorities and ask them to raise these with the UK Government and Scottish Government on our behalf.

14. To call on the Scottish Government to carry out an impact assessment on the impact of TTIP on local authorities.