Commentary by Louis VIS
Regardless of the numerous benefit (see Part I) a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union (EU) and United States of America (USA) may bring, it seems many people still do not believe in the EU’s powers to secure a positive deal. Before drawing any conclusion lets analyse each of TTIP’s main criticism.
The first criticism concerns environment and food standards. Whilst the USA does have more relaxed laws in some areas, these are two sectors where the EU prides itself as a world leader. I therefore strongly believe that the EU will not allow the USA to water down its policies. Not to mention the fact that the Volkswagen (VW) scandal has actually shown that in some areas, the USA’s environmental laws are much stronger than the EU’s (in this case, NOx emissions). Thus, if anything, the likelihood will be that lower standards will be raised, rather than vice versa.
Anti-TTIP protestors also worry about the impact the deal would have on the health sector. In the UK people worry about the privatisation National Health Service (NHS). However, they ignore the fact that all privatisation is not bad. It was recently reported that the NHS suffered a record £1 billion losses in only 3 months. Can we call this sustainable? As long as its services remain free at the point of use, people have no reason to worry about a certain amount of privatisation. If anything it would help make the NHS more efficient and less expensive for the government to run.
Another argument against TTIP opponents concerns privacy. However, once again such criticisms fall short. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recently rejected a EU deal with America on data sharing. Obviously TTIP will have to take such rulings into consideration if it is to be a success.
Finally, with regards to TTIP being a ‘threat for democracy’ people forget that for TTIP to be ratified, it will have to go through the European Parliament (EP), which is elected democratically every 5 years as a result of the European elections. They therefore represent us at the highest level in Europe and ensure that citizens’ views are respected. Therefore if people really want their voices to be heard at the highest level, maybe they should start by casting a vote in European elections. In 2014, only 42.61% of Europe’s population bothered to show up at the polling stations. Luckily, despite this low turnout, the EP mirrors its populace’s division on TTIP. There is no doubt that the debate will be taken seriously at the highest political level in Europe. Whatever anti-TTIP supporters may argue, TTIP will not bypass democracy and the outcome will not be ‘imposed’ on us. Indeed, the EP will have a huge role to play in the debate.
There is no denying that debates are a healthy part of the democratic process as they help politicians to rethink and improve legislations or policies. Unfortunately, many of those opposing TTIP often decide to ignore the numerous benefits of a deal. Thus whilst TTIP criticisms are welcome, those opposing the deal should make sure they do not throw the baby out with the bath water. But if they do they should at least they should provide us with a better alternative.