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The Feb 2016 Election and the TTIP Elephant in the Room

category national | politics / elections | feature author Wednesday February 24, 2016 18:26author by T Report this post to the editors

Ask candidates about TTIP agreement. It is a corporate agreement which will lead to mass privatisation and gutting of our social and environmental protections

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Parties for a Left Dail

The election cycle has come around yet again it is time to take a look at some of the issues being discussed and more importantly those not discussed and have a quick look at the economy.

For this election there are more independents going up than ever before, although people should be warned that a certain fraction of them are closet FFers and FGers so if it is change you are looking for, they may not be the candidates to vote for. Sometimes people seemed to assume Independents tend to be more to the Left. There is no inherent reason this should be the case and statistically one would expect them to evenly spread to the Left and Right. So if voting for an Independent then be sure you have checked what they really stand for and their previous record if any.

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TTIP is the greatest single threat to our
democracy. Both FG and FF support it.
It is a EU-US wide corporate power grab.
Find out more before you vote !!
Probably the most important thing looming over this country and all of Europe too is the secret negotiations on the EU-US TTIP treaty. It is by far the most undemocratic power grab ever seen and yet none of the mainstream parties are talking about it. It will set up corporate courts allowing corporations to sue States presided by corporate lawyers and held in secret with no right of appeal. The decisions will be binding and will overrule national law. It will allow corporations to force the privatisation of water, resources, health, education and anything else. It will be used to attack workers right, like sick pay, benefits like health and pension and reduce and eventually eliminate holidays by forcing an 'equalisation' of standards. This means we could end up with the same working conditions as people in Vietnam or Mexico who are signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) agreement which if TTIIP is passed with be cross linked to it. Fine Gael (FG)and Fianna Fail (FF) are strongly in favour of TTIP and these ISDS courts. If you value your freedom, do not vote FG or FF!

Fine Gael's betrayal of the Irish People by their support for TTIP and ISDS

A statement from Deirdre Clune's (FG) website:

MEPs Seán Kelly, Mairead McGuinness, Brian Hayes and Deirdre Clune support the negotiations between the EU and US which aim to establish a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

From MEP Seán Kelly FG Press Release 6th May 2015 showing that Kelly is either clueless or is a complete corporate shrill who has absolutely no regards for the people of this country.

MEP Seán Kelly has welcomed today's announcement by the EU's Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström who has called for the establishment of an International Court dealing with investor dispute [ISDS] cases in the context of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) between the EU and US....

And this has to be the most dishonest statement ever made:

...."The establishment of the [ISDS] Court in Ireland would also bring about new, high quality jobs and I will work hard to promote our country as the best place for such an institution..."

FF Support TTIP too but pretend to have some doubts but ideologically they are completely for it.

From Séamus Kirk (Louth, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas Jan 21st 2016:

I am pleased to have an opportunity to contribute briefly to this most important debate. The Fianna Fáil Party supports the principles of the TTIP......

The FF strategy then would be to raise some objections but still let it through. They would have no hope of getting any changes and the party whip would lash them all into line anyhow. It's just a way of covering themselves.

Across the country there are 40 constituencies down from 43 in 2011 with some changes in constituency boundaries. There are 13 3-seaters, 16 4-seaters and 11 5-seater constituencies . The 3 seaters tend to favour the larger parties because you need 33% of the vote whereas for a 5-seater you only need 20%. So for example a party with 10% or even 15% of the national vote might never get a seat if they were all 3-seaters. So you can end up with a situation for all of the smaller parties, the number of seats they get is, in percentage terms of seats, less than their vote while for the larger parties they can and often do have more seats in percentage terms than their vote nationally.

The number of Dail seats up for grabs this election is down from 166 to 158 seats. The breakdown of candidates by party or alliance attempting to get in are:

People Before Profit (PBP) 18
Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA) 13
Labour 36
Sinn Fein 50
Green Party 40
Social Democrats (SD) 14
The Workers Party (WP) 5
Fine Gael (FG) 89
Fianna Fail (FF) 71
ReNua 26
FisNua 2
Direct Democracy Ireland (DDI) 18
Independent Alliance 20
Independents 140

Despite what either FG or FF are saying, if they need the numbers FF and FG will go into coalition. And the reason is simple, they are the two main capitalist parties, their policies differ very little and they are completely subservient to corporate power, influence and it's dictates. Currently FF are running a fairly populist strategy, appearing to have shifted to the Left slightly but this is change is very shallow and there would be no actual commitment to following a policy of running the country for the benefit of the people. Anyone who thinks Fianna Fail have changed just because they have got rid of most of the old crowd and have a whole new bunch of fresh faces are forgetting that it is the policies of the party and what it stands for determines what they do and the party whip is there to enforce the core values of running the economy for the capitalist elite. The party whip has been used extensively and will continue to be to basically whip TDs into line. It is a form of party dictatorship and acts to nullify what the mandate to candidates from the people. FG are the same in this regards but even more so obedient to the interests of the wealthy elite. In some ways the rising popularity of Independents who are not under the control of a party whip reflects this concern amongst the people.

As for the election promises from any of the status quo parties (FF, FG & Lab), one should completely ignore what they are saying because they will either flat out do the opposite or there is a catch. FG are saying they will get rid of the USC but are shy about saying they will increase PRSI and other taxes instead.

As we can see from the last 4 years, Labour were a sellout. They have done the same numerous times over the past four decades, each time they have suffered massively at the polls and it takes years to build up their support only to do it again.

Sinn Fein, having not being in power yet in the South remain a promising prospect for many SF voters. However it would be worth examining how they were forced to go along with austerity in the North. So this does not bode well although perhaps they would still be better than either FF or FG assuming for a moment they became the party with the largest share of the vote even though it is unlikely but there is still an outside chance they could end up in coalition. Given the year in it and the huge positive role Gerry Adams had in the peace process, it would be fitting if he was Taoiseach just in time for Easter 2016.

All that can be said of ReNua is that they appear to be very right wing at their core once you look at the heart of their policies which is the ridiculous flat tax proposal of 23% across the board. They probably belong in the libertarian right wing end of the spectrum where the Progressive or should that be Regressive Democrats used to live.

The Green Party are too small in terms of percentage of national vote to have any major influence. Their main problem is that they tend to promote some small green initiatives with little to say on the big issues of economy or social policies. Since the shift of the party to the Right in the last decade signalled quite well with the departure of Patrica McKenna, they have completely sold out to corporate/free market thinking and are hostages to it. During the Bin Tax campaign a decade ago, they foolishly were on the side of bin charges thinking it was about polluters pays when they completely failed to push for a tax on excessive packaging which is where the chain of waste really starts. With the recent announcement that we will have to pay for getting rid of recyclable waste which is likely to cause a huge drop in recycling and the diversion of the same waste to the massive incinerator now under construction in Ringsend Dublin, it just shows how hollow and naive their strategy was. They were completely duped. You would expect the Greens to be constantly driving home how the structure of our economy is the problem in terms of sustainability but they only talk of tweaking around the edges. Never anything radical that challenges the status quo. And any discussion of the economy that asks for change would need to address social and justice issues, but again this Left thought process has long vacated the party.

Direct Democracy Ireland don't seem to have got much attention or support they have interesting things to say in their manifesto and most importantly are against TTIP and other corporate influences like the push for water privatisation. Also good on the environment and our civic rights. In terms of the political spectrum they are more to the middle as the candidates themselves are quite diverse. If there is no actual Left candidate in your area then they're strongly worth considering.

The Workers Party who were at their height in the late 1980s then suffered the split to Democratic Left which long since merged with Labour. In recent years the party has been reviving slowly and also have their LookLeft magazine. They are have good Left policies on the important issues of banking, water, housing, health, education and the environment where in the latter they strong oppose Fracking which wrecks the environment. They are rightly against TTIP seeing it for what it is. However they have only 5 candidates so need all the support they can and if they got 1 or 2 TDs would help build up the Left block.

The Social Democrats were propelled into the limelight with Catherine Murphy's defense of the citizens against the antics of Denis Oligarch Tax Exile O'Brien. Stephen Donnelly has been doing well and seems to really understand finance and banking and would be a welcome match against bankers and their elk. The party has the haven for a few of the candidates who fled Labour once they started going against their own ideals. There is a good mix in this new group and would definitely make a change. They are against TTIP and Water charges.

People Before Profit (PBP) and the Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA) both are strong on Left policies being both against Water charges, both oppose TTIP, strong on housing and health. On the environment they oppose Fracking. At this point PBP are probably the bigger grouping of the two, fielding more candidates. In the Dail Richard Boyd Barret has had a good track record and among many things successfully via campaign opposed the sell-off of our forests to vulture funds -at least for now.

Both PBB and AA have formed a voting pact and it will be interesting to see how many seats they do get. They form the core of the real Left in Ireland and have become more visible since the collapse of the economic bubble. It is probably too much to ask or hope that they do extremely well and in conjunction with the Social Democrats and Sinn Fein form a government along with various independents like Clare Daly and Mick Wallace. Supposing this did actually happen then the question becomes would they deliver and stick to their policies and would the range of capitalist forces put pressure on them. If such a coalition were to ever get into power you could safely bet the O'Brien media via its key mouthpiece the Independent relentlessly attack it. This would be joined by various think tanks and neo-liberal economic lobbies, the billion oligarchs, bankers, bondholders, bailed out developers, the legal profession, and many others from the top 10% to 15% of the population who own the vast majority of the wealth and control the resources to shape the economy and mould public opinion.

It is worth reminding ourselves the legacy of the FG/Lab government and of FF before them and some of the changes since then.

  • Introduction of the USC Tax.
  • Increase in VAT
  • Home Tax / Property Tax
  • Water Charges with Privatisation to go through if and when EU-USA TTIP agreement is signed. FG & FF are in favour of TTIP
  • Green / Recycling waste to be charged from June 2016 onwards. Will destroy recycling and divert waste to new incinerator.
  • Doubling the number of homeless
  • Bailout of bankers and developers with no bankers jailed
  • Massive increase in property rents leading to biggest homeless crisis since foundation of the State.
  • Transfer of bailed out NAMA properties to foreign vulture funds that are now screwing the population for rent. This is a new form of landlordism in neo-liberal corporate form. Very few residential properties sold to the public. Instead most sold at low prices to hedge funds.
  • 17,000 house reprocessed waiting in the courts.
  • FG & Lab changed the Conveyance Act which change the law allowing bankers to massively increase evictions.
  • At least 250,000 people have emigrated since 2009
  • Huge spike in unemployment although it has reduced but figures are massaged.
  • Increase in wealth for the top 1%, 5% and 10%. More millionaires in Ireland than before
  • Decrease in wealth by loss of earnings and social benefits to the bottom half.
  • Big decreases in child benefits and back-to-school grants
  • Increase in the 'Administration fee' for third level college students to €3,000 per year
  • Cuts to public transport.
  • Massive cuts to disability services people and their carer's.
  • Privatisation of community services
  • Massive cuts to single parents
  • Continuation of scheme to let large corporations pay below the 12% corporation tax with the use of the "Idea Box" introduced by Michael Noonan. This retains our place as Banana republic.
  • And many more.....

FG have decided they are going to get back into power by sticking to the mantra of a recovery. There is a recovery alright and it is for corporate and banking profits and for probably the top 20 to 25% of the population. It has barely trickled down to the rest and once outside Dublin there is now much evidence. In fact for any gains people might have made, it has been soaked up through increased rents. Much of the statistics in the national figures are a bit cooked and distorted. For instance last year NAMA decided to sell off huge tranches of their property portfolios to vulture funds who bought up thousands of commercial and residential units and have either resold them for a tidy profit or are renting them at exorbitant rates. The word on the street is that the property rental market is now being controlled by these large real-estate owners and they are forcing prices up. Ireland has already headed back to a modern day form of neo feudalism where people cannot afford property and are at the mercy of property owners.

A couple trying to buy a home today are not competing against people like themselves in the so called 'free' market. They are competing against huge financial firms with hundreds of millions to billions of Euro behind them and what's more these firms have all sorts of tricks for tax write offs on their own loans and expenses and no doubt pay little if any tax. What has happened in the last 8 years is that you the tax payer have subsidized via NAMA the transfer of vast amounts of property to faceless capitalist enterprises who are now preying on large swathes of the population many of whom are permanently trapped renting as they have zero chance of ever saving enough to get out of it. For that you can thank FF, FG and Labour.

So where is it all going next? By far the biggest elephant in the room is the Transatlantic Trade in Partnership (TTIP) agreement between the EU-USA. It is a supposed to be a so called free trade agreement but is nothing of the sort. It is by far and away the most undemocratic corporate power grab ever witnessed and it is no exaggeration to say it literally threatens to roll back all the social, environmental and legal gains of the past 100 years are more.

None of the status quo parties talk much about it and when they do they imply it is just about jobs and economic growth and are very much for it. The talks for TTIP have been going on for a few years and all the discussions are in secret and the contents of the agreement although WikiLeaks revealed some of it and it wasn't pretty. It is a corporate wish list and essentially the idea is reduce standards, tariffs and social, economic, legal and environmental protections to that of the lowest player. The TTIP agreement will join up with a version for the Pacific region countries called TPP and another called for CETA for Canada. It means if some country has really lax standards for workers rights or environmental protection, TTIP can say it's uncompetitive to have the stronger ones and enforce the lowest standard. It gets worse though because a central plank of TTIP is something called Investor State Dispute Mechanism ISDS which is a corporate court, presided by corporate lawyers and it is proceedings are secret and, there is no recourse for appeal, ordinary people cannot use the court only corporations and it's finding are legally binding on all TTIP members and above the law of all countries. In others the Supreme court cannot even challenge it, let alone reverse or affect any of its' decisions. Oh and corporations can take member states to these courts to sue them for things like environmental or social protection laws that interfere with corporate profits.

What most people do not know is that ISDS has already been introduced or should I say sneaked in undemocratically into some countries and there have been around 500 cases. In every case the corporations won and in many of them this result hundreds of millions and billions have been handed over from cash strapped states to corporate coffers.

In the UK, groups who got access to the secret text of TTIP and analyzed it have come to the conclusion that TTIP would result in the end of the National Health Service (NHS) and lead to complete privatisation. The same would happen throughout all other spheres such as education. And the exact same would happen here. This is why FG and FF are reluctant to hold a referendum over keeping Irish water as a national resource in the public domain yet they say they will not privatise it. The reason is that ISDS through the TTIP agreement will take the decision out of their hands and force it's privatisation. They know that. Actually FG are such a sellout and really should be tried for treason because they actually want to have the ISDS courts in Ireland. Our sovereignty would be zero!

The take home message then is: Ask any and all of your candidates about TTIP and see if they know anything, what their position is and see what lies they tell you. Don't vote for FF or FG because they strongly support TTIP.

How ISDS has already been used to challenge legislation on land and water contamination, nuclear power, fracking and public health

A number of existing bi-lateral agreements already have ISDS in them. TPP (Pacific region) and the EU-US TTIP contain ISDS. These examples only cover up to 2013. Its got worse.

Vattenfall vs Germany: In 2009, Swedish energy company Vattenfall started an ISDS procedure against Germany, based on the Energy Charter Treaty, an international agreement protecting investments in the energy sector. Vattenfall had engaged in the construction of a coal fired power plant in Hamburg-Moorburg, located on the Elbe river. When Hamburg‘s Environmental Authority issued a licence imposing quality standards for the waste waters released by the power plant, Vattenfall claimed that those standards made the investment project unviable. Using ISDS provisions, the company asked Germany for compensation totalling €1.4 billion. Vattenfall and the city of Hamburg eventually settled the case with an agreement that foresaw the issuing of a ?modified water use permit?, which lowered the environmental requirements previously set by the Hamburg Environmental Authority.

Vattenfall vs Germany II: In May 2012, Vattenfall initiated a second international arbitration under the Energy Charter Treaty, this time asking for financial compensation with respect to Germany‘s decision to immediately close its oldest nuclear power plants and gradually shut down the remaining ones by 2022. This decision was taken in response to public concerns about the health and environmental risks of nuclear energy that followed the Fukushima accident in Japan. According to press sources, the claim for compensation by Vattenfall could amount up to €3.7 billion.

Lone Pine vs Canada: Based on provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico, US company Lone Pine Resources Inc. is asking for financial compensation from Canada following Québec‘s introduction of a moratorium on fracking. The moratorium introduced in May 2013 responded to concerns about the environmental and health risks posed by the new extraction method. The claim by Lone Pine amounts up to US$ 250 million (€191 millions). The case is still pending.

Chevron vs Ecuador: After years of litigation in Ecuador‘s national courts, Ecuador‘s indigenous people and farmers won a historic victory over Chevron (the court ruling requested that Chevron pay back US$18 billion to clean up the contamination of land and water that resulted from its operations). The company then turned to the investor-state mechanism under the US-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty to overturn the national judgement and evade compliance. That arbitration tribunal ordered the President of Ecuador to block enforcement of the previous court orders. Subsequent rulings repeated this demand, arguing that Ecuador had violated the treaty further by allowing plaintiffs to try to seize Chevron‘s assets through courts in Argentina, Brazil and Canada. These rulings set a dangerous precedent, allowing corporations to challenge the functions of a country‘s domestic court system and the decisions of its duly-appointed judges – and it could violate Ecuador‘s constitutional separation of powers.

Occidental vs Ecuador: Ecuador terminated the contract of an oil concession with Occidental after Occidental sold 40% of its production right to another company without complying with its obligation to seek governmental approval for doing so, as specified in the concession contract. Occidental then challenged the decision, again under the ISDS provisions in the US-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty. This resulted in the highest compensation ever awarded to an investor (US$1.77 billion), and demonstrates the vast power that tribunals wield.

Pacific Rim Mining Corp vs El Salvador: After failing to complete the environmental protection steps required to obtain a mining permit in El Salvador‘s main watershed region, Canadian gold mining company Pacific Rim Mining Corp. reincorporated a Cayman island subsidiary in Nevada and then filed an investor-state suit against El Salvador under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The company is now claiming several hundred million dollars in compensation for its =lost profits‘, challenging El Salvador‘s national mining laws. As an imminent jurisdictional ruling drags out, violence and threats against local environmentalists in the region where Pacific Rim wants to run a cyanide-leach gold mine continue.

Philip Morris vs Uruguay: After having transferred its international headquarters from the US to Switzerland for legal reasons, tobacco giant Philip Morris initiated a case against Uruguay in 2010 under the Switzerland- Uruguay bilateral investment treaty. In spite of the fact that this treaty stipulates that it shall not be used to challenge public health measures, Philip Morris has used the agreement‘s ISDS to challenge several provisions of the recent Uruguayan tobacco regulations. The company has questioned health warning requirements for tobacco packages (including the graphic and size requirements) as well as the provision that prohibits marketing more than one tobacco product under each brand. While the case is still pending, it is a good example of the use of investment rules and ISDS as part of a strategic drive to oppose restrictions on tobacco marketing.

Philip Morris vs Australia: In 2011, Philip Morris Asia used the ISDS mechanism in the bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong to challenge Australia‘s newly introduced tobacco regulation (the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011). The tobacco giant has claimed that the new legislation deprives it of the real value of its investments in Australia and that Australia is treating them in an unfair and inequitable way. Philip Morris has demanded that Australia be ordered to suspend the enforcement of the plain packaging legislation and provide the company with billions of dollars of financial compensations for the losses incurred. The case, which is still pending, could have detrimental impacts on regulatory efforts to curb the lethal effects of smoking well beyond Australia. For example, the EU, which is cur

TTIP and ISDS will permanently force privatisation of the National Health System (NHS) in UK. Same could happen here.

Read this below carefuly because what is it saying is US 'Health and Social Care Act' effectively through TTIP will mean it is binding on all members and therefore it will force the complete and permanent privatisation of the Irish health system. FF & FG strongly support TTIP! In this article from the NewStatesMan Benedict Cooper says:
A key part of the TTIP is 'harmonisation' between EU and US regulation, especially for regulation in the process of being formulated. In Britain, the coalition government’s Health and Social Care Act has been prepared in the same vein – to 'harmonise' the UK with the US health system.

This will open the floodgates for private healthcare providers that have made dizzying levels of profits from healthcare in the United States, while lobbying furiously against any attempts by President Obama to provide free care for people living in poverty. With the help of the Conservative government and soon the EU, these companies will soon be let loose, freed to do the same in Britain.

Linda Kaucher is a leading expert on trade agreements. She has written and spoken extensively on the topic, most recently in an article in Chartist. In it, she lays out a disturbing truth about what is going on behind the scenes in Brussels, arguing that while on the surface the EU is a bastion of protections and rights, its true agenda is far more tenebrous.

It is, she says, to "permanently fix corporate-driven neo-liberalism, within the EU and internationally, via trade agreements. Any reassertion of democracy within the EU structure or member states is prevented by legally binding international trade law." She also states that the agenda is "driven and effectively controlled by transnational corporations, especially transnational financial services corporations."

How does this affect the NHS? It’s painfully simple. The agreement will provide a legal heavy hand to the corporations seeking to grind down the health service. It will act as a Transatlantic bridge between the Health and Social Care Act in the UK, which forces the NHS to compete for contracts, and the private companies in the US eager to take it on for their own gain.

Kaucher says: "[The Health and Social Care Act] effectively enforces competitive tendering, and thus privatisation and liberalisation i.e. opening to transnational bidders - a shift to US-style profit-prioritised health provision."

The TTIP ensures that the Health and Social Care Act has influence beyond UK borders. It gives the act international legal backing and sets the whole shift to privatisation in stone because once it is made law, it will be irreversible. Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) laws, fundamentals of the agreement, allow corporations legal protection for their profits regardless of patient care performance, with the power to sue any public sector organisation or government that threatens their interest.

Once these ISDS tools are in place, lucrative contracts will be underwritten, even where a private provider is failing patients and the CCG wants a contract cancelled. In this case, the provider will be able to sue a CCG for future loss of earnings, thanks to the agreement, causing the loss of vast sums of taxpayer money on legal and administrative costs.

Even more worrying is that, once the TTIP is enacted, repealing the Health and Social Care Act in the UK will become almost impossible. As Kaucher explains: "Even if outcomes of the NHS changes are disastrous, ISDS will effectively disallow any attempts by any future UK government to reverse the changes."

Full text available at New States Man at: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/12/how-eu-making-nhs-privatisation-permanent

There are other agreements which will all interlock. The main two are CETA and TTP. TTP is The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the signatories are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam.

CETA is The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union and can be thought of as a fail safe option if they can't get TTIP through. CETA is to be signed this year and should also be stopped.

Slide 22 of TTIP presentation (pptx file) Workers rights are a barrier to trade
Slide 22 of TTIP presentation (pptx file) Workers rights are a barrier to trade

Slide 23 of TTIP presentation (pptx file) Safety Last
Slide 23 of TTIP presentation (pptx file) Safety Last

attachment Barry Finnegan's presentation on TTIP and ISDS to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Jan 2015 1.31 Mb

 #   Title   Author   Date 
   Can you stomach another Leaders' Debate ...     FoE    Tue Feb 23, 2016 23:05 
   Exit poll results     T    Sat Feb 27, 2016 00:26 
   Final results     T    Fri Mar 04, 2016 22:26 
   10 reasons why you should be worried about TTIP     John    Fri Apr 08, 2016 12:31 
   MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan ‏visits the TTIP reading room     Crazy Cat    Tue May 17, 2016 10:03 
   When You Thought Trade Deals Could Not Get Any Worse -- Enter Wall Street.     Crazy Cat    Thu Dec 22, 2016 11:49 

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