This paper outlines, in brief, the position of the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other related free-trade agreements. It tries to point out the potential consequences of these agreements, in their current form, on poverty and social exclusion in European countries.
The basis for this input is the belief that international trade should promote sustainable social equality, justice and development in a globalised world and should not be left unregulated and controlled by the market. International trade should primarily serve the people and bring added value to the economy. EAPN insists that the free trade agreements and any removing of barriers to trade and investment must be at the service of the achievement of sustainable, social, economic and environmental development.
EAPN is particularly concerned about the impact of enhanced free trade on socially disadvantaged people, such as those who work in low-wage sectors, benefit from social services or receive state benefits. Moreover, the entry into force of such free trade agreements is likely to further increase poverty and exclusion, through an abrupt erosion of social, employment, and environmental rights and standards.
Effects on Economy and Employment
There should be a clear mechanism in the trade agreements to review their impacts on poverty, inequality and social cohesion and to allow alterations as needed.
It must be ensured that trade agreements are linked to the strengthening of workers’ rights, to the preservation of employment standards, to decent pay and working conditions (including sustainability of contracts, social protection contributions, etc.), as well as strong trade-union representation and reinforced collective-bargaining mechanisms.
Even if the Commission has proposed improvements to its original proposals the inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement process in CETA and TTIP should be rejected, because the introduction of independent arbitration is not required, due to the developed and functioning legal systems of the Member States.
It is essential that the regulatory cooperation council, while remaining within its remit on trade, has expertise not only on trade but expertise on poverty, and social policy, labour rights and environmental protection within its membership to ensure the impacts of trade on these areas is properly taken account of.
Liberalisation of Services
All social services, health, education and water services and services of general interest, regardless if they are publically or privately funded should be excluded from this trade agreement.
Criticisms of Transparency and Democratic Deficit
The European Commission must take into account the recent own initiative opinion of the European Parliament and its concerns regarding services of general interest and the ISDS when conducting its negotiations.
Decision-makers, at national and EU level, need to open up communication channels and provide information related to negotiations in full transparency, so as to allow the people of Europe to have their say on important changes that will affect them.