The EU-US free trade agreement (TTIP) – A radicalisation of neoliberalism affecting us all

The Attac network wrote to the Members of the German Bundestag, calling on them to take action against the planned free trade agreement between the EU and the United States. Negotiations are currently under way on the awkwardly named “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” (TTIP), which, if adopted, will mean a further radicalisation of neoliberalism. Below is the translation of Andrej Hunko’s reply to Attac, in which he expresses his strong opposition to the TTIP.

Dear friends from Attac,

Many thanks for your letter about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and for your hard work on this matter. This subject is one which the Left Party parliamentary group in the Bundestag is looking at, including, of course, as part of our parliamentary work, although obtaining more detailed information about the course of the negotiations is, unfortunately, a slow and difficult process.

I agree with your criticism of the project to establish the world’s biggest free trade zone, and it goes without saying that I, together with my parliamentary group, will do everything possible to prevent this further attack on workers’ collective rights and environmental and social standards. Like you, I view this new radical free-market project with great concern, not only for the people in the EU, but also for those in the United States. Past experience with similar agreements has shown that harmonising standards almost always means lowering them, which is why – if the agreement is in fact adopted – we can expect it to have a very socially unjust impact.

It is clear that the agreement’s promised “blessings” are based on overly optimistic forecasts, or can be ascribed to positive forecasts being exaggerated while the downsides are ignored. Similarly to the troika’s austerity and privatisation dictates to the EU’s “crisis-stricken countries”, which are always accompanied by forecasts of an impending economic recovery, we are now being promised jobs and economic growth. And just as the IMF and the European Commission have repeatedly had to revise their forecasts downwards over the course of the structural adjustment programmes, the anticipated positive impact of the TTIP will fail to materialise. And that is despite the fact that the promised benefits are, on closer inspection, already meagre. The Bertelsmann Foundation is not alone; the European Commission itself concludes that the TTIP could, at best – in the “ambitious” scenario – result in 0.48 per cent higher growth in the EU by 2027. The anticipated impact on employment is similarly limited.

What will remain, however, are structural reforms in countries on both sides of the Atlantic, which will mean a radicalisation of neoliberalism affecting us all. I share your concerns about the TTIP’s negative effects. In particular, the planned investment protection agreement represents, in my opinion, a direct attack on democratic principles. We are all aware that even today large corporations have a huge amount of influence on decision-making processes. If they are now given additional powers to take legal action against states to assert their interests and demand anticipated profits, this will be a significant further erosion of democracy. It would hugely restrict elected parliaments’ and governments’ scope for action.

And the list of the negative impacts of more free trade and liberalisation could go on and on.
I think we need to look at the TTIP in the context of the current crisis management in the EU and the eurozone, which represents a historic attack on the rights of workers and a radicalisation of neoliberal policies. Following Germany’s trailblazing implementation of neoliberal labour-market reforms with its Agenda 2010, similar measures are now being pushed through in many parts of the EU by means of troika memorandums. At the same time, the financial markets remain largely unregulated, sending a clear signal to banks and companies: “Carry on, the public will ultimately foot the bill!” There are obvious parallels to the TTIP’s measures, which clearly bear the signature of neoliberal think tanks that quite openly represent corporate interests.

Fending off these attacks on workers’ rights, democracy, environmental and social standards and many other issues will take perseverance and close cooperation. For one thing is clear: we cannot achieve a great deal in Parliament alone – particularly given the fact that the government holds over 80 per cent of the seats. Pressure from outside Parliament is needed in order to bring about a change of course. I am therefore very pleased that, alongside your opposition to the troika’s policies, you have also begun to take action against the largest free trade zone in the world. I would warmly welcome it if we could together – in Parliament and on the streets – work towards alternatives which benefit the vast majority of the population and intensify our cooperation. Today’s event on Pariser Platz in Berlin was a good start. I will seek to ensure that the Left Party parliamentary group makes the TTIP a high-priority issue.

Yours in solidarity,
Andrej Hunko, 16 December 2013

Andrej Hunko, MdB 2018