On 16-17 May 2016, I participated in a multi-disciplinary workshop on ‘Law, neoliberalism and social protest: lessons from TTIP’ at the University of Brighton. This workshop was co- organized by myself and Prof Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, and it was followed by a public debate on TTIP as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. The workshop benefited from the participation of Prof Diamond Ashiagbor, Dr Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Paul Gilbert, John Hilary, Prof Sheldon Leader, Sam Lowe, Prof David Schneiderman, Dr Gabriel Siles-Brugge, Prof M. Sornarajah, Dr Neil Stammers and Ntina Tzouvala.
TTIP is a comprehensive trade and investment partnership currently being negotiated by the US and the EU. The negotiations are led by the EU Commission on behalf of the EU and the USTR on behalf of the US Government. Agreements like TTIP aim at increased integration of markets, by removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, as well as by providing guarantees for the protection of foreign investment. This of course is a means to an end, i.e. it is predicted that integration will lead to growth of the economy and the creation of jobs which will then lead to increased welfare.
If TTIP is predicted to have such positive effects on society, why all the controversy? Critics of TTIP have a number of concerns. A common worry is that the negotiators are not taking fundamental rights of the public seriously. Among the major criticisms are: (1) the harmonization of standards through a ‘race to the bottom’; (2) lack of appropriate levels of transparency and inclusiveness of all stakeholders in the drafting process; (3) limitation of the regulatory space of states to take measures in the public interest via the investor protection rules that give investors rights (applied by investment tribunals outside the domestic legal system), but no obligations. The participants of the workshop discussed critically the process of negotiation and drafting of the TTIP, and certain controversial aspects of its proposed content. Continue reading