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Regulation Top Trumps


Corporations just love redistributing wealth, right?

I’m fascinated by the tricks used to convince us of the benefits of deals like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

For example, proponents talk about removing the ‘regulatory barriers’ that restrict the ability of corporations to generate profit. But what they call ‘barriers to trade’, we call the fabric of society! Labour laws, environmental laws, privacy laws – we put these barriers up for a very good reason. It would be like removing flood barriers because the flood has calmly convinced us that we can’t reasonably expect it to destroy our homes and fields when there’s a massive wall in the way.

They claim that a European household of four would be 500 euros better off, due in part to the price reductions that TTIP will bring. Because, as New Internationalist readers will know, big businesses just love passing their savings on to customers. They’re quite benevolent, really: corporations simply jump at the chance to redistribute a little wealth. Didn’t you know that ‘FTSE 100’ is an anagram of ‘Karl Marx’?

What they forget is that this ‘wealth’ is being created because the regulations that protect our rights, our health and our planet are being stripped away. We’ll be 500 euros richer, yet so desperately poorer. Like someone who has just earned $1 million by selling their dad, or someone who has won a competition on Fox News.

Proponents argue that TTIP and the TPP harmonize regulation, so that there’s one rule for every trader. But – does this even need to be said? – in this dreadful game of Regulation Top Trumps, the laxest regulation wins. Previously banned chemicals in food will suddenly be abundant. Quotas will nosedive. It’s a drive to the bottom. It’s like saying: ‘Some people in the world are healthy, but some have cholera, some have cancer, and some are blind. This inequality simply can’t carry on. That’s why we’re proposing: cholera for everybody!’

In October 2015, a leaked draft revealed that European Union negotiators utterly failed to ‘reinforce environmental protections’. Colour me shocked. Really? The vested interests of TTIP lied to us? Do you know, sometimes I start to suspect that these multibillion-dollar corporations that employ teams of lobbyists to push their profit-driven agenda might not have my best interests at heart.

Proponents claim that this is all the stuff of fantasy. Conspiracy hyperbole. Perhaps. Except, did you know that documentation on the TTIP agreement will be kept secret for 30 years? It’s not exactly the kind of news that inspires confidence, is it? ‘This plane has three fire exits. Sadly, we can’t tell you where they are, as it may hinder the fire’s ability to burn you.’

I’ve said this before in my column, and I’ll say it again: when the facts are hidden from us, democracy fails. How are we to make a decision on whether these trade deals are truly good for us? Well, here’s a hint: one TTIP fact we do know (from our May 2014 issue) is that ‘US trade delegations have more than 600 corporate advisers with unlimited access to drafts’.

Will you forgive me for being controversial? This is just a hunch, but – just this once – I think I’ll believe the activists.

Chris Coltrane is a comedian and activist. Follow him on Twitter: chris_coltrane. Download his Lolitics Podcast at chriscoltrane.com for regular brilliant political stand-up comedy, for free.

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