Discurso de António Guterres na tomada de posse como Secretário Geral da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU)

Para recordar… um excelente discurso.
13 de Dezembro de 2016
“É com gratidão e humildade e com grande sentido de responsabilidade que me apresento hoje”, afirmou o novo secretário-geral das Nações Unidas, António Guterres, na sua primeira declaração após ser aclamado pela Assembleia-geral da ONU.

Comunicação à imprensa

Responsabilidade, Reconhecimento, Diversidade e Liberdade

Responsabilidade, Reconhecimento, Diversidade e Liberdade
Excertos da intervenção de António Sampaio da Nóvoa na cerimónia em que lhe foi atribuído o Doutoramento Honoris Causa pela Universidade Lusófona, juntamente com Carlos Alberto Torres, professor da UCLA, no dia 25 de Outubro de 2016

Não é fácil agradecer uma distinção. Se falasse para me aumentar, seria insuportável. Se para me diminuir, soaria a falso. Talvez a única opção seja dizer o que sinto, e que se traduz numa única palavra: responsabilidade.

Cada distinção alarga a nossa responsabilidade, porque nos acrescenta instituições que em nós confiam, pessoas que nos escolhem como portadores de uma história e de um futuro.

Entendo esta distinção como o reconhecimento de pessoas e de gerações que se bateram, nas últimas décadas, pela democratização do ensino, pela renovação da universidade e pela abertura de Portugal.

Junto delas, serei portador deste vosso gesto.

  • Hoje, pela primeira vez na nossa história, deixamos para trás o “discurso do atraso” quando falamos da nossa escola pública. As gerações de Abril podem orgulhar-se do que fizeram pela educação, mesmo com investimentos bem inferiores à média europeia, mesmo que falte ainda tanto por fazer. Na democratização do ensino. Na qualidade das aprendizagens. Numa escola que promova o sucesso de todos os alunos, independentemente do seu cheiro, cor, linguagem ou encadernação, como dizia João dos Santos.

Felizmente, ao longo deste ano, recuperámos um direito ao presente, que nos vinha sendo retirado. Mas é preciso que este presente não seja morno, tépido, que não nos impeça de ver as grandes transformações da educação do futuro.

Na reconstrução de um modelo escolar que tem 150 anos, e já não nos serve. Na organização de escolas diferentes que, sem porem em causa “o comum”, permitam a abertura a uma diversidade de projectos e iniciativas. No reforço de um espaço público da educação, muito mais amplo do que o espaço da escola, no qual pessoas e instituições se façam presentes e assumam os seus direitos e deveres educativos.

  • Serei portador de um segundo gesto de reconhecimento, às gerações que, nos últimos trinta anos, se bateram pela renovação da universidade.

Quero agradecer o elogio proferido pela Professora Rita Hofstetter, da Universidade de Genebra.

Genebra tem sido o epicentro do pensamento educativo, com Rousseau, claro, com a Educação Nova, há cem anos, quando lá estavam António Sérgio e Faria de Vasconcelos, as duas referências maiores da nossa pedagogia.

Genebra é a minha primeira universidade. Foi lá que me formei universitário. Foi lá que fiz o meu primeiro doutoramento. Foi lá que aprendi com um conjunto notável de professores, a começar por Daniel Hameline e Pierre Furter, dois homens tão diferentes, e tão notáveis, a quem dedico a distinção que hoje recebo.

Depois, foi Wisconsin, Oxford, Nova Iorque e Paris, para um segundo doutoramento, que junta a história à comparação. E Brasília e o Rio de Janeiro. Continuarei: o andar é tudo: princípio e fim (Teixeira de Pascoaes).

Lisboa recebeu-me, apesar de vir de fora, e não de dentro. Aqui encontrei a minha universidade. Participei nos primeiros mestrados, na década de 80, numa nova concepção dos programas de doutoramento, nos primeiros grandes projectos científicos europeus. Começava uma coisa nova e todos tínhamos consciência disso.

Da vida, levo duas causas de honra. Falarei apenas de uma: ter sido Reitor da Universidade de Lisboa. E ter conseguido, com muita gente, de muitos lugares, sobretudo com o António Cruz Serra, corrigir o erro histórico da separação das universidades ditas “clássica” e “técnica” – medicina para um lado, engenharia para o outro, humanidades e direito para um lado, economia para o outro. Espanta-me como nos habituámos a uma realidade tão absurda e incompreensível.

Fez-se a Universidade de Lisboa. Está feita. Existe apenas há três anos, mas vai dando ao país o que o país precisa: uma instituição de referência internacional, a partir da língua portuguesa, de Lisboa para o mundo, que não separa a ciência do ensino, que trabalha na convergência de todos os conhecimentos, que reconhece a sua responsabilidade na economia, no trabalho, na cultura, no desenvolvimento, na cidade.

E agora? Agora, falta fazer quase tudo, mas é isso que nos anima. E falta também trabalhar no país para promover a diversidade do sistema de ensino superior. Lisboa não é igual a Évora. O Porto não é igual a Bragança. Precisamos de universidades diferentes, de politécnicos diferentes, com uma diferença marcada pelos seus projectos próprios, pelos seus modelos próprios de organização, e não por separações à nascença que são sempre factor de discriminação.

Diversidade e liberdade. O momento actual das universidades é crítico em todo o mundo. Por um lado, vive-se uma fase de expansão e de percepção da sua centralidade nas sociedades contemporâneas (já não falta muito para que os estudantes do ensino superior representem 5% da população mundial, 350 milhões). Por outro lado, há uma submissão a lógicas marcadas pela empregabilidade e por um produtivismo académico delirante – papers e mais papers, e mais comunicações, e mais factores de impacto, e mais outputs e outputs, tudo num frenesim que retira tempo à ciência, que impede a distância crítica de que a reflexão se alimenta.

A mistura de três tendências – a obsessão pelos rankings, uma visão empresarial da gestão e a perpétua burocracia – está a transformar-se num perigo para as universidades. Se forem vencidas pelo imediatismo, por indicadores e mais indicadores que dão conta de tudo menos do que verdadeiramente conta, as universidades podem perder o que as distingue das outras instituições, a capacidade de serem diferentes, de pensarem o que não se pode pensar em nenhum outro lugar.

Não devemos recusar a medida, nem a avaliação, nem a comparação, mas quando estes instrumentos se transformam em modo dominante, único, de governo das instituições, então, perde-se a liberdade incondicional, sem condição, que é constitutiva da própria ideia de universidade.

  • Finalmente, serei portador deste vosso gesto junto das gerações que nos tiraram do isolamento e abriram Portugal à Europa e ao mundo. A educação teve um papel central neste processo. As universidades e a ciência também.

Partilho esta distinção com Carlos Alberto Torres, o que muito me honra. Não é um acaso. É um sinal da importância da internacionalização, e do esforço para pensar a educação numa perspectiva comparada. A isso nos vamos dedicando, um e outro.

Há muito provincianismo no nosso país, feito ora de fechamento, ora de fascínio pelo estrangeiro. As novidades já não vêm pelo comboio ou pelo vapor, mas pelas páginas da internet, que alguns lêem e repetem, e assim se acham modernos. Nunca daqui saíram. E se saíram foi com alguma bolsa ou subsídio pago cá dentro. E se algum escrito publicaram foi sobre o “caso português”. São “casos”, não são ciência, nem cultura.

Não é esta internacionalização que me interessa, mas aquela que nos inscreve como partícipes, como participantes por inteiro dos processos científicos e culturais. Não somos um “caso”. Devemos ser parceiros no trabalho científico que se faz no mundo. É isso que as novas gerações nos têm ensinado, com uma presença internacional de que nos orgulhamos e que temos de reforçar nas próximas décadas.

E temos condições únicas para o fazer. Pela nossa história. Pela nossa geografia. Sobretudo pela nossa língua. É nela que devemos enraizar a nossa abertura ao mundo. Na Europa, obviamente. Mas também no espaço ibero-americano, tão importante para o nosso futuro. E no Mediterrâneo. E no Atlântico Sul. E sempre que a partir da língua portuguesa pudermos estar no mundo. A língua não é o que nos fecha no nosso “elemento”, mas o que nos permite comunicar, estar presentes, ser universais na nossa singularidade.

  • Como sabem, não tive, até hoje, qualquer ligação académica ou institucional à Universidade Lusófona. Sinto, por isso, uma responsabilidade ainda maior na vossa distinção. Recebo-a como parte dos três movimentos que apresentei e que nos trouxeram uma “vida nova”.

Só conheço uma maneira útil de honrar esta distinção: continuar a bater-me pelos mesmos ideais, com independência, com liberdade, sejam quais forem os tempos e as circunstâncias.

Só tenho um instrumento ao meu dispor: a palavra. À maneira dos honoris causa antigos, juro perante vós não abrandar no meu esforço pela democratização do ensino, pela renovação da universidade e pela abertura de Portugal. Só morremos quando esquecemos as palavras. Prometo-vos que não as esquecerei.

Nada me honra mais do que a presença de tantos amigos nesta cerimónia. Peço desculpa de não poder agradecer individualmente a cada uma das pessoas aqui presentes. E, no entanto, talvez esta minha intervenção pudesse ter sido, apenas, e já seria muito, a leitura dos vossos nomes, porque em cada um dos vossos nomes está um pedaço dos movimentos que procurei trazer-vos.

Tenho nostalgia de muitas coisas que não fui e que também já não serei. Mas os amigos permitem que nos continuemos no tempo. São eles que nos prolongam. Termino, por isso, com a força da solidariedade, da convivialidade, de uma amizade que nos faz parte de um movimento.

É isso o que mais me importa – aprofundar lógicas de participação nas decisões políticas, económicas, sociais, nas decisões sobre educação, saúde, sobre a cidade…

Mas como é que conseguimos uma autonomia de participação, e de decisão, quando a economia se define em lugares desconhecidos, “invisíveis”, quando os partidos se defendem do que não controlam, quando a comunicação social mostra apenas o que quer e esconde tudo o resto?

Vivemos uma crise política, de representação, que tem muitas origens, mas também inconfessadas resistências à participação. Uma democracia da apatia e da indiferença não é democracia.

A participação é o denominador comum dos três movimentos de que vos falei. Não vale a pena drogarmo-nos com heroísmos grandiosos. A vida é feita de gestos e de compromissos, diários, que podem parecer insignificantes, mas são eles que fazem o movimento de mudança.

Para que o momento surja, cada um tem de fazer a sua parte. Com compromisso. Com conhecimento. Com responsabilidade. Continuaremos…

​Já tarda

​Já tarda

João Ferreira do Amaral

Foi-nos prometido um debate nacional sobre o futuro da União Europeia e sobre a posição a ocupar por Portugal nesse futuro

De facto, já tarda.

Foi-nos prometido, inclusive em comunicado de uma reunião do Conselho de Estado, que iria haver um debate nacional sobre o futuro da União Europeia e sobre a posição a ocupar por Portugal nesse futuro.

Até agora, nada. É bem possível que esse compromisso vá parar ao mesmo arquivo morto onde caíram as promessas sucessivas de referendos inexistentes.

A verdade é que já há pouco tempo. Em Março de 2017, a propósito do sexagésimo aniversário da integração europeia está prevista a divulgação de um documento das instituições comunitárias com propostas sobre o futuro da União.

Qual será a posição de Portugal face a esse documento? Continuará o caminho absurdo que trilhámos desde 1992 de fazer parte do núcleo mais avançado da integração? Caminho que nos tem destruído e que põe em causa a sustentabilidade de Portugal como entidade política autónoma, assim reconhecida pela comunidade internacional? Ou imporemos finalmente algumas linhas vermelhas à transferência de soberania para os órgãos comunitários, de modo a garantir instrumentos suficientes de auto-governo para o nosso país?

Todos nós cidadãos portugueses temos o direito – quase diria o dever – de exigir às autoridades portuguesas que, por uma vez, em assuntos tão decisivos para o nosso futuro, cumpram a sua obrigação democrática de dar a palavra ao povo e que não decidam sem um referendo, precedido por um amplo debate. Em democracia representativa, os órgãos de soberania exercem o poder em nosso nome. Mas não têm mandato para entregar esse poder a outrem sem a nossa anuência expressa.

A táctica sonsa de esconder a questão, de deixar andar para, no fim das decisões europeias, argumentar que não há outra alternativa, serviu no passado os interesses de algumas elites, mas prejudicou fortemente o nosso País. Não podemos admitir que tal volte a acontecer.

In “Rádio Renascença” 25 de Novembro de 2016

The new TTIP? Meet TISA, the ‘secret privatisation pact that poses a threat to democracy’

The new TTIP? Meet TISA, the ‘secret privatisation pact that poses a threat to democracy’
Government insists ‘public services are under no threat whatsoever from this deal’

An international trade deal being negotiated in secret is a “turbo-charged privatisation pact” that poses a threat to democratic sovereignty and “the very concept of public services”, campaigners have warned.

But this is not TTIP – the international agreement it appears campaigners in the European Union have managed to scupper over similar concerns – this is TISA, a deal backed by some of the world’s biggest corporations, such as Microsoft, Google, IBM, Walt Disney, Walmart, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.

Few people may have heard of the Trade In Services Agreement, but campaign group Global Justice Now warns in a new report: “Defeating TTIP may amount to a pyrrhic victory if we allow TISA to pass without challenge.”

Like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TISA is being negotiated in secret, even though it could have a major impact on countries which sign up.

While TTIP is only between the EU and US, those behind TISA have global ambitions as it involves most of the world’s major economies – with the notable exceptions of China and Russia – in a group they call the “Really Good Friends of Services”.

The Department for International Trade dismissed the idea that public services were at risk from TISA, adding that the UK was committed to securing an “ambitious” deal.

But according to Global Justice Now’s report, the deal could “lock in privatisation of public services”; allow “casino capitalism” by undermining financial regulations designed to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 recession; threaten online privacy; damage efforts to fight climate change; and prevent developing countries from improving public services.

Nick Dearden, director of group, said: “This deal is a threat to the very concept of public services. It is a turbo-charged privatisation pact, based on the idea that rather than serving the public interest, governments must step out of the way and allow corporations to ‘get on with it’.

“Of particular concern, we fear TISA will include clauses that will prevent governments taking public control of strategic services, and inhibit regulation of the very banks that created the financial crash.”

He suggested pro-Brexit voters should be concerned at the potential loss of sovereignty.

“Many people were persuaded to leave the EU on the grounds they would be ‘taking back control’ of our economic policy,” Mr Dearden said.

“But if we sign up to TISA, our ability to control our economy – to regulate, to protect public services, to fight climate change – is massively reduced. In effect, we would be handing large swathes of policy-making to big business. “

 

The report says the widespread opposition to TTIP, a deal between only the EU and US, had not yet been repeated over TISA.

“It is vital for elected representatives, campaigners and ordinary citizens to unite against this threat,” it adds.

“TISA threatens public services. From postal services to the NHS, TISA could lock in privatisation and ensure that big multinationals increasingly call the shots on areas like health, education and basic utilities.”

A so-called “ratchet” clause in the deal means that after a service – like trains or water or energy – is privatised, this is almost impossible to reverse even if it fails.

According to the report, a “standstill” clause also means “no new regulation can be passed that gives foreign companies worse treatment” than when TISA is passed.

“Taken together, the standstill and ratchet clauses could make it much harder for a future government to renationalise the railways, a move backed by a majority of the British public,” it says.

“Similarly, it could mean that the creeping privatisation of the NHS becomes more and more irreversible with greater involvement of companies from countries like the US. And forget taking control of the electricity system back from the big six energy firms.”

Migrant workers could be classified as “independent service suppliers”, the report says, meaning they would not be eligible for the minimum wage or be allowed to join a union.

People going to another country may find their visa is tied to their job, so if they were sacked, they would be deported.

“This sort of system of modern indentured labour is wide open to abuse by unscrupulous employers who may get away with illegal practices safe in the knowledge that they can threaten any employee with deportation if they complain,” the report says.

“This sort of system is used in countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar and has resulted in working conditions that have been described as being close to slavery.”

The global economic crash of 2008 was precipitated by the sale of complex financial products linked to unsafe “sub-prime” mortgages. The report says there is a danger the final TISA deal would “undermine efforts to regulate risky financial products” with a proposal that firms should be allowed to offer “any new financial service”.

“The danger is that TISA will deter governments from limiting the use of such ‘innovative’ financial products and leave us powerless to stop the next financial crisis,” it says.

TISA could also potentially prevent governments from favouring renewable energy over fossil fuels – despite the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the health effects of air pollution.

Private firms would also be allowed to move online data from one country to another under one proposal being considered. While the original country’s privacy laws would have to be respected, the report said it was “not clear how this will be … enforced”.

While developed countries in Europe have established public services that would not be threatened unless a state’s government decided to open them up to private firms, the same is not true of many developing countries. If they signed up to the deal, it could effectively prevent them from setting up public institutions taken for granted in the West.

The TISA negotiations were held behind closed doors for about 18 months until they were publicly revealed by the global trade union group Public Services International (PSI). Information about some of the proposals has been also disclosed through Wikileaks and similar sites.

Daniel Bertossa, PSI’s director of policy, said: “Anybody who’s interested in maintaining democratic control of national institutions should be very concerned about the Trade in Services Agreement that is being negotiated in secret.

“It will remove large sections of national sovereignty and the ability of any government, including the UK Government, to regulate important service sectors [on issues] such as energy, such as transport, such as privacy. The Trade in Services Agreement is part of a radical project to limit governments’ sovereign right to regulate and freeze it almost in permanence in the interests of foreign corporations.”

According to the European Commission, TISA is about “facilitating trade in services”.

“The EU is the world’s largest exporter of services with tens of millions of jobs throughout Europe in the services sector. Opening up markets for services will mean more growth and jobs,” its website says.

The Independent has contacted “Team TISA”, a group of mainly American companies in favour of the deal, asking for a comment.

On its website, it says: “Services are the fastest growing sector of the global economy and account for two thirds of global output, one third of global employment and nearly 20 per cent of global trade.

“The TISA provides an opportunity to expand services trade among over 50 countries, covering nearly 70 per cent of global trade in services.

“The potential expansion TISA provides will benefit not only global growth, but also US domestic growth.

“As the world’s largest services exporter, with over $1.3 trillion (about £1 trillion) in annual cross-border and foreign-affiliate sales, the US will benefit tremendously from elimination of services barriers.”

A Department for International Trade spokesperson said: “Public services are under no threat whatsoever from this deal or any other trade agreement. The UK remains committed to an ambitious Trade in Services Agreement.”

Ian Johnston, in “Independent“, 30th August 2016

TTIP is about to die, but here are the toxic trade deals about to take its place

TTIP is about to die, but here are the toxic trade deals about to take its place
TTIP has been sacrificed to save the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and Brexit won’t spare us from them

“TTIP has failed, but nobody wants to admit it.” With those words one of the biggest advocates of the US-EU trade deal known as TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership) appears to have signed its death warrant this week.

Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel was joined two days later by fellow social-democrat Matthias Fekl, France’s trade minister, who went further, saying “France is demanding the pure, simple and definitive halt of these negotiations.”

It seems that the anti-TTIP movement is close to winning its big prize – the death of a ‘trade’ deal which had more to do with extending the power of big corporations than exchanging goods. For a trade deal which had barely been heard of by most European politicians two and a half years ago, that’s quite a feat.

But what lies behind this apparent conversion of leading German and French social democrats? Elections in France and Germany are approaching in 2017. The wholesale conversion of the European centre-left to the big business ‘free market’ agenda in the 1990s, means there often seems to be little difference between conservatives and social democrats. Gabriel and Fekl are both in election mode already, but their new-found opposition to TTIP is purely tactical.

They have calculated that a tactical retreat on TTIP might just be enough to save TTIP’s sister agreements, namely the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement  (CETA), a deal between Canada and the EU, and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) a massive, super-privatisation deal covering everything from finance to education.

In other words, TTIP has been sacrificed to save the wider agenda of which TTIP was only one part. Add to that the free market fantasies of our own trade minister Liam Fox, and campaigners should enjoy a celebratory drink, but not put their placards away yet.

Our next target must be CETA – a deal which has received far less attention than TTIP, largely because Canada seems like a pleasant enough country which doesn’t threaten European standards. But the whole point of these agreements is to change our society, and CETA is just as dangerous in this regard as TTIP.

CETA would allow Canadian multinationals to sue European governments in special courts for imposing ‘unfair’ regulations on them – as well as the thousands of US multinationals with a base in Canada. Like TTIP, it’s all about deregulation, threatening everything from public services to financial control. The European Parliament will likely vote on this deal before next Spring, and governments including our own want to implement it immediately afterwards, rather than wait for a vote in Westminster.

Neither is Brexit going to save us. Boris Johnson is on record as saying he thinks CETA is the very model of a good trade deal.

Then there’s TISA – a deal between 50 countries which aims at the liberalisation of ‘services’. Services, in trade parlance, is anything you can’t drop on your foot –  finance and insurance, telecommunications, transport, energy services, education and healthcare. That is what Britain specialises in, we are told, and therefore our government is bound to opt-in to TISA as soon as we exit the EU.

Our new briefing spells out what TISA could mean in practice. Perhaps most worrying is the so-called ‘ratchet’ clause, which makes the privatisation of services effectively irreversible, because it forces countries to ensure market access for foreign companies in perpetuity. That could easily apply to the railways, the post office or privatised sections of the NHS.

We know, from leaks, that TISA is heavily backed by City of London financial corporations – and for  good reason. TISA will also lock-in financial sector  deregulation – the same framework that caused the 2008 economic crash. TISA could also make it more difficult to limit speculation in the market, to break up banks or to regulate risky financial products

We also know that some countries are pushing clauses in TISA which would prevent signatories introducing laws to favour renewable energy over fossil fuels. Others are pushing to allow high tech companies to transfer data across borders at will. This would allow companies like Google and Facebook to move personal information to the US where data protection is more lax.

Meanwhile, some categories of migrant worker may end up being “independent service suppliers” and will consequently not enjoy the right to things like the minimum wage or be allowed to join a trade union, essentially becoming a form of modern indentured labour.

We gain little if the end of TTIP allows such awful deals to make it to the statute book. If social democrats want to reconnect with their base, they need to completely rethink the purpose of trade, as other countries are doing. India and Tanzania have just backed out of trade deals and negotiations with the EU, following the lead of many Latin American countries over the last decade.

Nick Dearden, inIndependent“, 31st August 2016

There is nothing to celebrate about the Ceta trade deal

There is nothing to celebrate about the Ceta trade deal

Sunday Oct 30th will go down as a dark day for what remains of democracy in Europe. It was when CETA (the Canada/EU so called trade deal) was signed.

The media have said that it has been seven years in the making, and yet they only bothered to report on it in the last week or so when Belgium tried to block it at the last moment. Rather than applauding their heroic stance, and ask why, they were portrayed as trying to block this supposedly wonderful deal.

The reason why the region of Walloon, and millions of others across Europe oppose CETA is because it threaten our working conditions, food standards, environmental protections, our public services, and allow foreign corporations to sue the British governmet. In short, corporations (or those who own them) will have almost total control over our lives.

In light of these very serious concerns, you need to ask yourselves why the British public were not informed about these by our government, and our media.

Colin Crilly, in Independent” 31st October 2016

What is TTIP? And six reasons why the answer should scare you

What is TTIP? And six reasons why the answer should scare you
Have you heard about TTIP? If your answer is no, don’t get too worried; you’re not meant to have

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. As a bi-lateral trade agreement, TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. It is, as John Hilary, Executive Director of campaign group War on Want, said: “An assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”

Since before TTIP negotiations began last February, the process has been secretive and undemocratic. This secrecy is on-going, with nearly all information on negotiations coming from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests.

But worryingly, the covert nature of the talks may well be the least of our problems. Here are six other reasons why we should be scared of TTIP, very scared indeed:

1 The NHS (ne: “National Health Sysrtem”)

Public services, especially the NHS, are in the firing line. One of the main aims of TTIP is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could essentially mean the privatisation of the NHS.

The European Commission has claimed that public services will be kept out of TTIP. However, according to the Huffington Post, the UK Trade Minister Lord Livingston has admitted that talks about the NHS were still on the table.

2 Food and environmental safety

TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients. By contrast, the EU allows virtually no GM foods. The US also has far laxer restrictions on the use of pesticides. It also uses growth hormones in its beef which are restricted in Europe due to links to cancer. US farmers have tried to have these restrictions lifted repeatedly in the past through the World Trade Organisation and it is likely that they will use TTIP to do so again.

The same goes for the environment, where the EU’s REACH regulations are far tougher on potentially toxic substances. In Europe a company has to prove a substance is safe before it can be used; in the US the opposite is true: any substance can be used until it is proven unsafe. As an example, the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics; the US just 12.

3 Banking regulations

TTIP cuts both ways. The UK, under the influence of the all-powerful City of London, is thought to be seeking a loosening of US banking regulations. America’s financial rules are tougher than ours. They were put into place after the financial crisis to directly curb the powers of bankers and avoid a similar crisis happening again. TTIP, it is feared, will remove those restrictions, effectively handing all those powers back to the bankers.

4 Privacy

Remember ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)? It was thrown out by a massive majority in the European Parliament in 2012 after a huge public backlash against what was rightly seen as an attack on individual privacy where internet service providers would be required to monitor people’s online activity.  Well, it’s feared that TTIP could be bringing back ACTA’s central elements, proving that if the democratic approach doesn’t work, there’s always the back door. An easing of data privacy laws and a restriction of public access to pharmaceutical companies’ clinical trials are also thought to be on the cards.

5 Jobs

The EU has admitted that TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower. It has even advised EU members to draw on European support funds to compensate for the expected unemployment.

Examples from other similar bi-lateral trade agreements around the world support the case for job losses.  The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico caused the loss of one million US jobs over 12 years, instead of the hundreds of thousands of extra that were promised.

6 Democracy

TTIP’s biggest threat to society is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.

ISDSs are already in place in other bi-lateral trade agreements around the world and have led to such injustices as in Germany where Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing the German government for billions of dollars over its decision to phase out nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Here we see a public health policy put into place by a democratically elected government being threatened by an energy giant because of a potential loss of profit. Nothing could be more cynically anti-democratic.

There are around 500 similar cases of businesses versus nations going on around the world at the moment and they are all taking place before ‘arbitration tribunals’ made up of corporate lawyers appointed on an ad hoc basis, which according to War on Want’s John Hilary, are “little more than kangaroo courts” with “a vested interest in ruling in favour of business.”

So I don’t know about you, but I’m scared. I would vote against TTIP, except… hang on a minute… I can’t. Like you, I have no say whatsoever in whether TTIP goes through or not.  All I can do is tell as many people about it as possible, as I hope, will you. We may be forced to accept an attack on democracy but we can at least fight against the conspiracy of silence.

Lee Williams, in “Independent“, 6 October 2015