Although the UK consumer organisation ‘Which?’ expresses some concerns about TTIP (the US/EU free trade agreement) the organisation’s main message is that TTIP is likely to be good for consumers as it may possibly mean some lower prices.
Generally, the price reduction possibilities in free trade agreements are from reduced tariffs (import taxes) – which may or may not be passed onto consumers. (The fact that reduced tariffs also reduce government revenue in favour of mainly big companies that engage in cross border trade, often within the same transnational corporations, does not tend to get mentioned).
But with TTIP, the tariffs between the US and the EU are, for the most part, already very low – so few price reductions can be expected in that regard.
According to the study that the EU commissioned, 80% of the predicted gains from TTIP (actually very modest gains) will come from ‘harmonising US and EU regulations’. For the most part , ‘regulations’ can be read as ‘safeguards’, and we have much better regulatory safeguards in the EU in almost all areas compared to the US.
So the vast majority of the supposed ‘gains’ from TTIP will come from shifts in the safeguard systems we have fought for and developed, towards those of the US.
In fact it is not just the regulation that is different, but the actual process of formulating regulation is different and very much dominated by big business in the US, even more than here.
This programme, which is clearly a deregulatory programme, will clearly be a definitive loss for consumers here in regard to standards on health, safety, chemicals, vehicles and much more.
But we do know that ‘Which?’ is, at this stage, supporting TTIP.
Who knows what is going on in the backrooms of this organisation, or in its liaising with government and businesses? But we do know that it is sticking to a position of supporting TTIP even though TTIP will hurt consumers badly – and that this needs to change.
The EU umbrella group for EU consumer organisations, which has the French acronym BEUC, publishes some strong criticisms of aspects of TTIP – but in the end supports the deal.
When questioned in a public forum, BEUC’s chief executive stated that their organisational position must reflect their members’ views.
‘Which?’ is a main player in the EU organisation, so the position of ‘Which?’ is an important factor in influencing or dictating the position of the EU level consumer organisation; and the position of ‘Which?’ on TTIP of course affects all of us as it props up negotiations on the deal.
‘Consumer support’ for TTIP actually only really means the position of these commercial organisations and not the general public as consumers – though the consumer organisations certainly don’t object to this common misrepresentation.
In reality, increased public information about TTIP inevitably means increased opposition to it.
But meanwhile organisational ‘consumer support’ such as ‘Which? continues to provide, is one of the few remaining pillars of support for TTIP negotiations to continue; ‘Which ?’ enjoys strong public trust, though its questionable whether its stance on TTIP lives up deserves that trust. The organisation’s withdrawal of support for TTIP, and thus, inherently, its opposition to it, would usefully bring a lot of public opinion with it.
So here’s what you can do
Easy action in relation to Which?, the UK consumer organisation that supports TTIP.
Which? has a ‘Convo’ page ie a page for conversations on topics.
It is for anyone, not just for subscribers, though they will ask you to register so you are then on their books…
One part of the Which? ‘Convo’ section is an ideas page, where people put up ideas and other people can then vote them up or down.
I’ve seen 2 ideas on this page about TTIP.
Scroll down to..
‘Report on TTIP negotiations between the US and the EU….’
and below that..
‘TTIP, the Trade and Investment Partnership. Why is Which? supporting this?’
I’m sure you will want to vote them both up.
As ideas only have 2, 3 or 4 votes, we could make these stand out with many more – not sure what that will give us, but it must be better than nothing.
Good luck, and thanks.
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1John Harrison November 8th, 2015
I find the description of Which? as a consumer organisation a bit rich. As far as I can see they’re just another business selling information and pretty aggressively who are very good at self-promotion. Still, we are where we are and they just might take notice of something other than possible small price reductions.
2Peter Richardson November 10th, 2015
I was a paying member of Which? for decades but I cancelled my subscription this year – and the reason? I was just completely fed up with the ethical and environmental blindness of Which? and its publications and reports. And I told them so. Some of what they do is useful, but until they stop assessing every consumer decision from a purely financial point of view, they won’t be getting any more of my subscription money (if I ever need to use Which? I’ll go to the public library).