Tuesday, 8 December 2015


Here is the text of a letter I've sent to my local MP:

Open the Door to Transparency- -StopTTIP - 15542416215.jpg

Dear Dr Wollaston

I understand that the House of Commons will be debating TTIP on Thursday. I hope you are planning to be there!

I'm sure you are aware of the widespread strength of feeling against TTIP. I share the concerns of many that the secretive deal is primarily designed to serve large, corporate interests. The ISDS provisions are particularly objectionable in this respect. The UK has a tried and tested system of civil litigation, and does not need a rival system to which only large corporations have access.

I want in particular, however, to draw your attention to two aspects of this debate with which you may not be so familiar.

The first has to do with the nature of economic growth. It is generally assumed that all growth is the same - i.e. that so long as GDP rises it doesn't really matter what is causing it to rise, and that since more trade increases GDP it is by definition a good thing.

This, however, is not the case. Although much trade is useful, there is plenty that takes place for no social purpose other than to make a profit for the traders. This profit comes not from "value added" but from the losses or exploitation of others.

For example, the EU case for TTIP makes clear that nearly half the increase in trade that will occur is in cars, with three times as many vehicles being shipped across the Atlantic than at present. The environmental cost of this shipping goes without saying (I hope) but the real question is who will benefit from this increase in trade? If, as the EU claims, the cars are to be cheaper, despite the additional costs of all that shipping, then it follows that workers wages will be lower, probably because more work is outsourced to low wage parts of the world. Cheap American cars are of little use to us if we have lower earnings with which to pay for them. As with so much trade, the main beneficiaries will be the car companies and their shareholders - i.e. the already rich.

The second point has to do with the relative merits of small and big business, which the EU and TTIP treat quite differently. To give you an example - changes last year to the VAT system required all sellers of digital media to pay VAT in the country of sale, rather than the home rate (or no vat at at all if they are below the threshold). This has caused many small UK businesses to stop trading directly into Europe, because the costs of compliance are so high.

These rules were designed entirely with big businesses in mind, and we are now seeing small businesses being obliged to trade via big platforms such as Amazon, as a result of which they surrender a large chunk of their margin. For example, if I sell one of my books via Amazon I get about £4. If I sell direct I get about £8. I do most of my shopping in Totnes, so that is £4 more that could go directly into the Totnes economy rather than into a mega-corporation's profits.

TTIP will continue this trend, since it makes the assumption that GDP going into the pockets of already-wealthy international business and their shareholders is as valuable as GDP going into a local economy, employing local people at reasonable wages. I strongly urge you to look at all these aspects very carefully, and not just focus on the big, partisan debating headlines that surround this subject.

Many thanks, and all best wishes

Martin Whitlock

Photo credit: „Open the Door to Transparency- -StopTTIP - 15542416215“ von greensefa http://www.flickr.com/photos/21733269@N06/15542416215/. Lizenziert unter CC BY 2.0 über Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, but only with a standard letter that did not address my specific points. I wrote back pointing this out, but did not get any further...