What does TTIP stand for?
TTIP is short for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a bilateral trade agreement between the European Union and the US. TTIP is supposed to regulate and "harmonise" trade between the partners by reducing regulations. According to supporters, this will lead to a £10bn ($15.5bn) trade increase for the UK. With all member states of the EU and the US included in the deal a total of 820 million people will be affected by the agreement.
Who gets a say?
Negotiations take place in secret but many decisions have been leaked to the public. The European Commission is in charge of negotiations on behalf of the EU while the Office of the US Trade Representative is the main negotiator for the US. Lobby groups and representatives of companies are also heavily involved in the talks. Once an agreement is reached, the EU council of ministers has to ratify TTIP followed by the European parliament and possibly all EU member state parliaments, depending on how the agreement is interpreted. In the US, both houses of Congress have to pass the agreement.
Why do people criticise TTIP?
Because TTIP is negotiated in secret by the European Commission, an unelected body, critics say the agreement undermines democracy. Additionally, American food safety and environmental standards are less strict than European ones. For example, the EU has forbidden cosmetic testing on animals while the US has not. People fear that "harmonising" standards translates to lowering European standards to the level of the US. Further areas where TTIP could lead to relaxed standards in the EU are privacy protection, pharmaceuticals and workers' rights. It is also feared TTIP aims to give US companies access to European education, transport, water services and public health, including the NHS. Anti-TTIP groups also criticise the introduction of ISDS.
What does ISDS stand for?
ISDS or Investor-State Dispute Settlements are likely to be introduced through TTIP. They allow companies to sue governments for lost profits supposedly caused by policies of the government. Critics fear this could mean that multinational corporations could dictate policies to democratically elected governments. Law suits would take place in secret in "arbitration tribunals" made out of corporate lawyers and states could only be sued, not take actions against corporations, and may be ordered to pay large sums as compensation.
Is TTIP irreversible?
Since negotiations for trade agreements can take several years, long-term obligations can be demanded and changes made only if all parties agree. Many bilateral investment agreements may be terminated after five years at the earliest with investments made during this time lasting for another 15 years. Therefore it can be expected for TTIP to last at least 20 years.