NJPN Open Networking Day and AGM: 16th May 2015

‘TTIP threatens to undermine democracy in favour of big business’

Around 35 J&P activists from around the country gathered for the AGM and open networking day. Kevin Burr, acting chair of NJPN welcomed everyone to CAFOD’s headquarters in London.

The meeting opened with the CAFOD prayer linked to the Beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

The guest speaker for the day was Nick Dearden from Global Justice Now. He explained clearly and in detail the growing campaign against current trade deals being negotiated worldwide which seek to further enhance free trade through “regulation harmonisation”.

Campaigners for social justice are definitely not anti- trade but unjust structures which create poverty must be challenged. The history of international trade is that of power, privilege and inequality.

The main concern is that the harmonisation of these regulations would mean that standards would go down. So for example TTIP agreement between EU and USA, the EU would be expected to lower agro-business standards to US levels where they wash poultry in chloride, add many more hormones and antibiotics to their cattle and accept GM. Another example is in cosmetic products, while the EU bans over 1100 chemicals because they are considered harmful to humans the USA only band 13 chemicals.

Other areas their campaign is highlighting is important regulations in standards of banking which city firms are trying to stop, the harmonisation of public services, which again would give state governments less power over health and education standards if this were to have a detrimental effect on profits of private service providers, and finally he highlighted increase in powers to Investor state dispute settlement tribunals, where corporations can sue states if they bring in laws which may harm their profits – for example tobacco companies claiming financial compensation against countries that put health warning on cigarettes, or introducing a minimum wage.

Not only are the content of these trade deals a concern in themselves but also how they take place. Negotiations are done through bureaucratic process where international businesses have a lot of influence to promote what is most beneficial for their profits and they are not held up to debate by elected bodies so before the campaign began UK MPs and European MEPs were not aware of the treaties at all. Most of the focus of campaigning is against TTIP the agreement between USA and EU, largely because this agreement is seen as the “gold standard” , the treaty by which

others will be judged, the agreements made with other more unequal partners may be forced into agreeing the same terms. Governments in Poorer countries may then have no choice but to accept agreements which make large profits for international companies to the detriment of their citizens.

An open discussion followed the input, focussing on how these trade agreements affect the common good and possible detrimental effect on God’s creation. Nick felt that there was now a great opportunity to engage with faith groups and those present accepted this challenge.

At the AGM which followed, the election of officers to the executive committee took place, with reports from the treasurer who highlighted the ongoing difficulty in obtaining core funding. facilitators of the working parties.

During an extended lunch break there was opportunity for networking and reading the reports posted around the room, enabling those present to read of the many varied activities undertaken by member groups from around the country.

The afternoon session provided an opportunity for representatives of agencies, religious orders and diocesan groups to share information and resources relating to forthcoming campaigns and events

Please note that the NJPN conference entitled “Things that make for Peace” is to take place at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire from 17th -19th July