A leaked document from the EU/US transatlantic trade negotiations has singled out worker co-operatives as a way to strengthen both employment and the economy.
The document, released by Greenpeace Netherlands, contains a portion of the draft text that was discussed at the 13th round of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) talks in New York last month. Greenpeace added that it believed the documents to be genuine, following analysis from a third party.
Under the consolidated proposal for small and medium sized enterprises, the text says that “in order to enhance SME trade” between the two regions both the US and EU will “exchange information and best practices on promoting worker-owned co-operatives and other forms of worker-run SMEs”.
A version of this textual proposal, released by Greenpeace, is similar to one published by the EU in January 2015 as part of an update on trade negotiations. However, the reference to worker co-ops was not in that version.
The proposal records that SMEs “contribute significantly to economic growth, employment, and innovation”. It adds that SMEs will benefit from opportunities within the TTIP agreement, which will help to support their growth and development.
The document further advocates support, such as entrepreneurial programmes, for “underserved communities” such as “young, senior, minority, and women entrepreneurs”.
Overall, these TTIP proposals have attracted opposition from co-operatives, who are actively campaigning against the bilateral trade agreement.
The campaign Business against TTIP argues that the deal will force UK businesses into unfair competition with US firms with lower standards and lower costs. Signatories have also raised concerns over the possible impact on social, health and environmental standards across Europe.
One of the signatories to the campaign is Unicorn Grocery workers co-operative. Debbie Clarke, worker-member at Unicorn, said: “There may be small nuggets of sense to be found within the detail of the proposals (and this is certainly one), but they shouldn’t distract us from the overall direction the deal would take us in, i.e. deregulation that will lock in the privatisation of public services, lead to a ‘race to the bottom’ in food, environmental and labour protections, and grant US corporations the power to sue the UK government in their own private justice system.
“For us, those factors place TTIP in direct opposition to so many of the co-operative principles. We don’t feel there are many worker co-ops who would welcome such a deal.”