For years now, I've been seeing articles about the TPP and TTIP treaties showing up on the various link aggregators I read. Without exception these articles warn of all the terrible effects that will come to pass if these treaties are passed, in areas as diverse as copyright, consumer safety, democracy and the environment,
The general scheme seems to be this: instead of engaging in public debate to determine what the laws should be in order to properly balance corporate profits against the interests of individuals, negotiators representing various industries meet in secret to draw up a set of laws which are then presented to signatory countries to ratify as a fait accompli. There may be a lot of very positive changes in such a treaty, but separating these from the negative ones will be impossible, and as long as the positive changes outweigh the negative ones the treaty will get ratified and we'll all be subject to the result.
Why can't we all just agree to pass the good parts of the treaty and throw out the bad parts? The best explanation for this I've heard was from this episode of NPR's Planet Money podcast. Basically, different parties want different things so they will trade off against each other - "I'll improve the situation for your steel industry in my country if you improve the situation for my textiles industry in yours". Essentially, it's a set of barters, but what's being bartered is laws instead of actual goods and services.
We don't normally barter for things in everyday life - we use money instead, buying and selling. So why would we barter in our trade treaties? If these barters are mutually beneficial, why could they not be structured as a set of exchanges for money: "You pay me X to improve the situation for your steel industry in my country" and "I'll pay you Y to improve the situation for my textiles industry in your country". This should be much quicker and easier to negotiate since only one thing needs to be negotiated at a time - the value to country A of changing the laws of country B.
I think that a big part of the reason it doesn't happen like this is because that would be an explicit giveaway of public money for the benefit of a particular private industry, and therefore a bit of a hard-sell, politically speaking (which is too bad because such a series of giveaways would still leave us better off than TPP/TTIP). The cost could be offset by raising a tax on the industry in question but if the law change that that industry is trying to obtain is the elimination of a tariff then it's a wash - instead of paying country B directly with a tariff, that industry would be spending the same money in taxes to country A which then pays them to country B in the "law for money exchange".
Apart from eliminating tariffs, another major reason for these treaties seems to be harmonization of regulations. If you want to build a new product, it will have to pass certain tests before you're allowed to sell it. For a piece of consumer electronics, examples might be electrical safety tests and electromagnetic emissions tests. Now, because the laws requiring these standards are passed on a country-by-country basis, the regulations may differ from country to country. There is a thriving industry of test centers which will test your product to make sure it complies with applicable standards in all the countries where you want to sell it. In many cases, the tests don't even have to be repeated - the device just has to pass the test at the strictest setting and then all is good.
However, some unfortunate (though quite deliberate) provisions of the TPP and TTIP seek to "harmonize" these regulations by forcing them all to the lowest standard rather than the highest. Any country wishing to improve standards could be sued for it. There may be some regulations that are impossible to satisfy in two particular countries at once (meaning the companies would have to make different products for different markets, making them much more expensive than they would otherwise be) and I can see that such kinds of harmonization can be desirable for everyone (as long as they aren't weakened in the process). But again, these things can happen at the national level - no treaties need to be involved.
So essentially these trade treaties seem to be a way to take a set of massively regressive laws written by big corporations and package them up into something that can be sold to legislators as "you must pass this or our country will be left out of all this lucrative trade and the economic consequences will be disastrous".