Susanne Schuster from the Brighton and Hove WDM group has written an article about the new EU-US trade agreement which is currenly being negotiated (below). The group did an action highlighting the trade agreement and collected 170 signatures for a petition targeting Vince Cable. You can find out more about other bilateral trade agreements in WDM's new briefing Profiting from people and the planet
This article was originally published on TLAXCALA.
You must have heard of the latest attempt to create a free trade area between the EU and the USA, haven't you? The topic has hardly been covered in the mainstream media and European citizens have been told almost nothing about the explosive content of this planned free trade agreement. However, digging a bit deeper in the alternative media to find out what is really at stake sparks an almighty rage. If our parliamentary representatives took their task seriously and possessed a spark of integrity then all their alarm bells should ring. Because this 'free trade agreement' constitutes a frontal attack on our democracy, or rather, what is left of it.
In July of this year the official negotiations for the so called 'Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership', abbreviated TTIP, were started. The expressed intention is to have signed an agreement by the end of 2014 to establish a Transatlantic Free Trade Area, TAFTA, between the USA and the EU.
The official propaganda states that this treaty is about harmonising standards – with large corporations and investors determining what these standards should be. In plain language harmonising standards means a race to the lowest standards, so that US corporations will be able to sell their GMO rubbish, chlorinated chickens, hormone pigs and cattle on the EU market. If these standards are not complied with, states are threatened with sanctions for an unlimited period of time or gigantic compensation claims. More on that below.
Above all, the 'free trade agreement' is about the removal of any remaining so called 'trade barriers' (tariffs between the USA and EU have largely been abolished); that is, such tiresome things for big business as labour rights, health and safety and social legislation, food and product safety standards, environmental and climate protection measures, financial market regulation. In short: all those things that make the lives of ordinary working people bearable.
Brighton and Hove WDM take action against the TTIP trade agreement. Photo by Sam Crawley.
The negotiations are taking place behind closed doors, so that common folk won't notice what is really at stake. On the other hand 600 official 'consultants' from large corporations have privileged access to the negotiations to bring in their ideas.
Lori Wallach states:
There is a simple reason for this secrecy. Such a treaty would oblige national governments including local administrations to adapt their current and future domestic policies to a comprehensive system of rules. This treaty would codify legislative requirements negotiated at a diplomatic level, which at the request of the corporations would apply to many non trade related areas, such as the safety and labelling of foods, the maximum values for chemical and toxic contamination, the health system and the pricing of medicines, the right to internet privacy, energy supply and cultural 'services', patents and copyrights, use of land and resources, the rights and employment opportunities of immigrants, public procurement and many other things.1
Arguably the most outrageous aspect of this treaty is that corporations can sue the living daylights out of states and authorities that have breached the rules, through an arbitration court dominated by a small clique of corporate lawyers. The corporations can sue states and authorities for compensation payments if the courts find that 'expected future profits' are reduced because of certain measures such as environmental regulations and social rights. Under US free trade treaties more than $400 million of taxpayers' money has already been paid in compensation to corporations that went to court over bans of toxic substances, licensing rules, laws on water protection and forest use and other 'anti investment' rules.2 For example, under NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Area) the Canadian government was sued by the manufacturer of a cancer causing additive in fuel for $250 million in “lost business opportunities and interference with trade” because it had banned the additive. Fearing that it would lose the case, the Canadian government lifted the ban, declared the additive as 'safe' and paid the manufacturer $10 million compensation.3
It is therefore clear that if this legislation comes into force the rights of investors will take precedence over the protection of our health, the environment and social rights. The rights of corporations will have higher priority than the sovereignty of states. In other words: the last scraps of democracy will be abolished.
Photo by Sam Crawley.
Michael Parenti has summarised it perfectly in relation to existing treaties:
But let it be repeated: what also is overthrown is the right to have such laws. This is the most important point of all and the one most frequently overlooked by persons from across the political spectrum. Under the free trade accords, corporate investment rights have been upraised to imperial supremacy, able to take precedent over all other rights, including the right to a clean, livable environment, the right to affordable public services, and the right to any morsel of political-economic democracy. Under the banner of 'free trade,' corporate property rights are elevated above all democratic rights.4
What for? The establishment of the transatlantic free trade area is justified by the tired, old and unfounded mantra of economic growth and job creation as well as wealth for all. However, the projected economic gain is negligible. Based on the – optimistic and probably made up out of thin air – estimates of the EU commission, the average EU household would have an extra 500 euro annually, or 42 euro per month,5 which I bet will be eaten up by the rising cost of living in no time at all. It's a joke!
There are completely different interests behind the treaty. The markets for many products and services in the private sector are saturated. For example, the US market for GMO soy and corn is almost exhausted for Monsanto. How on earth should permenent profit growth be generated to satisfy the expected return on investment by greedy shareholders? By new markets, of course, and by selling more stuff. Capital is constantly forced to create new spheres of investment, until it has penetrated all corners of the world and turned them into a commodity. For the vast majority of the world's population and the environment this would be a disaster of gigantic dimensions. We can only stop this development if we become totally conscious of this looming catastrophe and resist with determination and vigour. We have to value any – still remaining – public space and public goods and services, and defend them tooth and nail. We need some serious action, so let's fight and protest.
Press coverage in the local newspaper, The Argus
1 Lori Wallach, TAFTA – die große Unterwerfung, Le Monde Diplomatique, 8.1.2013 http://www.monde-diplomatique.de/pm/2013/11/08/a0003.text
2 Lori Wallach, TAFTA – die große Unterwerfung, Le Monde Diplomatique, 8.1.2013 http://www.monde-diplomatique.de/pm/2013/11/08/a0003.text
3 Michael Parenti, The Face of Imperialism, Paradigm 2011, S. 64
4 ibid. P. 71
5 Silvia Liebrich, Es geht um mehr als nur Zölle, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11.11.2013 http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/freihandelsabkommen-zwischen-usa-u...