One knows to be on one’s guard immediately one hears that the USA and European Union are negotiating some ‘big deal’ on transatlantic trade. Sure, big deal – in trading terms – typically means big power, big money and big mess. But when one also hears that it’s all being done in secret, then one has to add ‘big scam’ too.
The designers of the trade agreements claim that they will bring greater GDP and more jobs at both ends; a view which has been widely challenged by those likely to be on the receiving end.
So let’s spell it out: TTIP stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It’s Big Brother brokering new trade deals between the USA and the European Union. CETA stands for Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. It is pretty much the same deal, but is being brokered by Canada and the European Union. And lastly there’s TISA, for Trade in Services Agreement, also involving the USA and EU, with some other countries in on the act. Here, it is ‘services’ that are under the spotlight.
Common to all of these is the fact that ‘we the people’ are being kept entirely out of the picture. All negotiations are being hidden from public scrutiny, with special ‘secret courts’ being established in off-shore venues, where national governments can be sued if they are accused of protecting the right to prohibit certain imports or maintain trade tariffs.
For example, the majority of countries in the EU do not allow most varieties of genetically modified seeds and plants that the US seeks to export. This would raise an immediate dispute under the protocol of TTIP.
Such a position will be re-scrutinized under the terms of these new trade agreements. US hormone-enriched beef and chlorine-washed chickens are another example of products currently blocked by the EU, and for good reason. There are many such controversies that all find their place in a negotiating time-table designed to get a comprehensive new trade package into law as soon as possible, with no parliamentary intervention and no public vote.
Pause for breath. Just what is going on here? Let’s call a spade a spade: it’s a massive and fraudulent attempt by multinational corporations to wrest a further degree of control over global trading, thereby undermining the ability of nation states to administer their own trading laws.
TTIP, CETA and TISA can, for the sake of this summary, all be seen through the same lens. In each case, multinationals’ extensive role in creating new regulations opens the door to a race to the bottom in standards of quality set for foods, the environment and public services. In the case of TISA, governments are being pushed into accepting a mandatory privatization of public services – an overt way of giving big business the say-so in all matters of public interest.
In the UK, the National Health Service would be particularly vulnerable. But so would thousands of government backed, or supported, social enterprises throughout Europe.
Under TTIP/CETA we would see the end of such individual delights as the Cumberland sausage and the Cornish pasty. The Parmigiano-Reggiano, Black Forest Gateau and Alsace Grand Cru. No domain names would be allowed in this free trade free-for-all.
Fighting to save these products will be an uphill task. The defenders would need to familiarize themselves with ‘ISDS’ (Investor State Dispute Settlement) procedures. Procedures that will not be heard in normal courts of law, but under TTIP are slated to be heard by a jury composed of corporate lawyers and specialist international ‘experts’, deliberating their cases in secret courts. In other words, a neat bypassing of any recognised legal system. A complete scam by any standards.
THE GOOD NEWS
The TTIP negotiating process has been ongoing for a number of years now. However, it is presently bogged down by disputes at both ends and looks close to collapse. France has recently called for an end to negotiations and dropping the entire process. Other European countries are joining this call, with Germany’s economy minister Sigmar Gabriel stating “The negotiations with the USA have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it.”
CETA and TISA are still in process, with CETA being the closest to ratification by Canadian authorities. It will then move on for ratification to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. It appears that this agreement contains less contentious trading terms, as France is broadly accepting the current outline. However, it still smacks of a regime that will go over the heads of the people and simply fuel the coffers of the canniest exploiters of the global market place.
What both the EU and US actually need is the antithesis of these monster ‘free trade’ agreements. They need to reinvest in local and regional forms of production and consumption, carried out on a genuine human scale. Work as though people mattered. We have seen quite enough destruction at the hands of multinational and transnational corporations busting their way into foreign countries and ruining their internal trading patterns.
In the end it’s just another type of war. Who needs it? The planet is already saturated with irrational violence.
Julian Rose is an early pioneer of UK organic farming, and an international activist, holistic thinker and writer. He is President of The International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside, and is the author of two books with some very powerful perspectives: Changing Course for Life and In Defence of Life.
Lots of interesting things going on. You can find out more about his work at:www.changingcourseforlife.info
Quote: “They” (the EU and US) “need to reinvest in local and regional forms of production and consumption.”
No. We simply need to get them off our backs.
Indeed, part of the problem is that they “invest” a little too much in their proteges, to begin with.
I’m in two minds about these ‘deals’. On the one hand they do secure a degree of Free Trade. On the other hand the deals are usually focused firstly on the interests of the biggest corporations. That’s not surprising because they have the most political clout. But worse still the deals don’t include poorer countries. The route out of poverty for poor countries is trade, not aid. Just as the route out of poverty for the poor in general is work rather than charity. And these deals invariably involve excluding ‘unfair competition’ from poor countries.
The deals also end up introducing a degree of World Government because someone has to enforce the terms and arbitrate whenever there’s a breach. There has to be, by definition, some Supra National Authority which is recognised as being in a position to arbitrate. It doesn’t need to go as far as the Superstate the European Union almost managed to foist upon us but it always involves some loss of sovereignty and democracy.
The easiest thing that any (allegedly) Free Trade favouring Government can do to promote Free Trade is to UNILATERALLY, abolish all its own Trade Restrictions and Tariffs. This might seem counter intuitive, and the protectionists, Trade Unions and other producer lobbies will just say ‘but then ‘our’ industries, will suffer’. This is completely the wrong approach. It’s consumers who pay the Tariffs and lose out on the best deals. The money collected on what amounts to a selective tax on consumers can simply be raised by a small increase in the general sales tax. The effect on overall taxes is neutral, but the waste in loss of choice associated with tariffs and protectionism is removed. Although the benefit of Unilateral Free Trade, isn’t dependent on any mutual concession from other countries, the likelihood is that others will be much less motivated to make their own consumers pay tax on things businesses in the UK try to sell them.
Even if they do, it doesn’t matter to us because, we (in the UK at least), have a floating exchange rate, which finds its own level to balance the Balance of Payment Current account. Following the Brexit Vote the Sterling Exchange Rate has become sufficiently competitive (and more) to cancel out all conceivable effects of any tariffs imposed by the EU. Even the Indian Company Tata Steel is, (in partnership with a German Company), reconsidering its plans to close Port Talbot Steel Works in South Wales, (and in effect with it all the remaining bulk Steel making in the UK). This is the exact opposite of what we were told would happen, if we voted ‘Leave’ Prior to the Brexit Vote the plant was doomed unless State intervention was forthcoming. We can now expect a broadly based boom in the UK and a contraction is import volumes.
It might be that some residual regulation is still required to counter State Sponsored ‘dumping’. But I’m far from convinced even about that. If the Chinese Government wants to supply the UK Car, Construction and various other industries with steel part paid for by the Chinese Taxpayer or Chinese People working at artificially cheap labour rates, good luck to it. I wish they’d send me some subsidised groceries. Then I can spend the money I save on buying other things locally and promoting real independent local businesses.