The Otium Post

The Otium Post


The transatlantic trade deal TTIP may be dead, but something even worse is coming

The transatlantic trade deal TTIP may be dead, but something even worse is coming.

Governments and corporate lobbyists keep inventing new ways to embed privatization and circumvent democracy – in this case, the Canada-EU deal

George Monbiot - Tuesday 6 September 2016 19.23 BST 

‘TTIP appears to be dead. People power wins. For now.’ 

Is it over? Can it be true? If so, it’s a victory for a campaign that once looked hopeless, pitched against a fortress of political, corporate and bureaucratic power.

TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – appears to be dead. The German economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, says that “the talks with the United States have de facto failed”. The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, has announced “a clear halt”. Belgian and Austrian ministers have said the same thing. People power wins. For now.

Think TTIP is a threat to democracy? There’s another trade deal that’s already signed

But the lobbyists who demanded this charter for corporate rights never give up. TTIP has been booed off the stage but another treaty, whose probable impacts are almost identical, is waiting in the wings. And this one is more advanced, wanting only final approval. If this happens before Britain leaves the EU, we are likely to be stuck with it for 20 years.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) is ostensibly a deal between the EU and Canada. You might ask what harm Canada could do us. But it allows any corporation that operates there, wherever its headquarters might be, to sue governments before an international tribunal. It threatens to tear down laws protecting us from exploitation and prevent parliaments on both sides of the Atlantic from legislating.

To say that there is no mandate for such agreements is an understatement: they have received an unequivocal counter-mandate. The consultation the EU grudgingly launched on TTIP’s proposal to grant new legal rights to corporations received 150,000 responses, 97% of which were hostile. But while choice is permitted when you shop for butter, on the big decisions there is no alternative.

It’s not clear whether national parliaments will be allowed to veto this treaty. The European trade commissioner has argued that there is no need: it can be put before the European parliament alone. But even if national parliaments are allowed to debate it, they will be permitted only to take it or leave it. The contents are deemed to have been settled already.

Only once the negotiations between European and Canadian officials had been completed, and the text of the agreement leaked, did the European commission publish it. It is 1,600 pages long. It has neither a contents list nor explanatory text. As far as transparency, parity and comprehensibility are concerned, it’s the equivalent of the land treaties illiterate African chiefs were induced to sign in the 19th century. It is hard to see how parliamentarians could make a properly informed decision.

If you seek to buy a secondhand car these days, the salesperson might wheedle and spin, but they will also – thanks to EU consumer protection laws – be obliged to explain the risks and caveats. If you want to know whether or not to buy this trade treaty, you have no such protection. The EU’s website tells you what a wonderful set of wheels this is but carries not a word about the risks.

Here is its answer to the question of whether the Ceta negotiations were conducted in secret. “Not at all ... During the five years of talks, the commission held various civil society dialogue meetings for stakeholders.” I followed the link it gave and found that four meetings had taken place, all of them in Brussels, all dominated by corporate trade associations, which are likely to have been on the inside track anyway. Where was the publicity? Where were the attempts to reach beyond a gilded circle of lobbyists and cronies? Where were the efforts to take the discussion to other nations? Where were the debates, the drive to seek genuine public engagement, let alone consent? If this is transparency, I dread to think what secrecy looks like.

 Analysis TTIP has been kicked into the long grass … for a very long time

After long hours struggling with the treaty, I realized I hadn’t a hope of grasping its implications. I have had to rely on experts commissioned by groups such as Attac in Germany and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Like TTIP, Ceta threatens to lock in privatization, making renationalisation (of Britain’s railways, say) or attempts by cities to take control of failing public services (as Joseph Chamberlain did in Birmingham in the 19th century, laying the foundations for modern social provision) impossible. Like TTIP, it uses a broad definition of both investment and expropriation to allow corporations to sue governments when they believe their “future anticipated profits” might be threatened by new laws.

Like TTIP, it restricts the ways in which governments may protect their people. It appears to prohibit, for example, rules that would prevent banks from becoming too big to fail. It seems to threaten our planning laws and other commonsense protections.

Anything not specifically exempted from the agreement is considered covered. In other words, if governments do not spot a potential hazard before the hazard emerges, they are stuck with it. The EU appears to have relinquished its ability, for example, to insist that investment and retail banking be separated.

Ceta claims to be a trade treaty, but many of its provisions have little to do with trade. They are attempts to circumscribe democracy on behalf of corporate power. Millions of people in Europe and Canada want to emerge from the neo-liberal era. But such treaties would lock us into it, allowing the politics we have rejected to govern us beyond the grave.

If parliaments reject this treaty, another deal is being prepared: the Trade in Services Agreement, which the EU is simultaneously negotiating with the US and 21 other nations. Theresa May’s government has expressed enthusiasm: her Department for International Trade says: “The UK remains committed to an ambitious Trade in Services Agreement.” So much for taking back control.

Corporate lobbyists and their captive governments have been seeking to impose such treaties for more than 20 years, starting with the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (it was destroyed, like TTIP, by massive public protests, in 1998). Working in secrecy, without democratic consent, they will keep returning to the theme, in the hope of wearing down our resistance.

When you are told that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, this is what it means. This struggle will continue throughout your life. We have to succeed every time; they have to succeed only once. Never drop your guard.   Never let them win.


THE GUARDIAN - Nick Dearden

TTIP is not alone. Its smaller sister deal between the EU and Canada is called Ceta (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). Ceta is just as dangerous as TTIP; indeed it’s in the vanguard of TTIP-style deals, because it’s already been signed by the European commission and the Canadian government. It now awaits ratification over the next 12 months.

The one positive thing about Ceta is that it has already been signed and that means that we’re allowed to see it. Its 1,500 pages show us that it’s a threat to not only our food standards, but also the battle against climate change, our ability to regulate big banks to prevent another crash and our power to re-nationalize industries.

Like the US deal, Ceta contains a new legal system, open only to foreign corporations and investors. Should the British government make a decision, say, to outlaw dangerous chemicals, improve food safety or put cigarettes in plain packaging, a Canadian company can sue the British government for “unfairness”. And by unfairness this simply means they can’t make as much profit as they expected. The “trial” would be held as a special tribunal, overseen by corporate lawyers.

The European commission has made changes to this “corporate court” system that it believes makes it fairer. But researchers have found it would make no difference to the dozens of cases that have been brought against countries in recent years under similar systems. Canada itself has fought and lost numerous cases from US corporations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) – for example, for outlawing carcinogenic chemicals in petrol, reinvesting in local communities and halting the devastation of quarries. Under Ceta, such cases are on their way here.

The whole purpose of Ceta is to reduce regulation on business, the idea being that it will make it easier to export. But it will do far more than that. Through the pleasant-sounding “regulatory cooperation”, standards would be reduced across the board on the basis that they are “obstacles to trade”. That could include food safety, workers’ rights and environmental regulation.

Just consider financial regulation. The ability of governments to control banks and financial markets would be further impaired. Limiting the growth of banks that have become “too big to fail” could land a government in a secret tribunal.

Indeed the onslaught has already started. Tar sands oil is one of the most environmentally destructive fossil fuels in the world, and the majority of this oil is extracted in Alberta, Canada. There is currently little tar sands in use in the EU, but that’s changing. When the EU proposed prohibitive new regulations to effectively stop tar sands flowing into Europe, Canada used Ceta as a bargaining chip to block the proposal. If Ceta passes, that decision will be locked in – a disaster for climate change.

Finally, through something called a “ratchet clause”, current levels of privatisation would be “locked in” on any services not specifically exempted. If Canadian or EU governments want to bring certain services back into public ownership, they could be breaking the terms of the agreement.

So why have so few people heard of Ceta? Largely because Canadians and Europeans think they’re quite alike. They don’t fear the takeover of their economy in the way they do when signing a trade deal with the US. But this is a big mistake, because these trade deals are not about Europeans versus Americans or Canadians. They are about big business versus citizens.

If you needed proof that modern trade agreements are actually nothing more than an excuse to hand big business power at our expense, you need look no further than Ceta. No wonder the public outcry is growing, and opposition to TTIP is spilling over to the Canadian deal.

When Ceta goes to the EU council (of all EU governments) for ratification in late June, Romania – which is in dispute with Canada over visa issues – has threatened to veto it. The Walloon parliament voted a critical motion on this deal that could tie the hands of the Belgian government and force its abstention. The Dutch parliament has also passed a motion rejecting provisional application of the deal, which would allow it to be implemented before parliament had a chance to vote on it.

David Cameron takes the most aggressive position on Ceta – not only supporting it entirely but pushing for provisional application in the UK. On this basis, Ceta could take effect in Britain early next year without a Westminster vote. In fact, even if the British parliament voted Ceta down, the corporate court system would still stay in effect for three years. Cameron’s Brexit rebels are not going to like that much.

The G7’s problems show that many of us have recognised that trade deals have made the world a playground for the super-rich – they are part of our staggeringly unequal economy. But the G7 is unable to think beyond the interests of the world’s elite. It’s up to us to reclaim our democracy as citizens, and the movements against TTIP and Ceta are the frontline.

When you are told that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, this is what it means. This struggle will continue throughout your life. We have to succeed every time; they have to succeed only once. Never drop your guard.   Never let them win.



(link to Illuminati revelations)

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