EU-US FTA, TAFTA, TTIP – whatever its name , it means bad news for 99%

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TAFTA & TPP…Corporate Power Tools of the 1%

Lori Wallach, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, joins Thom Hartmann in exposing the secret negotiations which are taking place without democratic oversight.  Basically any legislation on either side of the Atlantic which provides for consumer/environmental/employment protection is under threat of being dismantled as ‘barriers to trade’.  TTIP will almost certainly include the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which engages firms to sue against governmental regulations..

Good Resource:

All Information & Perspectives on TAFTA & TTIP at a Glance.
www.futurechallenges.org www.collaboratory.de
ttip@collaboratory.de

EU-wide campaign to make Trade/Investment Policies work for People not Corporations

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Over 50 civil society groups demand a paradigm shift in EU trade and investment policies

Posted by:

Corporate Europe Observatory – Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU – November 26th 2013

Note: CEO is a member of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance.

Today, a European alliance of over 50 civil society organisations will launch the Alternative Trade Mandate, a proposal to make EU trade and investment policy work for people and the planet, not just the profit interests of a few.  The launch is taking place as EU trade ministers and the European Commission are leaving for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations in Bali next week.

“The current trade and investment regime, imposed by the EU and the WTO, isn’t working. Prising markets open for global agri-business is wiping out small farmers and is a major cause of hunger. The deregulation of financial services through free trade agreements impedes tough regulation of the financial sector, paving the way for the next disastrous financial crisis. We need to break away from this corporate driven agenda,” says Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian parliament, who is in Brussels to support the launch of the Alternative Trade Mandate.

The new 20-page mandate proposes that core principles such as human and labour rights and environmental protection should drive EU trade policy.  On several areas, such as food, work, money and raw materials, detailed proposals for change are outlined.  One proposal is for the EU to become more self-sufficient in protein and oil crops as alternatives to imports of (genetically-modified) soybeans, palm oil and agrofuels, which are devastating for the environment and small farmers in the global south.  The mandate also calls on the EU to hold European corporations accountable for human rights violations, environmental destruction, tax avoidance and tax evasion elsewhere.

The mandate also proposes a new process for initiating, negotiating and finalising trade and investment agreements, giving national Parliaments and civil society a stronger role and thereby rolling back policy-capture by big business.

“EU trade deals are negotiated behind closed doors in the interests of a few rich corporations. The people who are affected by these deals have never been asked what they really need. We want an open and democratic process, controlled by the people of Europe and their elected representatives, rather than unelected technocrats and corporate lobby groups,” says Pia Eberhardt from Corporate Europe Observatory, a member of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance.

The proposals outlined in the Alternative Trade Mandate were developed in a four-year process, with public workshops held all over Europe and which engaged a wide range of civil society groups from both within and outside the EU.

series of papers with more detailed proposals on several pressing issues accompanies the main text.  The proposals will form the basis of an EU-wide campaign to make trade and investment work for people and the environment, which will first focus on the European elections next May, asking parliamentary candidates to pledge support for the Alternative Trade Mandate.

“At a time of multiple global crises, the European Parliament needs MEPs who will stand up for trade rules that work for people and the planet. We need MEPs who will bring trade deals out of the shadows and into the light. We call on MEP candidates to stand up for democratic trade and investment rules that serve people, the economy and the environment at large – not just the profit interests of a few,” says Amélie Canonne, co-ordinator of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance.

The Alternative Trade Mandate will be launched in Brussels during an assembly this afternoon, where speakers from the global south, crisis-struck countries in Europe, trade unions, migrant groups and the European Parliament will comment on the proposals.  Tomorrow, a “walk of resistance and alternatives” will take place through the EU quarter.

For more information visit: http://www.alternativetrademandate.org

Resources:

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See also:

Leaked European Commission PR strategy: “Communicating on TTIP”

This is a leaked version of the European Commission’s communication strategy for overcoming public skepticism about the controversial EU-US trade negotiations, the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).  Its aim is to “reduce fears and avoid a mushrooming of doubts”..  but (perhaps unsurprisingly) knowing that, they have set up a ‘communication strategy’, serves to increase anxiety levels rather than reassure.

 

Nineteen Eighty Four revisited – Is there a ‘world domination’ study course?

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I have always wondered where Derren Brown learnt his skills – they are not in the average psychology textbook nor in a conventional hypnotherapy handbook.  However, I’m now also questioning the existence of a similarly secret school for world domination.

Why?

Because there is a remarkable similarity between George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four dystopia and the pattern that the global elite and Cameron’s Conservatives seem to be trying to create.

Eton is the obvious answer because Cameron, half the cabinet and Orwell were all educated there but Eton was not the ‘playing field’ of Obama and the American contingent of the Washington consensus/global elite…  PPE at Oxford or a Masters at Harvard??

What are the parallels?

Obviously, the Edward Snowden revelations of Big Brother mass surveillance spring to mind, and also the lack of reaction from the broad swathe of the UK media (apart from the Guardian).

“The invention of print, however, made it easier to manipulate public opinion, and the film and the radio carried the process further. With the development of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end.”  Nineteen Eighty Four

But on top of mass surveillance, we find that the Conservatives are currently trying to purge the internet of their speeches and videos prior to 2010, just like the Ministry of Truth.

If you remember, Orwell’s Winston Smith worked in the Ministry of Truth as an editor, revising historical records to make the past conform to the ever-changing party line and deleting references to unpersons, people (video clips?) who had been “vaporised”, i.e. not only killed by the state, but denied existence even in history or memory.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group:

“The suspicion has to be that at the point they are engaged in a huge debate about mass surveillance … they are removing the videos where they criticise Labour for doing the same thing. That’s why it’s absolutely important that that material remains available.”

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/14/tory-website-purge-youtube-webcameron

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” Nineteen Eighty Four

Then there are Cameron’s veiled threats to the Guardian over their publishing the NSA/GCHQ activities leaked by Edward Snowden.  (Alan Rushbridger should think himself lucky that he just had to destroy his hard drives.  It could have been ‘his worst nightmare’ culminating with his loving Big Brother Dave… but in the future?)

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/28/david-cameron-nsa-threat-newspapers-guardian-snowden

In the Britain of Nineteen Eighty Four, 2% of the population were the upper class ruling elite (probably an over-estimate in 2013 UK).  The majority, the 85%, were the ill-educated working class, or lower-class Proles.

“So long as they (the Proles) continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern…Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.”  Nineteen Eighty Four

In addition to being kept busy, misinformed and badly educated, the Proles were seduced by the Lottery:

“The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention. It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive. It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant. Where the Lottery was concerned, even people who could barely read and write seemed capable of intricate calculations and staggering feats of memory. There was a whole tribe of men who made their living simply by selling systems, forecasts, and lucky amulets. Winston had nothing to do with the Lottery, which was managed by the Ministry of Plenty, but he was aware (indeed everyone in the party was aware) that the prizes were largely imaginary. Only small sums were actually paid out, the winners of the big prizes being nonexistent persons.”  Nineteen Eighty Four

It has to said that Michael Gove certainly seems committed to diminishing the educational prospects of the majority of state educated schoolchildren… and we’re told that many dream of winning the lottery/‘celebrity’/’getting rich quick’ which is fostered, coupled with the misinformation purveyed by the oligarch-owned so-called ‘free press’.

Interestingly, the remaining 13% of the population, the Outer Party, were the focus of the surveillance – not the Proles.  This fits with Chomsky and Herman’s contention that government ‘propaganda’ is aimed primarily at the middle classes.  ‘Bread and circuses’ are the fare of the red tops and are intended to distract the working class.

In Nineteen Eighty Four, Britain or Airstrip One, is part of Oceania, one of three inter-continental superstates that divide the world among themselves after a global war.  There is a perpetual war with the other two superstates, Eurasia and Eastasia, over disputed lands which include the Middle East and North Africa.

This is disturbingly close to truth, not only in terms of geography and physical warfare.  Significantly, Obama’s priority has been the TransPacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and that together with the EU-US Free Trade Agreement would form a single market which would basically include ‘everyone but China’… with the potential for a new cold war?  However, many including James Galbraith, contend that these Western trade agreements are not about trade at all, but more like an attempt to take-over and control the foreign country’s economy on behalf of the transnational corporations.

Why should we be very concerned about the current US/EU Free Trade Agreement?

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/07/how-the-transpacific-partnership-will-let-foreign-investors-gut-regulations-while-preserving-agricultural-subsidies.html

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/06/david-cameron-eu-us-trade-deal-investor-state-dispute-settlement

The financial-corporate-political nexus is the hidden arm of any war-based economy.  Orwell again:

“The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking into the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed.”  Nineteen Eighty Four

Which brings me to a final point, Cameron’s speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet:

Cameron talked about a “leaner, more efficient, more affordable state”. He argued that austerity could be a permanent government policy; a way of trimming down the administrative excesses of some public services. He framed it in the context of the current tough living conditions – a minimising of state spending, as it “comes out of the pockets of the same taxpayers whose living standards we want to see improve”.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/13/david-cameron-austerity-public-sector-cuts

In other words, Cameron admitted that the cuts were exactly what he had always intended, and not (as he had suggested in the culled speeches) an unfortunate necessity.

In way of explanation, Orwell writes:

“It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realise that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.”  Nineteen Eighty Four

In other words, when Cameron says ‘austerity could be a permanent government policy’, he is aiming to preserve the same type of unnecessary privation experienced by the Proles in Nineteen Eighty Four, and it’s fair to suggest, for many of the same reasons.

One of the contradictions identified by Marx, is the tendency of capital towards overproduction, and essentially, the main function of the unwinnable, perpetual war in Oceania was to ameliorate their ‘overproduction’ without threatening the maintenance of the power of the upper class elite.  Hence, instead of the wealth of their labour being fairly distributed to the Proles, it was consciously and deliberately destroyed by staging unnecessary wars.

Overproduction and Underconsumption

The term “over-production” is often used to describe that situation which initiates a period of capitalist crisis or recession, whereby too many goods have been produced, the goods cannot be sold, production grinds to a sudden halt, people lose their jobs, demand drops even further, and the downward cycle accelerates.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/o/v.htm

It is clear, that another way of describing ‘over-production’ is under-consumption or a lack of demand, which is identified by many as the real problem in the Western economies.  The overt problem is that real wages have not increased since the 70s, and are now decreasing further, which sets up a spiral of people not being able to buy goods, so production is cut back, further lessening the available income and decreasing demand.

However, underlying the ‘lack of demand’ is that industries and companies are not investing in jobs or expansion.  Jobs create income which is spent thus producing demand.  But big businesses are on strike… in spite of holding an estimated £800bn in ‘savings’ … because the profits that they can make from investing in the real economy do not match the profitability of fictitious capital.

Fictitious Capital is value, in the form of credit, shares, debt, speculation and various forms of paper money, above and beyond what can be realised in the form of commodities.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/o/v.htm

For example, car production is a minor activity on the part of General Motors, and this is the pattern across the large corporations.

However, fictitious capital has to be fed by the surplus extracted from workers and this grows to be more and more of a burden on the backs of the workers until profitabilty can no longer be maintained, and slump takes over.

Unfortunately, even George W Bush knew a resolution for this contradiction of capitalism – ‘The way out of a recession is war’… even if the method of war on people/nations is financial and corporate.

Why are many of the WW2 generation worried about the rise of fascism?

So perhaps there is no need for a secret school teaching ‘world domination’.  The global elite just need to have a thorough understanding of Marx’s contradictions of capital, and devise strategies, regardless of detriment to the 99%, to retain their  power. The Left should have followed the model of the Magic Circle and kept Marx’s analysis a close-guarded secret.

Why should we be very concerned about the current US/EU Free Trade Agreement?

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The evidence provided by The Brave New Atlantic Partnership report suggests that TTIP can be understood as the political and class project of an Atlantic elite whose aim appears to be the reversing of social policies in the West and the preservation of European and US leadership internationally. The result of which could be the return and expansion of a ruthless and rule-less Wild West in which business would have the upper hand on the rest of society, within and beyond the Atlantic. It is for these reasons that people in Europe, the US and elsewhere, must mobilize with a view to stop the negotiations and hold our politicians accountable for the threats that such a trade agreement would pose to ourselves and our environment.

 

Occupy London discussed the US/EU Bi-Lateral Trade Agreement on the 28th October 2013 with Linda Kaucher and Tom Lines, and this loosely edited video of the proceedings offers some of the history and rationales behind the current secret negotiations.

Linda Kaucher has been quoted many times on Think Left in relation to the impacts of these so-called ‘Free Trade Agreements’.  She has written extensively warning of their dangers, most recently in the Chartist under the title ‘Trade Betrayal’.

Thomas Lines has followed the commodity markets for over 30 years as a journalist, lecturer and consultant.  His book, Making Poverty: A History, is published by Zed Books.

The US/EU Free Trade Agreement Panel Discussion

Published on Oct 30, 2013

Tom Lines explanation of FTAs in general 00:00 to 11.15
Linda Kaucher on US-EU FTA specifically 11:15 to 22:50
Q & A 22:50 to end

The draconian policies of the Coalition government can only be properly understood by comprehending their intent to harmonise rules, legislation and conditions with the US market, in anticipation of the EU-US FTA.  This is corporate capture of the UK.

According to Lori Wallach, who heads Public Citizen’s TradeWatch, what corporations “consider trade irritants, we consider the most important consumer, health, environmental, privacy, financial stability safeguards on either side of the Atlantic.”

Trade agreements like this, she told the Times, are simply “an effort to achieve through trade what that they could not achieve through democratic processes domestically.”

Cameron and Obama are committed to rushing the FTA through by the end of 2014…

 

http://occupylondon.org.uk/eu-us-free-trade-agreement-tafta-ttip-ceta-tpp/ 

http://www.s2bnetwork.org/fileadmin/dateien/downloads/Brave_New_Atlantic_Partnership.pdf

http://www.chartist.org.uk/articles/europe/sept13kaucher.htm

https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/09/13-1