Are we already in the post-democratic era?

Quote

Is TPP the post-democracy blue-print for the EU-US Free Trade Agreement?  The implications are outlined.

Before Christmas, I was alarmed to hear Nick Clegg and then David Cameron ‘rather too casually’ mention their support for an EU-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA).  It now seems that such negotiations have in fact, been going on in secret for over a year.. and secrecy is the name of the game.  The posted video clip below, discusses the nature of the massive Trans Pacific Pact or Free Trade Agreement (TPP) which Obama has been pushing for, throughout his first administration (1) There is every reason to believe that these alarming negotiations will be the blue-print for an EU-US FTA, and therefore, could act as a pre-warning for the UK/EU populace.

Since the 10-year-old Doha round of global trade talks deadlocked, the EU and the United States have been trying to sign as many bilateral free-trade deals as they can to lock in (2), to access fast-growing economies, especially in Asia (see Cameron’s smarminess in India).  But, according to Reuters, the debt crisis in Europe and elusive American growth are pushing both sides to consider knocking down the final barriers to trade. (3)  Together, the bloc and the United States account for about half the world’s economic output and nearly a third of world trade.  It is significant that the libertarian US think-tank, Cato asks the question whether some of the concepts contained in the draft EU-US FTA are appropriate for a binding international agreement on free trade  or do they turn trade agreements into a kind of global constitution?’ (4)

And that is the major problem with these Free Trade Agreements. They just don’t seem to be very much about trade.

And I have to say ‘seem’ because although 600 corporates have been participating in the negotiations, even members of Congress are not allowed to see either the draft or final negotiated TPP settlements.

Why would that be?  Why are the negotiations secret?  Lori Wallach in the video clip, says that the US Chair, in a moment of plain speaking, told a Reuters reporter that the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was impossible to finalise because there were so many objections when they published the plans.  In other words, because the general public and politicians opposed their sovereignty being transferred to the corporates, they’ve decided not to tell them about the TPP!

According to Congressman Denis Kucinich, the leaked information on TPP indicates that it is NAFTA ‘on steroids’.  So if countries objected to NAFTA what will we feel about an EU-US FTA?

Furthermore, I would put no money on the European Parliament, let alone Parliament, being allowed access to even see the EU-US FTA negotiations.  Neither the MPs or the MEPs were allowed to know the details when the EU signed up to the 1994 GATS treaty (5) and that treaty contained all the seeds of privatizing the NHS, social security and education that we are now seeing implemented by the Tory/LDs, and across the EU.  This one would lock us in to even more stringent requirements.

The worrying aspects of the leaked TPP documents concern the outsourcing of jobs, the outlawing of domestic legislation protecting workers, human rights, food safety and the environment.  There is a particular focus working against generic medicines, on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies that rank amongst the most profitable US and UK firms – for example patents could be extended ensuring more expensive drug therapies.  A version of SOPA could be introduced by the backdoor, limiting internet freedom and internet privacy rights.  It would also shield foreign capital from domestic laws, essentially deregulating finance even further, at a point when there are calls for greater not less regulation.

But overarching all of this, is the transfer of sovereignty from nations to private corporate tribunals (6) who will be empowered to compel governments to change their laws or pay unlimited fines.  Foreign companies will essentially not be bound by domestic laws.

This begs the question as to how much of the Tory/LD programme and the changes being forced on EZ countries, under the guise of ‘austerity’ were/are, in fact, in preparation for compliance with the proposed EU-US FTA? (7)

Human rights, environmental protection and employment rights could all be contested and overturned by private corporate tribunals.  The post-democratic age will have been enshrined in binding legislation… and all of it will be done in secret! (8)

Ordinary people may have won the battle in Seattle in 1999 but globally, we’re losing the war in 2013 and just like the GATS, most of us probably won’t even realise that its happening until too late.

“For all the endless empty chatter about democracy, today, the world is run by three of the most secretive institutions in the world: the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. All three of which, in turn, are dominated by the U.S.’

http://escholarship.org/uc/item/56w0s261#page-5

Inside Story Americas – Will the Pacific trade deal protect workers?

Published on Dec 5, 2012

http://www.youtube.com/NewsAlJazeera
Plz Subscribe for Latest News
The 15th round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) began in New Zealand this week. Critics say trade is only a small part of what is being discussed. So why is the TPPA so secretive? Guests: Lori Wallach, Celeste Drake.

(1) https://think-left.org/2012/08/29/the-unfree-flow-of-information-and-cyberspace/

 Dean Baker writes in the Guardian that the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region) ‘is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process. The expectation is that by lining up powerful corporate interests, the governments will be able to ram this new “free trade” pact through legislatures on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.’ 

(2)  https://think-left.org/2011/09/16/the-very-design-of-neoliberal-principles-is-a-direct-attack-on-democracy-and-workers-rights/

(3)  http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/17/us-eu-usa-trade-idUSBRE89G0KT20121017

(4)  http://www.cato.org/blog/proposed-us-eu-fta-good-bad-ugly

(5)  https://think-left.org/2011/07/21/red-labour-must-address-the-elephant-in-the-room/

(6)  https://think-left.org/2012/03/16/the-top-10-flaws-of-neoclassical-economics/

9. Neoclassical Economics ignores perpetual increasing scale.

As a result of perpetual exponential growth, institutions in the system continually get bigger and bigger. We saw this as the economic system made towns, counties, and states irrelevant through the last century, and we are now seeing it as mega banks and corporations are now making national governments irrelevant. People are now living as tiny cogs in a machine of incomprehensible scale. Everything in life has been monetized, so things that don’t generate bank credit get devalued (spirituality, psychology, rest, joy, play, etc).

(7)  https://think-left.org/2012/06/15/brinkmanship-and-the-euro-crisis/

(8)  https://think-left.org/2012/03/05/transnational-corporations-have-not-let-a-good-crisis-go-to-waste/

 

 

 

 

Capital controls – Investigating International Finance from NEF

Quote

Capital controls – Investigating International Finance

A new video from the New Economics Foundation

Hat tip Richard Murphy http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2012/12/11/capital-controls-an-essential-tool-is-were-to-maintain-economic-sovereignty-and-democracy/

Related Think Left Post (1):

Barely 32 years ago, Margaret Thatcher came to power and rejected the post-war consensus by embracing Hayek, Friedman and neoliberalism … but in those three decades, globalization and the deregulated free-market has become a TINA (Thatcher’s slogan “There is no alternative”)… an unquestioned consensus for the overwhelming majority of the media and leading politicians from all three mainstream political parties.  This is a false consciousness which has had dire consequences for democracy, sovereignty, and a world effectively run by transanational corporations with governments just facilitating their businesses.

Strangely (or perhaps not), these implications of the major shift in economic strategy have never been much discussed publically.  There was also precious little debate in the House of Commons, prior to the Thatcher government promoting and signing up to the 8th round of the GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) treaty in Uruguay in 1994.  This treaty extended the scope of the previous one beyond manufactured goods to cover services, agriculture and intellectual property, including services such as health, education and other public provision, and environmental ones such as GM foods, nuclear power and agribusiness.

The lack of discussion was particularly extraordinary because effectively this treaty created the World Trade Organisation (WTO)  to be a power above Nations … the ideas and regulation of free-trade superceding national governmental decisions and policies.  The free-market ideology of Friedman, the economic heretic of the 50s-70s, became enshrined by 117 member governments, representing 90% of world merchandise. 

‘With the advent of Globalization with its fundamentalist insistance upon open markets and free access for capital without restraints, there were suddenly no regulations to bind the Financial Class, no taxes they could not avoid and no political process they could not buy. It was a freedom from any notion of obligation, care or concern for anybody but themselves. It was a perversion of the very word freedom. They could vote wherever they chose, buy citizenship wherever they felt like it and pay only those taxes they found convenient and have no loyalty anyone or anywhere. They were ‘free’. (2)

As David Malone writes in the above quote, the Financial Class were set ‘free’ … but the rest of the global community was well and truly ‘stitched up’.   It is no coincidence that in the UK and US, there has been a corresponding lack of rise in real wages and huge increases in personal debt.  Meanwhile, the 1000 richest list published  the other day shows that their wealth has increased 18% since last year and they are now worth 400 bn.

(1)  https://think-left.org/2011/07/21/red-labour-must-address-the-elephant-in-the-room/

(2)  http://golemxiv-credo.blogspot.com/2011/04/free-market-and-globalization.html

Red Labour must address the elephant in the room


Contribution by Sue Davies

 

Barely 32 years ago, Margaret Thatcher came to power and rejected the post-war consensus by embracing Hayek, Friedman and neoliberalism … but in those three decades, globalization and the deregulated free-market has become a TINA (Thatcher’s slogan “There is no alternative”)… an unquestioned consensus for the overwhelming majority of the media and leading politicians from all three mainstream political parties.  This is a false consciousness which has had dire consequences for democracy, sovereignty, and a world effectively run by transanational corporations with governments just facilitating their businesses.

Strangely (or perhaps not), these implications of the major shift in economic strategy have never been much discussed publically.  There was also precious little debate in the House of Commons, prior to the Thatcher government promoting and signing up to the 8th round of the GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) treaty in Uruguay in 1994.  This treaty extended the scope of the previous one beyond manufactured goods to cover services, agriculture and intellectual property, including services such as health, education and other public provision, and environmental ones such as GM foods, nuclear power and agribusiness.

The lack of discussion was particularly extraordinary because effectively this treaty created the World Trade Organisation (WTO)  to be a power above Nations … the ideas and regulation of free-trade superceding national governmental decisions and policies.  The free-market ideology of Friedman, the economic heretic of the 50s-70s, became enshrined by 117 member governments, representing 90% of world merchandise. (1)

With the advent of Globalization with its fundamentalist insistance upon open markets and free access for capital without restraints, there were suddenly no regulations to bind the Financial Class , no taxes they could not avoid and no political process they could not buy. It was a freedom from any notion of obligation, care or concern for anybody but themselves. It was a perversion of the very word freedom. They could vote wherever they chose, buy citizenship wherever they felt like it and pay only those taxes they found convenient and have no loyalty anyone or anywhere. They were ‘free’. (2)

As David Malone writes in the above quote, the Financial Class were set ‘free’ … but the rest of the global community was well and truly ‘stitched up’.   It is no coincidence that in the UK and US, there has been a corresponding lack of rise in real wages and huge increases in personal debt.  Meanwhile, the 1000 richest list published  the other day shows that their wealth has increased 18% since last year and they are now worth 400 bn.

Blair’s election in 1997, offered the possibility that the economic strategy of the British State could be steered back to the publically popular post-war consensus of a mixed economy and the welfare state.  However, in spite of Blair’s rhetoric, many commentators agree that Gidden’s ‘Third Way’ was little more than a thinly veiled front for an accomodation with Thatcherism … there being more continuities than differences.(3)  A good example would be the creeping privatisation of the NHS under New Labour, well documented by Allyson Pollock in her book ‘NHS plc’ (4), and in many ways (and not good ways), the health reforms of Andrew Lansley are indeed evolutionary not revolutionary.  Not only did Blair leave the door ajar, his McKinsey advisor now heads Monitor, the regulatory body.

It is clear that New Labour was/is fully committed to neoliberalism, the ideology of the free-market, but worryingly a future government wanting to nationalise or re-nationalise public services may find  that  it is legally prohibited, under GATS legislation.

Linda Kaucher (8.01.09) wrote of the danger of the DOHA round of GATS:

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) deregulates finance. It also prohibits any reversals of public service privatisations, or renationalising of any service that have been opened to overseas investment.

Alternative proposals and plans, whether Green, blue or pink, are misleading if they fail to take real account of the challenges in the structural relationship between the national, the EU, and the international trade framework. Such proposals, however well meaning, will not just be frustrated but legally prohibited through the structures described here. (5)

The current status of DOHA is not clear.  On the 25.04.11, Larry Elliott of the Guardian reported that DOHA was collapsing … but it seems that it is still possible for particular sections to be agreed seperately.  Secrecy and befuddling of the issues is clearly the standard strategy for avoiding public disquiet.  The history of GATS  and the WTO, both instigated in 1995 by transnational capital, mainly Citicorp, AIG, and American Express, is one of hidden agendas.

The task of Red Labour is to explain  how the huge institutional blockage of neo-liberal capitalism is to be tackled.  As Michael Meacher blogs (6) Blue Labour has no answers … and Purple Labour is quite happy to see the system persist.

Red Labour should sign up to holding a referendum on EU membership with a view to withdrawing or renegotiating our relationship.  The EU is not the idealistic coming together of geographically close nations to create common good but via the GATS treaty it has become the vehicle for imposing the needs of transnational corporations throughout the region.  It is worth remembering that 50% of UK laws derive from the EU and most EU derived laws are passed without debate or votes in parliament because of the use of statutory orders.  Furthermore, elected representatives in the member states cannot reverse laws once they have been passed as EU law is supreme.  Other issues such as whether the railway system, postal services and other public services should be in the private or public sectors, many areas relating to civil liberties, the environment or the degree to which the economy should be regulated, have been effectively removed from democratic debate in the EU member countries and handed over to Brussels.  Removing the UK from the straitjacket of EU neoliberal policies would be a major step in undoing the huge institutional blockage of neo-liberal capitalism … ‘The elephant in the room’

(As individuals, we can act now and make our views felt by signing up to The People’s Pledge calling for a referendum on the EU.  http://www.peoplespledge.org/)

References

http://www.margaretthatcher.org/documents/108329

http://golemxiv-credo.blogspot.com/2011/04/free-market-and-globalization.html

http://www.essex.ac.uk/ecpr/events/jointsessions/paperarchive/grenoble/ws6/barry_paterson.pdf

Pollock, A.M. (2004) ‘NHS plc – The privatisation of our health care’  publ. Verso, ISBN 1-84467-539-4

http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2009/01/08/the-danger-from-gats/#comments

http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2011/04/blue-labour-no-thanks/#more-2264