Terrorism, Globalization and Conspiracy – Michael Parenti

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Michael Parenti speaking in 2002 but he might as well be speaking now…. and he is well worth hearing now!  An hour of your life to understand the links between Capitalism, Poverty, the Trade Deals, Globalisation, Debt, the fall of the Soviet Union, the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and finally, Terrorism.

 

Terrorism, Globalization and Conspiracy – Michael Parenti

A fairer society means breaking the big business stranglehold on politics

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Labour’s challenge to fight inequalities and rebuild democracy rests on addressing Britain’s ‘finance curse’

If the next Labour leader wants a fairer society, they must break the big business stranglehold on politics.

by Nick Dearden Re-posted from openDemocracy 10.09.15

In just a few weeks, the Labour leadership contest has substantially shifted the political debate in Britain, challenging the policy of austerity, raising inequality as the defining issue of our times, highlighting the erosion of democracy.

Fighting inequality and rebuilding democracy depend on breaking the stranglehold of big business and finance on politics in this country.  And this means reassessing Britain’s role in the world, because the prestige of this country is based upon London as a financial hub and a corporate HQ.

We live in an offshore centre for corporate interests, and this has not only fuelled poverty and inequality around the world, it has done so at home too.  Britain’s prestige has not translated into benefits for ordinary citizens here.  Despite this, political leaders have for decades failed to tackle the vested interests that have captured this country.

If they want to really change Britain, top of the list for the next Labour leader is the dependence of our economy on finance.  We have a ‘finance curse’, in the same way oil-rich nations can develop a ‘resource curse’.  Far from harnessing resources to build a fairer society, finance’s dominance has undercut other sectors of our economy.  Today, governments of every shade jump to the tune of finance, as we experiment in ever greater forms of deregulation, allowing the banks to transform everything we value into a derivative to be gambled on.

Britain has been captured by financial interests, which use this island to avoid taxes globally, to unsustainably inflate debt bubbles, and to speculate on the air we breathe.  There is no path to rebuilding democracy which doesn’t involve an almighty battle to ‘tame the City’ – with robust mechanisms to make companies pay their taxes internationally, levy taxes on speculation, restrict stock market listings, cancel unjust debts and reform the Corporation of London.

But finance is only the most obvious case of corporate capture in Britain.  In fact big business has a stranglehold on our politics.  On the one hand our government is aggressively pushing forward a ‘new generation’ of trade agreements like the EU-US investment deal known as TTIP.  TTIP threatens to water down social and environmental standards across the board, seeing such regulations as little more than ‘trade obstacles’.  TTIP will even give multinational corporations a special ‘right’ to sue our government for passing laws which threaten their profits.

On the other hand the British government is obstructing attempts by Latin American countries to hold multinational companies accountable for abusing real human rights, meaning that people have no access to effective legal redress for harm done to them by British-based corporations.  So far is the British state in the pocket of corporate interests that even our aid budget is used to privatise and deregulate economies in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Aid money is thrown at free market think tanks to privatise energy supplies; agribusiness conglomerates get a helping hand to control seed markets; education multinationals find new markets in some of the poorest countries on the planet.

The rule of multinational corporations, which places a higher value on profit than human rights, is a key factor driving inequality. Combatting inequality means the next Labour leader needs to be prepared to use the British veto in Europe to halt TTIP and its sister deals, limit the influence of multinational corporations over the UK political process, establish a commission to tackle corporate abuse of workers’ rights and environmental sustainability, and overhaul the aid budget as a form of redistributive taxation which can help countries across the world develop decent public services.

These proposals form part of a manifesto of policies which we launch today, the first step in beginning to rebuild our democracy and properly fight inequality.  It also includes reducing carbon emissions and giving substantial reparations to help developing countries build democratically-controlled energy systems in low carbon economies.  And supporting small scale, organic agriculture, rather than industrial farming.

If we really want a fairer society, there is no alternative to taking on vested interests.  We can’t just decide to exercise a ‘nicer’ form of global power, because our power is built on a base that necessarily erodes democracy.  A powerful financial sector, unfair trade practices, ideologically-driven privatisation, and many other policies, which we inflict on the world, also serve to make our own country more unequal.  So these policies must be changed not just for the millions of people around the world affected, but for the British people too.

True, it may make our country less ‘important’ at the top table, but that is a price well worth paying for a fairer world, and a happier society

This article is cross posted from Global Justice Now and appears here.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. If you have any queries about republishing please contact us. Please check individual images for licensing details.

Facts: The Beneficiaries of the Dangerous Trade Deals – like TTIP

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Dangerous Trade Deals Threatening Democracy and Rights

UNISON have produced a useful document on international trade deals. The European Union is currently negotiating three major trade agreements that could have a profound impact on public services, regulation in the public interest and employment and labour rights. Many people will have heard about TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the USA but the EU is also negotiating an agreement with Canada, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and a wider agreement with 23 other countries, the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Historically trade agreements sought to reduce tariff barriers to trade (taxes on imports). TTIP, CETA and TiSA are different: all three agreements are seeking to liberalise the trade in services, including public services; TTIP and CETA are also treaties seeking to protect the rights of foreign investors; finally TTIP aims to reduce ‘regulatory barriers’ to trade, forcing through a deregulatory agenda.

The EU lack of democracy has been question following recent events. Attention must not be deflected from the secret treaties being hatched between Europe and the US.

These treaties read like a corporate wish-list: secret courts that can sue our governments, the removal of environmental and health regulation and the degradation of working standards.

Who is set to benefit from this?  Hasn’t Big Business had enough their own way? 
Now Revealed: The scary truth about who is writing the terms of TTIP. With TTIP talks happening right now, it’s never been more important to spread the word about big business’ involvement in the deal.  TTIP is a corporate lobbying paradise as the graphics show. More details on this link.

TTIP 1

  • When preparing the mandate for the negotiations on TTIP, and in the first important months of the talks themselves (January 2012 to February 2014), the European Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) had 597 behind-closed-door meetings with lobbyists to discuss the negotiations.

TTIP 4

  • For every meeting with a trade union or an environmental organisation, Malmström and her staff had 5 get together with companies and their lobby groups. (Check the full data and how we gathered it here). The lobby groups with the most such high level meetings on TTIP were the Transatlantic Business Council (representing over 70 EU and US-based multinationals), pharmaceutical lobby group EFPIA (lobbying for pharma giants like Eli Lily, Pfizer, Novartis, and GSK) and the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.

TTIP 3These are the corporate lobby groups which had by far the most lobby encounters with DG Trade in the preparatory and early phase of the TTIP negotiations (January 2012 to February 2014): BusinessEurope, the European employers’ federation and one of the most powerful lobby groups in the EU.

  • Transatlantic Business Council, a corporate lobby group representing over 70 EU and US-based multinationals.
  • ACEA, the European car lobby (working for BMW, Ford, Renault, and others) which had as many lobby encounters with DG Trade as CEFIC, the European Chemical Industry Council (lobbying for BASF, Bayer, Dow, and the like).
  • European Services Forum, a lobby outfit banding together large services companies and federations such as Deutsche Bank, Telefónica, and TheCityUK, with the same amount as lobby encounters as EFPIA, Europe’s largest pharmaceutical industry association (representing some of the biggest and most powerful pharma companies in the world such as GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Astra Zeneca, Novartis, Sanofi, and Roche).
  • FoodDrinkEurope, the biggest EU food industry lobby group (representing multinationals like Nestlé, Coca Cola, and Unilever).
  • US Chamber of Commerce, the wealthiest of all US corporate lobbies, and DigitalEurope (whose members include all the big IT names, like Apple, Blackberry, IBM, and Microsoft), both with the same amount of lobby encounters with DG Trade.

Check the full list of lobby groups and how we gathered the data here.

TTIP 6

These business sectors had most meetings behind closed doors with DG Trade when the TTIP negotiations were being prepared and after negotiations started (January 2012 to February 2014):

  1. Agribusiness and food, including multinationals like Nestlé, Mondelez (formerly Kraft Foods), and Cargill as well as numerous lobby groups for producers and traders of food, drinks, and animal feed such as FoodDrinkEurope (the EU’s biggest food industry lobby group, representing multinationals like Nestlé, Coca Cola, and Unilever), Eucolait (the dairy traders’ lobby), Clitravi (lobbying for the EU meat processing industry), Spirits Europe (working for alcohol producers such as Bacardi-Martine and Pernod-Ricard) and FEFAC (the animal feed lobby).
  2. Lobby groups representing multiple business sectors such as the European employers’ federation BusinessEurope (one of the most powerful lobby groups in the EU), the US Chamber of Commerce (the wealthiest of all US corporate lobbies), the Transatlantic Business Council (representing over 70 EU and US-based multinationals) and national industry federation such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI).
  3. Telecommunication and IT, including giant corporations such as IBM, Telefónica, Nokia, Google, and Ericsson as well as industry lobby groups such as DigitalEurope (whose members include all the big IT names, like Apple, Blackberry, IBM, and Microsoft).
  4. Pharmaceuticals, including direct lobbying of large pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Roche and Pfizer as well as lobby groups such as EFPIA (the European pharmaceutical lobby working for pharma giants like Eli Lily, Pfizer, Novartis, and GlaxoSmithKline) and its US sister organisation PhRMA (lobbying largely for the same companies).
  5. Finance, with lobbying by some of the world’s largest banks and insurers (including Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, HSBC, Allianz, and Citigroup) and powerful financial sector lobby groups such as the Association of German Banks (BDB), Insurance Europe (Europe’s main insurance lobby), and TheCityUK (promoting the interests of the UK-based financial industry).
  6. Engineering and machinery, including manufacturing behemoths such as Siemens, Alstom, and General Electric as well as industry federations such as Orgalime (lobbying for the mechanical, electrical and metalworking sectors) and the German Engineering Federation VDMA.
  7. Automobiles, with some of the most powerful car brands (including Ford, Daimler, and BMW) and automotive suppliers such as tyre producer Michelin, as well as industry lobby groups such as ACEA (representing Europe’s car, van, truck, and bus manufacturers) and the German automotive industry association VDA.
  8. Health technology, with, for example, Eucomed (representing the medical technology industry in Europe, including large corporations such as Siemens and Procter & Gamble), Cocir (lobbying for “medical imaging, health ICT and electromedical” companies such as IBM, Samsung, Orange, and Agfa healthcare “to open markets… in Europe and beyond”).
  9. Chemicals, including CEFIC (the EU’s biggest chemical industry lobby group, representing BASF, Bayer, Dow, and others) and its US counterpart, the American Chemistry Council ACC (also lobbying for BASF, Bayer, Dow, and others), the Germany industry federation VCI and direct lobbying by chemical giants such as Dow.
  10. Express & logistics, including direct lobbying by companies such as Deutsche Post DHL, UPS, Fedex and industry associations such as the European Express Association (lobbying for the same companies).

Check the full data and how we categorised it here.

ttip-lobby-pharma

Several industry sectors have significantly boosted their lobbying efforts for TTIP:

  • The pharmaceutical sector has increased its TTIP lobbying seven-fold. While only 2.4% of DG Trade’s one-to-one lobby meetings on TTIP were with big pharma in the preparatory phase of the negotiations (January 2012 to March 2013), the sector’s share in lobby meetings jumped to 16.5% in the period after (April 2013 to February 2014).
  • The engineering and machinery sector has tripled its TTIP lobbying effort in the same period – from 3.0% to 9.5% of the behind-closed-doors meetings with DG Trade.
  • TTIP lobbying by banks, insurers, and other financial market actors has doubled, from a 5.1% share in the total amount of corporate lobby meetings in the preparatory phase of the negotiations to 10.8% in the period after.

Check the full data and how we gathered it here.

That big pharma and finance have stepped up their lobbying for TTIP is particularly worrying. The pharmaceutical sector is pushing for a TTIP agenda with potentially severe implications for access to medicines and public health.

While the corporate agenda for TTIP is broad and often issue-specific, big business is united in what it wants to see at the core of the agreement: excessive rights for foreign investors and regulatory cooperation. These issues would further skew EU and US politics in favour of capital and transnational corporations and threaten any future regulation that limits big business profits – be it in food standards, chemicals approval, or rules on production methods, to name but a few.

 On top of that, TTIP’s investment protection chapter would empower thousands of businesses on both sides of the Atlantic to legally attack decisions made by national parliaments, governments, and even courts if they undermine corporate profits.

(See our analysis of the proposed investor rights in TTIP here or watch our video on the issue here.)

TTIP 8

  • The preparatory and early phases of the TTIP negotiations were largely driven by businesses with headquarters in the US, Germany, and the UK and by industry lobby groups organised at the EU level such as BusinessEurope

TTIP 7

  • One in every 5 corporate lobby groups which have lobbied DG Trade on TTIP (80 out of 372 corporate actors), are not registered in the EU’s Transparency Register, amongst them large companies such as Maersk, AON, and Levi’s. Industry associations such as the world’s largest biotechnology lobby BIO, US pharmaceutical lobby group PhrMA, and the American Chemical Council are also lobbying under the radar. More than one third of all US companies and industry associations which have lobbied DG Trade on TTIP (37 out of 91) are not in the EU register. (see the full data and how we gathered it here)
  • There are two serious flaws of the EU’s Transparency Register: first, it is voluntary, which leaves companies and lobby groups free to avoid appearing in it – as many do. Second, disclosure requirements are limited as registrants are, for example, not obliged to report exactly which specific issues they lobby on (such as TTIP).

It is very clear why these treaties must be stopped.

A UN official has spoken out about the secretive TTIP deal, warning of “a dystopian future in which corporations call the shots instead of democracies”, and highlighting significant fears about human rights abuses should the deal go through.

We don’t have much time left before the talks finish for this stage of TTIP. And we urgently need to ramp up the pressure: US politicians just voted in favour of making it much easier for Obama to sign them up to big trade deals like TTIP. The ordinary people of the EU and the US are increasingly the last line of defence against the trade deal.

A whopping 2.3 million of us have already signed up to oppose the devastating TTIP deal — will you add your voice and tell the European Commission to stand up for democracy?  Coalition website for the ECI Stop TTIP

Please share! And you can sign the self-organised European Citizens’ Initiative here: http://bit.ly/1w7tdLp

(Addendum:  The US are also negotiating the TransPacific Partnership or TPP with Pacific-rim countries.  The TPP and TTIP, together form a single market which would essentially include ‘everyone but China’ and encompass about 69% of all global trade.  Many including the economist, 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.  Is this the start of a new cold war with financial weapons of mass destruction?  Are these trade deals the instruments by which the US intends to enforce its global hegemony against the threat of increasing Chinese power?)

  

Jeremy Corbyn speaks against TTIP at Durham Miners Gala

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In an inspiring and comprehensive speech, Jeremy Corbyn spelt out the aspirations [sic] that the left should have for any future Labour government.. a race to the top, not Osborne’s welfare for the rich and cuts for the poorest and the young.  An end to homelessness, hunger, the selling-off of publicly owned assets, zero hours contracts, food banks – that every child matters (not just the first two), solidarity with the trade unions and above all else, an end to the callous and unnecessary ‘Austerity’.

Jeremy specifically emphasised the threat of the US-EU trade deal TTIP… NAFTA on Steroids. He called for TTIP’s rejection not only in terms of its well publicised threat to the NHS and public services but also because of the international threat that it poses to worker and environmental protection legislation across Europe, the UK and the US.

In this speech, Jeremy Corbyn demonstrates by example, just how far the current Labour Party has lost its way.  In a recent hustings speech, he was more overt:

“We’ve become cowed by powerful commercial interests, frightened of the press, frightened to stand up for what we absolutely believe in.  I want a more equal society, a fairer society, a world at peace not at war.  I want a LP at the heart of the community that is demanding those jobs, homes and hope for everyone, so that they can live in a society that is more equal.  We are moving in the wrong direction at the present time – let’s turn it around and move the other way.”

The answer is obvious – vote for Jeremy Corbyn because he is the real candidate for aspiration and change!

 

 

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the Durham Miners Gala yesterday, 11th July 2015.

 

 

Recipe for Ruin: TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership