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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: International | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism
Free Trade Agreement TTIP Endangers Democracy
Investor courts of arbitration create an exclusive special right for foreign corporations. They could demand unlimited compensation when they see profits narrowed by democratic decisions. The lawsuits will be decided by economic lawyers who change roles as prosecutors, defendants and judges, not independent courts. Investor protection trumps labor and environmental rights! Stopping the TTIP is central to preserving sovereignty, environmental justice and the public sector
FREE TRADE AGREEMENT TTIP ENDANGERS DEMOCRACY
By Christoph Bautz
[This article published August 22, 2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.vorwarts.de. Christoph Bautz is a biologist, political scientist and co-founder of Campact and demands the immediate scrapping of negotiations on the TTIP with the US.]
Free trade between partners sounds commendable. Standardizing car signals and rearview mirrors is a good thing. Far more is involved in the TTIP, the investment- and trade agreement with the US. The themes should set off alarm bells for all social democrats. Investor courts of arbitration create an exclusive special right for foreign corporations. They could demand unlimited compensation when they see profits narrowed by democratic decisions. The lawsuits will be decided by economic lawyers who change roles as prosecutors, defendants and judges, not by independent courts. These lawyers are not bound by the German Basic Law with the social obligation of property. In a lawsuit, the Swedish energy conglomerate Vattenfall wants 3.7 billion Euros from taxpayers for the nuclear exit.
Privatization: Local communities and federal states are threatened most severely. Public services come under intensified privatization pressure. In the public awarding of contracts, investors can sue, bring their own workers and demand equal treatment with public providers.
Standards: Standards in consumer protection will not be lowered, we are assured. However higher standards for imports are avoided when standards are mutually acknowledged. This can also occur after the agreement is signed. Even if hormone beef is first excluded in the agreement, it could be subsequently accepted on the market through “regulatory cooperation.”
Democracy: TTIP reduces the possibilities of politics: financial markets, climate change, big data, genetic- and nano-technology. New risks require new rules to protect citizens.
However new rules are potential trade barriers. Therefore TTIP would strongly aggravate a policy improving social standards, consumer rights, data protection and pollution control. There should be no way back after the maximum in deregulation and privatization is reached. The democratic sovereign is dethroned or stripped of power; the balance between corporate interests and the public interest is shifted. In short, TTIP is an “attack on legislation sovereignty, an incursion in sovereignty and an assault on parliamentary democracy,” Heribert Prantl said in the Sueddeutschen Zeitung newspaper.
Many of our democratic rights were gained by social democracy through hard struggle. TTIP would sell them for a song. The EU Commission calculates that the TTIP could bring an additional growth of 0.048 percent per year – with far-reaching liberalization that grinds down nearly all “trade barriers.” Whether TTIP becomes reality will depend on the SPD. The agreement will never see the light of day without the approval of the SPD delegates in the Bundestag, the Euro parliament and the federal states in the Bundesrat governed by the SPD.
TTIP THROUGH THE BACKDOOR
Very soon an oath will be taken. In the fall, the EU Commission will present the completely negotiated CETA agreement with Canada. It makes possible “TTIP through the backdoor.” Corporations only need to open an affiliate company in Canada to sue European states for missed profits. Corporate justice mistrusted by many social democrats would come about with CETA – entirely without the TTIP.
More than 620,000 citizens signed the Campact Appeal against the TTIP. 150,000 actively participated in an EU consultation on the corporate right to sue. The EU Commission is no longer describing this criticism as an “attack and organized assault on the commission.” In the past, the German government described investor courts of arbitration in CETA and TTIP as unnecessary. Nevertheless they are an important part of the commission strategy. CETA and TTIP endanger democracy. They help a few corporations, not the economy altogether and not all of us. Therefore social democracy and all citizens must do their utmost to scrap the negotiations.
THE DOWN ELEVATOR: SOCIAL DESCENT
By Ursula Storost
[This article published August 14, 2014 is translated abridged from the German on the Internet, http://www.deutschlandfunk.de.]
My children should have it better. This wish was often fulfilled in postwar Germany. However the times of social ascent are long past. German society becomes a descent society – and even education does not protect from that descent.
On December 31, 1996 German chancellor Helmut Kohl in his New Year speech tried to get the German people in the right mood:
“The social state must be rebuilt so it can be preserved and financed in the long run. Its services must benefit the truly needy.”
What Kohl announced because of economic problems represented a radical turn in German social policy. Rebuilding the welfare state meant cuts of state services, new standards for reasonable work and personal responsibility for old age pension schemes. Nothing was as Germans were accustomed in the first decades after the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, said the economist and sociologist Dr. Oliver Nachtwey of the University of Trier.
“Those were decades of exorbitant economic growth. There will never be such an economic growth again. In that era, there were immense increases in real wages. The real wages of all employees tripled between 1959 and 1989.”
Moreover, Oliver Nachtwey explains, persons in the older Germany from worker families or the small-scale employee milieu had chances of ascent. They could undergo further training and get ahead in society.
“My own family is an example of that. My grandfather was a factory worker in a lamp factory in the Ruhr valley. My father became an engineer through evening classes. As the third child in this series, I graduated from the university and later was awarded a doctorate.”
At the same time the sociologist born in 1975 is also a child of the descent society as he says:
“My father had an unlimited employer-employee relation. I am a modern academic working my way from one chain contract to another.”
Education is not a guarantee any more for social ascent or even for permanently belonging to the middle class, Oliver Nachtwey says.
“Different bottlenecks appear. For example, the number of doctoral candidates has doubled in the last years at the universities but not the number of stable employee positions where people get to the top. That is also true in many other lines of work.”
LESS STATE AND FEWER PROVISIONS SINCE THE 1990s
Since the 1990s German society was robustly rebuilt. An ideological turn changed politics. Less state and fewer public provisions were desired. That meant privatization of many areas of public service and reduction of social benefits.
“Businesses were rebuilt and became oriented more and more in shareholder value or stock prices. An enormous pressure on employer-employee relations developed from that shareholder value orientation. Businesses were glad to employ workers for the short term and be rid of them. They wanted more flexible employment and paid less for those jobs.”
From 1993 real wages began to fall, the economic sociologist Oliver Nachtweg reported. The wage rate fell since the beginning of the 1980s, the share of employee income in the national economy and the entire wealth of a country.
“The wage rate on average rose up to 1982. The wage level, this share of employees in the national income, fell after 1982 when Helmut Kohl came into office. Therefore we can say about the share of wealth since 1982 that we are in a society where employees have lagged behind in their share of wealth since 1982. Poverty has also risen again since the 1990s and there is a downward pressure.”
But there was and is hardly resistance from below, says Dr. Philipp Staab from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research.
“People are obviously kept on a short leash. There are contracts limited in time. Employees work in businesses that are not friendly toward works councils. This does not always promote engagement to improve one’s situation.”
SERVICE PROLETARIAT WITHOUT VOCATIONAL PRIDE
The sociologist has focused on power and rule in the service world. Persons responsible for cleaning, nursing and security who have no lobby fill the so-called service proletariat.
“Goods are constantly arranged when we go to the supermarkets. But do we really see these people? I don’t think so. They are mainly occupied with reproducing what we are accustomed to – neatness and order.”
This simple restoration of normality makes it hard to build occupational pride and something like a class consciousness, says the sociologist Friederike Bahl. The collaborator at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research has analyzed the life models and consciousness of these people.
“We still have 39 percent of employees in simple industrial work despite the much bemoaned loss of members organized in unions. The share in simple service work is 18 percent.”
Shared struggle is bitterly necessary, Friederike Bahl insists. These people stand at the lower end of the income ladder despite hard work, often up to 50 hours a week. “This means going home with around a thousand Euros monthly.”
SUBCONTRACTED WORKERS AS SECOND-CLASS COLLABORATORS
Simple se4rvice providers are not the only ones in precarious working conditions. In large firms, short-time workers slave away alongside the regular staff, says the sociologist Oliver Nachtwey. In a large automobile plant, he witnessed the model working conditions for permanently employed colleagues…
The sociologist Thomas Marshal emphasizes social citizenship, a concept put into action in Germany up to the 1970s. It means all citizens regardless of their class have equal civil, political and social rights. “This social citizenship that makes possible integration has successively eroded since the 1990s. Important elements of this citizenship were dismantled, reduced and redesigned.”
NOT EVEN EDUCATION PROTECTS FROM DESCENT
The gulf between the permanently employed workers of a business and the precarious grows, not only the gulf between poor and rich. On what side one is on and in what strata one belongs is nowadays no longer only a question of education, says Dr. Nicole Mayer-Ahuja, sociology professor at the University of Hamburg.
“One acquires ever higher education. But what is achieved at the end in job security, income level and so on is not comparable with what the last generation acquired on an inferior foundation of education. I believe this is really a great change where hopes of advancement were disappointed and much uncertainty has spread.”
Seen statistically more than normal working conditions have declined since the 1980s. The norms inherent in normal work have also been relativized, the social economist says.
“Many younger persons no longer expect they will spend their working life in one enterprise. Many employees in the younger generation say they do not even want that. In my opinion, people are taken in a little by the flexibilization utopias propagated in the 1980s when people said flexibility is good for everyone.”
So the economy has to draw its clientele from employees, persons who can react flexibly… Flexible and creative is a label for modern work that seems attractive for many young people. A more and more individualized society arises in which people blame unemployment and inse3cure jobs on their personal failure, not on the system. This aggravates solidarity in all western European societies.
“Hopefully we will enter a situation where those who fall by the wayside will gain a common consciousness from their situation in southern Europe and in Germany and actually develop and put into action potential resistance,” the socio-economist Nicole Mayer-Ahuja said.
CETA MAKES DEMOCRACY A HOSTAGE
By Annette Sawatzki
[This blog article published on August 18, 2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://blog.campact.de.]
Maude Barlow is shocked. The Canadian winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize has seen the leaked text of CETA and says: “It removes what is left in democratic government.” Deeply worried she urges Europe to reject the agreement.
People in Europe have had enough of the secretiveness and of being hostages in the hands of businesses.
The Canadian woman speaks out of bitter experience. 20 years ago Canada, the US and Mexico signed the North American Free Trade agreement NAFTA. CETA will have negative consequences for Europe as NAFTA has negative consequences for Canadians, warns Maude Barlow known worldwide for her commitment to the basic right of water.
Because public provisions, consumer rights, safe food and protection of their natural resources are important to Europeans, they should look long, hard and critically at CETA. For Canada, the effects of NAFTA were dramatic. The greatest danger comes from investor-state arbitration courts. Canada has lived for 20 years with a similar parallel legal system and can testify to the deeply undemocratic nature of this privilege for businesses. Canada’s freshwater supplies are directly affected.
BLACKMAIL BY CORPORATIONS
The NAFTA agreement – just like CETA – gives corporations the possibility of suing states before private arbitration courts for compensation when laws cut into their profits. Canada was repeatedly the target of such blackmailing. After Canada prohibited trade with PCBs, an American firm was granted eight million dollars of tax funds as compensation. The Canadian firm Lone Pine Resources shifted its headquarters to the US to sue against a fracking prohibition in the Canadian province of Quebec. The claim was 250 million dollars. The pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly even wants 500 million dollars from the Canadian state because its Supreme Court annulled two patents after the compounds were demonstrably ineffective.
TTIP THROUGH THE BACKDOOR
With CETA, Europe is threatened with lawsuits from US corporations in connection with the EU-US agreement TTIP. Engaged for decades with international trade agreements, Barlow knows their traps and warns:
As soon as Europeans sign CETA, US firms will make their demands through Canadian subsidiaries in Europe.
The number of corporations that could use this backdoor is significant. US firms control over half of the Canadian economy including corporate giants like Exxon, Chevron and Monsanto that own large Canadian subsidiaries.
“REMOVING WHAT IS LEFT OF DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT”
“The CETA negotiations were carried out screened from all democratic process,” Barlow criticizes. Signing CETA and TTIP would be a massive threat.
TTIP and CETA stand for a misguided development model – in a world of increasing injustices, cancelled public services and the mining of natural resources. These agreements remove what is still left of democratic government and have almost nothing to do with removing unreasonable trade barriers.
For years Maude Barlow (b. 1947) has been chairperson of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest civil rights organization and is co-founder of the environmental movement Blue Planet Project that seeks to protect drinking water from the threats of commerce and privatization. She is a council person in the World Future Council and member of the board of directors of the International Forum on Globalization. Previously she advised former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and was active in resistance against the ultimately unsuccessful Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) that also gave mammoth corporations new privileges over states and the population. In 2005 she was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award) for her engagement for the basic right to water.
INVESTMENT WITHOUT ADEQUATE PROFIT CAN BE JUDGED AN “INDIRECT EXPROPRIATION”
The English text of the CETA trade agreement was quickly compiled on August 1, 2014 so it could be conveyed on August 5 to the German government and the other 27 EU governments and the Canadian government for any objections. Then the agreement will be officially presented on September 25, 2014 by the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barraso during an EU-Canada summit in Ottawa. This text does not contain a table of contents and must still be legally edited and translated in the EU languages. What is most explosive in this technical jargon was summarized in the leaked text of 519 pages and its legal English is hard to read. (Source: heise.de)
TTIP MUST BE STOPPED
The abundance of trade agreements brings many volunteers or globalization critics to ask regarding the TTIP: Why shouldn’t we worry or panic about everything? The TTIP and the TPP (Transpacific Partnership agreement) pursued simultaneously on the Pacific side by the US are not merely continuations of the past reactionary liberalization of world trade. The TTIP is a very dangerous quantum leap.
While there are many FTAs, the proposed TTIP has a uniquely enormous weight and formulates a clear claim to a leading role in the world economy. The old metropolises US and Europe want to stabilize their massive but dwindling influence with the TTIP and TPP and make their dominance incontestable. This will dangerously increase conflicts in worldwide economic relations.
TTIP is an “economic NATO.” Its global leadership appears in the declarations of the EU Commission and not only in the rhetorical flourishes of Hilary Clinton. EU trade commissioner De Gucht declared openly: “We will use TTIP to speed up rules and standards that could be a foundation for future international agreements. The common transatlantic leadership position in the development of global norms and standards should be protected.” (Source: Das Blaettchen)