LAST Friday the much delayed CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) between the EU and Canada hit a brick wall when the Belgium region of Wallonia voted to reject its ratification – under the Belgium constitution all five of its regions had to give agreement.
CETA is a ‘free trade’ agreement between the EU and Canada.
Like its big brother TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), the EU-US trade agreement, CETA may have been stalled by the vote in the Walloon parliament but that does not mean that the bosses and bankers have given up on forcing both these agreements on the working class of Europe and America.
The Canadians left Europe insisting that the EU had to sort out the socialist-led Walloon parliament and yesterday they obeyed, with European Council president, Donald Tusk, instructing the Belgium prime minister to whip them into line.
In response the leader of Wallonia, Paul Magnette, stated that this ultimatum ‘is not compatible with the exercise of democratic rights.’
In fact CETA along with TTIP is completely incompatible with the democratic rights of workers.
Both have been under secret negotiations, so scared were the negotiators of the predictable upsurge of opposition to them from the working class.
When the details of TTIP did become public, this mass opposition forced the bourgeoisie to back off and the deal was effectively dead.
Meanwhile CETA negotiations were moving on.
CETA contains all the provisions of TTIP that caused outrage when they became public, namely the legal right of giant multinational companies to trample over any national laws that inhibit their drive to exploit workers to extract as much profit as possible.
Laws governing health and safety at work, minimum wage laws and any restriction on privatisation would be overturned by legal challenges to a supreme international trade court presided over by the legal representatives of the multinationals.
With TTIP stalled, the capitalist class are banking on CETA as a means of finally forcing all its reactionary provisions through.
Despite the CETA agreement being unanimously condemned at the last TUC conference, it is clear the TUC leaders are not opposed in principle to these free trade agreements, they just want to get in on the act.
TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady issued a statement saying that the collapse of CETA should be a ‘wake-up call to UK politicians’ adding ‘Britain will need a trade deal with the EU after Brexit, and it mustn’t follow the failed Canadian model. We need a new approach to trade that creates good jobs and protects public services and workers’ rights. Not one that just prioritises the needs of big business. This is only possible if trade unions are meaningfully involved in negotiations from the start. Politicians should listen more to working people and less to corporate lobbyists.’
This belief that the capitalist class will ‘meaningfully involve’ unions in negotiations is complete rubbish as is her belief that it is possible to reach any fair trade agreement that protects public services like the NHS and safeguards workers’ rights. These agreements are solely to open Europe up to the unfettered domination of the multi-nationals and nothing else.
The only way that workers can protect vital public services and any employment rights is to fight for them, something the TUC leaders have no intention of doing. While they complain that CETA would force the privatisation of the NHS and other public services they themselves have done absolutely nothing to fight privatisation or defend a single job.
The TUC leaders have opposed any fight against hospital closures and have abandoned the junior doctors to fight on alone against the wage-cutting, unsafe contracts that Hunt is intent on spreading throughout the NHS to soften them up for the privateers.
Instead of leading a fight, these union bureaucrats are pleading for a corporatist role in negotiating the very agreements designed to smash all the past gains made by workers.
These leaders must be thrown out and replaced with a leadership that will ‘wake up the politicians’ by organising a general strike to kick out the Tories and bring in a workers government that will repudiate all these capitalist trade agreements and advance to a socialist economy.