THOUSANDS of European citizens took to the streets in dozens of European cities on October 11 to show their rejection of the proposed trade deals between the European Union and Canada (CETA) and the EU and the US (TTIP).
Global union federation IUF said: ‘In Austria, the national centre OGB was an early endorser of the Action Day and their members filled the streets of Vienna and other cities.
‘Opposition is growing on both sides of the Atlantic. In September, the UK TUC adopted a resolution at its congress calling on unions to “adopt a clear position of outright opposition to TTIP, and the other trade agreements currently being negotiated”.
‘In May this year, the IUF Executive adopted a clear call to oppose CETA, TTIP and the looming Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) as vehicles for strengthening transnational capital at the expense of democratic government and social and environmental standards.’
In its report Trade deals that threaten Democracy, the IUF says: ‘An intricate web of bilateral and regional investment agreements, some of them deliberately and misleadingly packaged as free trade agreements, have conferred on transnational capital new powers to directly challenge the democratic right of governments to regulate and to legislate in the public interest.
‘The latest proposed treaty instruments to embody these investor ambitions are the EU-US trade deal now known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
‘Both these treaties are being negotiated under conditions of the strictest secrecy.
‘Corporations draft and share the negotiating texts, but citizens are denied access in the name of national security.
‘On the basis of the leaked texts we know that they would build on existing trade and investment rules by incorporating the most toxic elements of the already-existing thousands of treaties and granting expanded powers to transnational capital to challenge public interest policies and practices, eliminating or putting at risk rights for which workers and unions have struggled over many decades.’
The report stresses: ‘At the heart of these projects is the drive to further expand the already considerable power of transnational investors by restricting the regulatory power of governments and locking the system into place to prevent new regulatory initiatives or reverse privatisations.’
It adds: ‘The TPPA incorporates the most toxic elements of the regional and bilateral trade and investment treaties which have been layered on to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for expanding the scope and enforcement of transnational investment.
‘The “right” of investors to directly challenge government laws and regulations at national and sub-national level through secret arbitration tribunals which by-pass domestic courts is grounded in an expansive definition of “investment” which applies to even anticipated, future profits and purely speculative financial instruments.
‘While WTO rules limit governments’ ability to favour or support domestic producers in ways which “discriminate” against foreign investors (the national treatment/most favoured nation principles), these expanded powers confer elevated, exclusive privileges on transnational capital.
‘The TTIP is at a less developed stage – formal negotiations began only last year, though it has long been a corporate priority – but government pronouncements and EU and US corporate wish lists setting out their goals for the negotiations show that the TTIP will bear a strong family resemblance to what we know of the TPPA.
‘There would be little point to the treaty if it too were not WTO-plus. On the basis of the leaked texts and what we already know about the devastating impact of the WTO and the regional and bilateral agreements, the trade union movement should commit to defeating these two treaties as an urgent priority.’
The report says: ‘Most of the approximately 300 regional and bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) are essentially investment treaties.
‘The thousands of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) deal exclusively with investment issues. Over 90% of these treaties provide investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions which allow corporations to directly sue adhering governments for damages in closed tribunals for which there is no appeals process.
‘Long familiar in North America thanks to a number of well-publicised NAFTA cases, investment treaties have only recently become a contentious issue in Europe in connection with the proposed inclusion of ISDS in the TTIP.
‘But the EU and its members have signed over 1,400 bilateral investment treaties, including nine between member states and the US. A number of these BITs are between EU member states, and EU investors have made generous use of the ISDS mechanism.
‘Another multi-lateral treaty, the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) signed by 51 member countries and the European Union, which came into force in 1998, contains binding ISDS provisions that are increasingly being made use of.
‘Australia, Iceland, Norway, and Russia have signed but not ratified the ECT; the US and Canada are not signatories.’
The report goes on to warn: ‘Layer by layer, a powerful machine has been constructed to weaken the capacity of governments to regulate in the public interest.
‘Many of the WTO treaties, like the TRIPS agreement on intellectual property, were built by first negotiating a series of wide-ranging bilaterals to neutralise opposition at the multilateral WTO.
‘FTAs and BITs were in turn layered onto these treaties, which provide a floor. These have then become more expansive, more expensive and the corporations have become more litigious.
‘The TPPA and TTIP would in turn set the new gold standard for corporate power. New adherents to the TPPA would have to join on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.’
It concludes: ‘The web of treaty obligations incorporated in the global investment regime already grants such enormous powers to transnational corporations that attempts to restrict the reach of new agreements with limiting clauses face substantial obstacles.’
It further warns: ‘No investment treaty sets out mechanisms by which the responsibilities of corporations to society can be effectively enforced.’
The report says: ‘Rather than seeking exemptions or improved language, the goal should be to stop these treaties by making them a major national political issue, highlighting their domestic impact.’
What is required is action by the trade unions not just protests, however large or vocal. The capitalist crisis is driving forward the whole privatisation drive and attacks on workers’ living standards, rights and public services.
There must be general strikes to bring down capitalist governments and go forward to workers governments and socialism.
This means building the revolutionary leadership of the Fourth International in all countries to complete the world socialist revolution.