THILO BODE CRITICIZES TTP AS “IMPUDENCE”
[This article is translated from the German on the Internet. Thilo Bode is the director of the food and human rights organization Foodwatch and author of “The Free Trade Lie” (March 2015).]
In Germany, the debate around the free trade agreement TTIP between the EU and the US is very passionate. “Foodwatch”-head Thilo Bode is one of the opponents. He explains why TTIP should be stopped in his book “The Free Trade Lie.”
“The Free Trade Lie,” the title of the book of the environmental defender Thilo Bode, alludes to a targeted dis- and miss-information campaign by politics and commercial associations around TTIP. They exaggerate and glorify the predicted advantages of free trade agreements as artificially high. Bode gives an example. “In a study cited as BDI, the EU and the US can expect economic growth of 100 billion Euros per year. But what does the study really say? The study says the gross domestic product will be 100 billion Euros higher after 10 years. The BDI makes almost a trillion out of 100 billion. That is brazen.”
In his book, Foodwatch head Bode cites many similar examples. In his eyes, the second strategy of the TTIP lobby is hiding or even denying risks. Bode calls this “undermining the democratic process. This results from three factors: firstly, only regulations accepted by both the EU and the US will be valid in the future according to the TTIP, secondly, the arbitration courts that enable corporations to sue against environmental laws of states and demand compensation and thirdly, the general rule whatever is agreed in TTIP is international law and laws contradicting this are automatically illegal and must be changed.”
Bode harshly criticizes the political leaders of the negotiations. Like the TTIP lobby, he pleads for his position with powerful statements and must expose himself to the reproach of fomenting anxieties. Advocates of the agreement like the EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom emphasize the food standards for consumers in Europe will not be lowered. There is no reason for worry about chlorinated chickens. Thilo Bode replies: even if that were true, that is a threat, not a comfort, for me. We want to make advances in consumer protection, agriculture, animal protection, foods, chemical security and worker rights, not a freezing of standards. Every social-political advance would be put on ice.”
The doctorate in economics stresses he is not against free trade on principle. Germany is involved in around 130 free trade agreements without any great uproar. No one wants to take away cost-saving possibilities from businesses. We could agree on screw-lengths and blinker colors. Generally there is no problem here. But we may not lump together screw-lengths with health protection.”
TTIP simply reaches too far. Therefore the agreement must be stopped. According to Bode’s assessment, that could work if a resistance similar to that in the German population is mobilized in France, the second largest player of the EU. However German chancellor Angela Merkel wants the TTIP negotiations to be successfully concluded in 2015.
Thilo Bode is one of those uncomfortable contemporaries of whom there cannot be enough in the world. The founder of the consumer organization “Foodwatch” and former director of “Greenpeace” puts his finger on the wounds regularly inflicted on society by the economy and politics and makes their backgrounds and causes understandable. The trained economist now accepts a complex theme, the free trade agreement TTIP that could be concluded between the EU and the US. The core statement is reflected in the title of his new book: “The Free Trade Lie. Why the TTIP only benefits corporations – and hurts all of us.” This is not an easy theme when people think of chlorinated chicken or the Nurnberger grilled sausage that could soon be showcased in Kentucky. Much more is involved. In the Foreword, the author explains graphically why discussion of this agreement is necessary for all of us. Bode is not a free trade opponent and underscores that the food of the world’s population would not be possible without international trade. As a supporter of fair free trade, he was not an opponent of the TTIP from the start. However he realized as he grappled with the theme: “The TTIP agreement as it is now secretly drafted does not serve the participating countries, the majority of their citizens, the majority of their businesses or the poorer countries. It serves almost exclusively the mammoth corporations that act worldwide and want to build and secure their market shares and their influence.”
HOW WE ARE ALL THOUGHT TO BE STUPID
Bode knows that trade is already flourishing between the EU and the US and rightly asks: “Why is a super-complex, politically risky agreement of international law needed?” As an international law agreement, the TTIP will have priority over European and national laws. The sticking point is that the political sovereignty of countries can be annulled with free trade agreements. Thus the TTIP involves the establishment of new rules, not simply technical norms and the adjustment of standards as politicians like to argue. The new rules are fixed by the big multinationals that benefit.
Thus future improvements of security standards and labeling regulations for foods could be prevented by dismantling non-tariff trade barriers. Consumers and the environment will be the losers as often happens, Bode says.
Thilo Bode is not a free trade enemy but his book is a clear “No” to the TTIP free trade agreement. The supplements are informative, not only his text. A chronology of the negotiations and Bode’s correspondence with leading German politicians make clear how we are all thought to be stupid. Hopefully “The Free trade Lie” will also be read by politicians. This could lead to reflection on Kurt Tucholsky’s maxim written long before the idea of free trade agreements: “Politics can be defined in this country as the realization of economic goals with the help of legislation.”
THE FREE TRADE LIE
Why TTIP only benefits corporations – and harms all of us
By Thilo Bode
[This reading sample of Thilo Bode’s March 2015 book is translated from the German on the Internet.]
[The Coup de-etat of Corporations. In Germany and Europe, resistance grows against the planned free trade agreement TTIP. Thilo Belo describes graphically with analytical sharpness how TTIP endangers consumer rights and environmental standards. Corporations threaten to determine our future. Stronger worker- and consumer rights like more effective environmental protection depend on their mercy. Preventing this with all our strength is vital. Thilo Bode shows what is happening in the secret negotiations between the European Union and the US and what is at stake for all of us.]
At the end of the 1970s, I first came into contact with free trade in its practical form in Maghreb. As a young man, I collaborated in economic development projects in Tunesia and defended free trade against critics who were plentiful at that time. For them, international trade was synonymous with “exploitation by imperialists.” As an economist, I was occupied in my study with international trade and development policy. Such sweeping statements and broad generalizations annoyed me forty years ago and still annoy me today. If every country had to produce all products and services itself as though it were not sensible that countries use their strengths and special conditions in a division of labor world economy. Feeding the world population would be impossible without international trade.
In Tunesia, first-rate olives thrive despite little rain. They can be exported as olive oil to Europe and earn foreign currency for importing irrigation-intensive wheat. That would be a good, ecologically reasonable exchange for the trading partners. That was the theory for advancing the economic development of North Africa’s poor countries.
In practice, I then witnessed how this convincing theory was immobilized by power and the safeguarding of interests. Tunesia could hardly export olive oil to Europe and is still hindered today in its free export with trade harassments and tariffs since Tunisian olives compete with the subsidized olive production in the Mediterranean states of the EU. Economic aid finances expensive irrigation projects for growing wheat instead of giving African olive producers the chance to earn money with good products and promote the economy in poor rural regions. This is betrayal of the free trade idea committed by politicians who speak of free trade and practice protectionism – in order to then grant patronizing economic aid.
Nevertheless I am still convinced today of the idea of fair free trade that offers advantages to all participants. When the planned free trade agreement TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) between the US and the European Union appeared increasingly in the media, I was not against this on principle at first. Ultimately an agreement between two economically highly developed and closely linked economic zones is central, not trade relations between an industrial- and a third world country. Then I began to penetrate more deeply, stimulated by many promoters and supporters of Foodwatch who posed questions and encouraged us to look more closely at the TTIP.
We did that and the result is this book. Part 1 tries to explain TTIP – its economic foundations and the expected economic effects – in a generally understandable way. The controversial debates, the state of the negotiations and the effects of TTIP on our democracy are summarized there. In the second part, the effects that TTIP could have on our daily routine are described. The significance of the TTIP is gigantic since it touches nearly all economic- and industrial areas. I must limit myself to several exemplary areas. These are fields that on one hand affect us immediately in the daily grind: chemicals, food, agriculture, animal protection and worker rights.
The investigation over months recalled that experience in Tunesia forty years ago. The gulf between theory and practice of the free trade idea is much crasser with the TTIP than at that time. The TTIP agreement that is now drafted in secret does not serve the participating countries, the majority of their citizens, and the majority of their businesses or poorer countries. The TTIP serves almost exclusively the mammoth worldwide businesses that protect their market shares and their influence. A sentence from the TTIP negotiation mandate given by the EU member states of the EU commission shows how I reached this conclusion. Investors should be granted “the highest possible measure of legal protection and legal certainty,” the mandate says. The mandate does not give that ambitious goal – “the highest possible measure” – for any other theme or group.
TTIP emphasizes this formulation. Be not diverted by the TTIP theme “chlorinated chicken” or by the question whether Nurnberg grilled sausages could soon travel from Kentucky to grills in Europe. This is only marginal in the TTIP. Corporate interests are melted into laws that would be better safeguarded by the international law TTIP agreement than by any French, Danish, US-American or German law. As Kurt Tucholsky recognized nearly a hundred years ago, “Politics in this country can be defined as the realization of economic goals with the help of legislation.”
The political and economic elites in Europe and the US that want to enforce the TTIP with all their power against the will of citizens confuse the freedom of the economy with the freedom of society to set its rules. After the research and many conversations for this book, the great unanswered question remains for me, why do representatives strip themselves of power and why they are ready to accept serious risks for democracy for the benefit of miniscule economic advantages?
Let us take our civil freedom and say “No” to TTIP.
THE CARTEL OF THE TRIVIALIZERS
The arrogance of power appeared repeatedly on that day in May 2014. In Berlin, activists of the Compact organization wanted to give 470,000 signatures against the transatlantic free trade agreement TTIP between the European Union and the US to German economics minister Sigmar Gabriel. They chose Gabriel’s public meeting with EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht to criticize the TTIP. Many remember the politician’s appearance as rather arrogant. Karel De Gucht, Europe’s trade minister and chief TTIP negotiator, countered the 470,000 signatures of the anti-TTIP appeal: “I represent 500 million.” Sigmar Gabriel had no time for grateful acceptance of the signatures. Having no time is really a scandal for a vice-chancellor and SPD-head. 470,000 persons cannot be taken to be stupid. But Sigmar Gabriel did that. He said: “470,000 signatures were gathered against something that does not exist.” TTIP is a phantom.
For “something that does not even exist,” TTIP is thriving largely in secret. Since 2011, the EU and the US have spoken about a possible free trade agreement. A special team of experts of the US government and the EU commission, the “High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth,” first sounded out the possibilities of a deeper transatlantic cooperation. In the middle of 2013, the Council of the European Trade Ministry (in Germany, the economics minister) gave the EU commission the mandate to negotiate a free trade agreement with the US (TTIP, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). There was never a formal resolution of the Bundestag or the EU Parliament. Perhaps this fact prompts Sigmar Gabriel’s conclusion, TTIP does not even exist.
Only a few weeks after Gabriel’s sentence, his coalition partner CDU published a brochure about this “something that does not even exist.” Very real advantages are now ascribed to the supposed phantom TTIP. “The TTIP Will Benefit the German Economy” was its title. A logo emblazoned the cover: a silhouette of a bridge recalling the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on an orange-colored circle with the slogan “TTIP – Bridge to the Future.” Perhaps the creators of the brochure hoped the reader would see himself driving over the Golden Gate Bridge into a gold-orange future – thanks to the TTIP.
The CDU burrows deep in technical details in its brochure: “Airbags must be calibrated completely differently for the EU- and the US-markets because the EU regulations assume a buckled driver and US regulations assume an unbuckled driver,” the paper says. Red blinker lights (in the US) and yellow blinker lights (in the EU) increase the price of manufacturing processes just like non-adjustable side mirrors (in the US) and adjustable side mirrors (in the EU) and different regulations on the use of crash-test dummies.”
The party also sees a great potential savings in mechanical engineering. Because of different regulations, technical products like gas instrument controls, gas pipes, cable harnesses or safety valves from Germany can only be sold with special parts in the US. “This unnecessarily raises the manufacturing costs and thus the price for the end user.” As people in the past sought uniform standards within the European Union “from telephone books to mains voltage, from the security of our light trucks to the quality of our food,” the exchange of goods and services with the US will be easier in the future through the TTIP. Lower tariffs, less bureaucracy, identical standards for cars, machines, cosmetics, clothing, food and much more – that is the formula for new sales markets and new jobs, for a greater choice of products and lower prices and ultimately for more money in the pocketbook of every individual. “We all gain something from the TTIP: whether as consumers or workers, as sellers or employees or as achievers or beneficiaries.” So the TTIP stands alongside the silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge in the warm evening as the “bridge into the future.”
An irritating pathos is often hidden in the statements of German government representatives and other TTIP supporters, a crass disparity between claim – lower tariffs, adjustment of technical standards – and their supposed significance. In a martial tone, the hardly rhetorically ambitious German chancellor declared her party would “fight through the TTIP against all resistance.” The EU must negotiate the agreement “hook, line and sinker.” Angela Merkel compared the debate over the free trade agreement with that debate around the double Nato resolution in the 1980s that split society in two camps. Merkel’s vice-chancellor SPD head Sigmar Gabriel morally inflamed the debate in the Bundestag. “If we err here, our children will curse us.” “Several hundred thousand persons in Germany could lose their jobs” if the TTIP breaks down (and the CETA free trade agreement already largely negotiated between the EU and Canada). “A medium catastrophe” would threaten Germany. Daimler-head Dieter Zetsche worried that Germany and the EU would miss an “historical chance” without the TTIP. The economic spokesperson of the CDU Bundestag fraction Joachim Pfeiffer spoke of a “century-chance.” Can this be taken seriously: that our children will curse us if we do not standardize the colors of the rear-blinkers? Is TTIP a “century-chance”? Will our chances be greater? Will people asking questions be called sin?
Merkel, Gabriel & Co appeal to diffuse fears when they claim Germany and Europe would “lose connection to Asian countries” and even “uncouple from the world markets” without the agreement. Beyond growth and new jobs, “geostrategic reasons” are crucial for the TTIP according to the US ambassador to the European Union, Anthony Gardner. A glance at the Middle East or at Russia’s Ukraine policy make clear that TTIP could strengthen the transatlantic alliance economically as Nato does militarily. “We must make the rules in world trade before others make them,” Anthony Gardner said. “TTIP is indispensable and not only important for many reasons.” Angela Merkel’s famous saying about the lack of alternatives resonates in such sentences. TTIP is defended as though we have no alternative. Nevertheless we will pay bitterly if we make the wrong choice.
Berlin. In July 2014, George Miller from San Francisco sat on the stage of a conference hall of the Friedrich-Ebert foundation. He joined in a podium discussion about free trade agreements. Miller is not just any US politician. He is one of the most senior members with forty years as a congressional representative. The democrat from California is not an opponent of free trade. Arguing against an agreement like TTIP would never occur to him if it only make double tests superfluous, adjusted technical standards and abolished senseless tariffs from pre-historic times.
At the end of 2013, George Miller wrote a letter to his president and party-friend Barack Obama that was signed by more than a third of the 435 congressional representatives. The letter was directed against the planned so-called “Fast track” law, a kind of fast process that massively increases the powers of the US government in negotiating free trade agreements and correspondingly narrows the powers of the US Congress. The representatives will not be able to change detailed contents of the agreement draft when voting on TTIP and other free trade agreements. They will only vote “Yes” or “No” on the agreement as a whole pact. They could not approve identically colored rear blinkers and simultaneously vote against more lax rules on transatlantic bank regulation.
At the end of his long political career, George Miller came to Berlin on this day in the summer of 2014 to strengthen his German hearers in their resistance against TTIP. Will there be hundreds of thousands or even millions of new jobs through TTIP? “That is a fairy-tale,” Miller replies. Will more growth and prosperity for everyone arise through the integration of the economic zones US and EU into the largest free trade zone of the world? “The interests of citizens must be central, not the interests of corporations,” the man from San Francisco answered. “TTIP is like a lottery: few winners and many losers.” George Miller and the other signatories of his letter to President Obama feel a “deep anxiety” in view of the range of this free trade agreement. The camp of advocates fades out the fact that modern free trade agreements are not limited to adjusting standards for cars and machines. They do not only aim at lowering or abolishing tariffs on imports. Agreements like the planned TTIP concern nearly all political fields from environmental protection and agriculture to labor law and the public health system. Such agreements encroach in patent- and data-protection and standards for foods and chemicals. They concern questions of energy production as in the case of fracking. They could worsen he regulation of banks and improve the protection of foreign investors. What is most alarming is that TTIP intrudes in legislation on national and European planes. The agreement narrows the rights of national and European parliaments. TTIP hides the risk of weakening national and European justice through a parallel system of justice.
Society has a right to a thorough, honest and completely transparent debate. However the pro-TTIP camp minimizes every objection or elevates TTIP to a “geostrategic” instrument, an “economic Nato” as though the Cold War were still reality. The true significance of the free trade agreement is concealed.
Every citizen who will have to bear the consequences of the TTIP should be worried and furious. Parliamentarians who usually present their standpoints in a very composed level-headed way become furious. The public at the event in Berlin could feel Miller’s anger when he said: “With the enormous significance of modern trade agreements, the treatment of us congressional representatives is disgraceful. We are fed with documents full of holes and cannot see other documents. Under these circumstances, we cannot exercise our constitutional mandate and make responsible policy for our citizens. We were elected and not those who negotiate such agreements in our names. This is an insult for an elected parliament and democracy.”
What George Miller says about the contempt of the US Congress is also true for Europe and Germany. Neither the European Parliament nor the Bundestag participated through formal resolutions when Europe’s governments issued the mandate to the EU commission to negotiate with the US on the TTIP. That mandate was kept secret for a long time. As Miller feels ignored as a parliamentarian, European and Bundestag delegates feel ignored and marginalized in their rights by the unspeakable secrecy policy in the current TTIP negotiations. Instead of providing delegates and citizens with maximum information, responsible TTIP supporters foment fear or counter criticism with the argument that criticism will first be legitimate after the agreement is negotiated. When negotiation of the agreement ends, the parliaments’ right to collaborate will be reduced to a simple “Yes” or “No.” Even worse, whether the national parliaments would have to ratify the agreement at the end is unclear, contrary to what economics minister Sigmar Gabriel suggests.
The increasingly aggressive statements of those who welcome the planned agreement imply there are only a few ideologically wrong-headed conservationists, social state dreamers and eternal opponents of globalization who oppose the TTIP with their non-governmental organizations driven by a mixture of anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories. But that is wrong. Millions of people, Americans and Europeans, prominent and non-prominent, US congresspersons and German mayors, unionists from Philadelphia and consumer protectors from Marseille, Spanish entrepreneurs and Austrian academics see the TTIP as dangerous.
The multi-millionaire and former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg is a glowing defender of the economic mainstream. Still he sharply criticizes “the tobacco industry using free trade- and investment agreements to attack national laws limiting tobacco consumption.” Bloomberg is vigorously supported by Margaret Chan, general director of the World Health Organization WHO: “International trade has good and bad consequences for human health. Misusing investment agreements to handcuff governments who want to protect from products that kill is alarming. If this trade agreement also restricts access to affordable medicines, we must ask: Is that the progress we want?”
Call Sen Wyden at 503-326-7525
John Hilary, TTIP: Charter for Deregulation, Attack on Jobs and Destruction of Democracy, revised Feb 2015, 58 pp http://rosalux.gr/sites/default/files/publications/ttip_web.pdf