STOP TTIP & CETA!
CALLTO THE MEGA-DEMONSTRATION IN BERLIN ON SATURDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2015-10-05
[This call to a mass demonstration is translated from the German on the Internet, http://ttip-demo.de
In the fall of 2015, the conflict around the trade- and investment agreements TTIP and CETA is in its red-hot turbulent phase. Both agreements threaten to undermine and suspend democracy and the rule of law.
It is high time to take our protest against these agreements to the streets!
We plead for a trade- and investment policy based on high ecological and social standards that promotes sustainable development in all countries. In particular
• democracy and the constitutional state must be maintained and the creative possibilities of states, countries and local communities guaranteed and ensured for the future,
• national and international standards on human and environmental protection must be respected and strengthened (and)
• the development of a just world economic order must be promoted and responsibility of businesses codified worldwide.
We need social and ecological guard rails for globalization. But TTIP and CETA go in the wrong direction. The “value” of free trade is set above the value of ecological and social rules. Special rights for investors and investor-state arbitration proceedings endanger parliamentary possibilities. TTIP and CETA put public and non-profit services and necessities, cu9ltural diversity and educational offers under pressure. They draw the wrong lessons from the financial crisis, strengthen international businesses and weaken small and medium-size businesses, even in farming.
TTIP and CETA exclude the countries of the global South instead of helping solve global problems like hunger, climate change and distributive justice.
Therefore we support international agreements that
• raise environmental-, social-, data- and consumer protection standards instead of lowering or suspending them,
• codifies labor standards like the core labor norms of the International Labor Organization instead of undermining them,
• strengthens public and non-profit services and vital necessities instead of weakening them,
• promotes cultural diversity and public education possibilities instead of seeing them as trade barriers,
• initiates sustainable farming and livestock breeding instead of genetic engineering and industrial agriculture,
• limits the power of corporations and financial market actors instead of expanding their power,
• orients globally instead of excluding the majority of people and
• negotiates openly and transparently instead of secretly in back rooms.
Let us take to the streets on Saturday October 10, 2015 in Berlin. Come and demonstrate with us!
EU-US TRADE AGREEMENT: DEMOCRACY UNDER ATTACK
By Elisabeth Beer
[This blog-article published on June 23, 2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://blog.arbeit-wirtschaft.at
The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is the focus of attention in the trade discussion today. Businesses will be granted the possibility of suing against regulations before private arbitration courts. ISDS endangers democracy. How can this be resisted?
BACKGROUND: WHY IS THE LAWSUIT MECHANISM DANGEROUS?
Investor-state dispute settlement procedures are part of many investment protection and free trade agreements and are also earmarked for the planned TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). They enable foreign investors to sue for compensation for new regulatory measures when these measures diminish the profits of their business model. These procedures take place before private arbitration courts under exclusion of the public and evasion of the national court system. In addition, the arbitration courts are only obligated to the international right of investment.
In the last 15 years, both the number of disputes and criticism of these procedures have greatly increased. A broad public debate over the privileged lawsuit possibilities of international corporations is underway particularly in sued states. The limitation of nation-state sovereignty – the endangerment of new legal measures in the interest of the general public is at the heart of the discussion. The procedures themselves are also criticized: the legitimacy of ad-hoc arbitration courts, the independence and impartiality of arbitrators, the non-existent transparency of the procedures and the amount of compensation benefits.
A GENERAL EVALUATION OF THE CONSULTATION ON INVESTMENT PROTECTION AND ISDS IN THE TTIP
Intensive criticism of the negotiations with the US and Canada prompted the European commission to the unique step in EU trade policy of temporarily suspending negotiations with the US on investment protection and ISDS and initiating a public consultation. This public consultation continued up to July 6, 2014 and gave organizations and people in Europe the possibility of being heard in Brussels.
The consultation document published by the European commission does not allow commenting on the very controversial question whether there should or should not be an investor-state dispute settlement procedure ion the TTIP or other EU investment or free trade agreements. Since the commission does not permit this discussion, it ignores the enormous misgivings of the critical public and the broad population.
Secondly, the commission with its questions and explanations implies that the new EU approach would be much better than the predominant traditional investment agreements. However the proposals are too weak since the individual “reform elements” still give considerable interpretation latitude in interpreting standards to the private ad hoc arbitration courts.
The proposals are also not plausible since the texts for the consultation come from the agreement with Canada and not from the TTIP negotiations. In addition, a serious judgment is not possible because only excerpts from the agreement texts were presented… Only general ideals of the commission are formulated. There can hardly be another conclusion than that this consultation is a farce.
OPPOSING PRIVILEGES OF INVESTORS
Nevertheless a broad participation in the consultation enables critical voices to be heard. The commission received around 20,000 responses. Business associations on the European and national planes have intensively lobbied and mobilized to defend the special rights to sue for multinational businesses.
However corporate rights to sue have fatal effects on the formation of future laws and regulations and on our democratic constitutional and welfare state. These rights to sue are directly connected with investment protection rules. Therefore the commission proposal should be rejected on principle in all its elements.
AK Europe, OGB Europe office and Friends of the Earth Europe are starting an initiative enabling everyone to share in this consultation. A principled position and answers to detailed questions can be sent to the commission with the help of the website www.no2isds.eu. Sound arguments are presented on why investment protection and ISDS should be rejected. What should be done to prevent democracy being in the dock? Be engaged! www.no2isds.eu offers a possibility.
CORPORATE RIGHTS TO SUE IN THE TTIP
By Elisabeth Beer
[This blog-article published on May 21, 2015 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://blog.arbeit-wirtschaft.at
The AK and Friends of the Earth are taking the next step. Members of the European Parliament should publically reject special corporate rights to sue in the TTIP. This demand is posted at www.no2isds.eu. Next week the European Parliament will take its position on the free trade agreement between the EU and the US.
MASSIVE PROTEST AGAINST ISDS ALREADY HAS EFFECTS
In the spring of 2014, the European commission initiated a public consultation in reaction to the massive resistance of unions, employee associations and civil society against multinational companies’ exclusive rights to sue. At the same time it suspended negotiations on the investment protection chapter with the US. Participation was greater than ever, nearly 150,000 answered the very technical questions. The overwhelming majority of 97 percent rejects the special rights to sue on principle. Nearly 34,000 responses came from Austria alone. This was only possible on account of “no2isds,” a campaign of Austrian employee associations and Friends of the Earth.
Since then, the economy and its lobbyists have engaged in the reform discussion because public opinion on the arbitration courts is clear: secret courts not democratically legitimated, partisan arbitrators, non-transparent procedures and intimidators of governments. Privileged rights for multinational companies should be rejected. Concessions are necessary.
THE COMMISSION TRIES TO MUZZLE CRITICS
The commission concretizes its proposals before the vote in the European Parliament. The states’ right of regulation should be better protected through a clause. The litigating parties should choose judges from a list of qualified persons to counter the reproach of the corruptibility of ISDS arbitrators. Arbitration rulings should ultimately be reviewed by a court of appeal in the future.
An assessment of the long awaited reform proposals turns out very disillusioning. They do not grapple with the fundamental criticism of the ISDS and investment protection rules and are purely cosmetic. Lawsuits against states should still be possible but a little harder.
LET US NOT THROW DUST IN PEOPLE’S EYES…
Neither cosmetics in the investment protection rules nor an international investment arbitration court is an answer to the basic question: why should corporations be granted privileged rights of property protection and rights to sue? Why is it necessary to treat companies from the US (and also Canada, Japan etc) differently than European citizens and the local economy?
The one-sidedness of investor protection is not shaken in the supposed reform discussion. Investors receive rights while no duties are imposed on them. Why should corporations be able to sue while destruction of the environment and human rights violations by investors cannot be denounced before these courts? Why do we need more rights for investors? Private property is strongly protected in Europe and the independent courts work efficiently.
In the next weeks, the European Parliament will make clear its position on the TTIP. The imminent votes in the trade committee and the plenary are a unique opportunity for the European Parliament to set a clear and unmistakable sign to European negotiators that ISDS is unacceptable in a free trade agreement. We urge all delegates in the European Parliament to decisively reject special rights for corporations.
“A PARALLEL JUSTICE SYSTEM IS ARISING”
Interview with Thilo Bode on the TTIP, Dangers for Democracy and Growing Resistance against the Planned Agreement
[This interview published on 9/9/2015 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.freitag.de
. “The people have become very distrustful since the financial crisis,” Thilo Bode says. In 2002, Thilo Bode (68) founded the Foodwatch organization that has uncovered many food scandals. He was also director of Greenpeace.]
Jacob Augstein: Mr. Bode, the majority of Europeans do not have a problem with the planned free trade agreement TTIP. Only the Germans are very critical. Is that the German fear?
Thilo Bode: NO, I do not believe that. Rather rationality stopped informing the people. The more they know, the more strongly they are against the backroom negotiations between the US and Europe.
That the German export world master is so skeptical to this trade agreement is not obvious to me.
A trade agreement per se would not be bad. More is involved than standardizing the colors of blinkers or adjusting German and American airbags. This agreement goes far beyond such measures.
Couldn’t this be compared with a free trade zone?
No, such agreements usually remove tariffs. With a few exceptions, no exorbitantly high tariffs exist between the US and Germany. The TTIP will adjust social-political regulations, not only technical regulations. For example, regulations involving security of chemicals, animal protection, employee rights, food security and data protection are involved.
Are you a free trade opponent?
Quite the contrary! Every friend of free trade like me must be against TTIP. TTIP discredits the idea of free trade. It is only used as a cover for forcing through very different interests. Companies want to influence legislation.
Hasn’t industry always tried that?
Yes, but not to this extent. TTIP gives the industrial lobby on both sides of the Atlantic the possibility of influencing legislation early on outside parliamentary control through government agencies and circles of experts. Preventing or watering down regulations oriented in the public interest is the focus. An invention like food meters that shows the content of sugar, fat and other substances would be prohibited.
Angela Merkel says TTIP is a chance to bring worldwide standards to the US- and European level. Isn’t the underlying idea to join forces against the Asian competition?
You are mixing two arguments.
What two arguments?
One is a geo-strategic argument. We must cooperate with the US to give new support to the world. If that is the goal, that should be stated and a trade agreement should not be used as a cover.
And the other?
The other is the argument that we should have a guiding principle because otherwise we would have to adopt the rotten standards of the Chinese. That is nonsense. Would we have to accept Chinese norms for children’s toys or maximum limits for pesticides? Of course not.
Will workers profit from the standards on working conditions, social protections or other matters?
In the TTIP, technical norms as for example the characteristics of pressure tables are thrown together with political-social questions – safety of chemicals, foods, employee standards and so on. Technical improvements lead to lower costs which are very interesting for industry.
… But better social standards cost money.
That is the problem. More employee rights cost money like protection of the atmosphere and more transparency with food. But the goal of TTIP is lowering costs by abolishing trade barriers. When politicians try to fool us that the agreement raises standards, that is not true in the social-political realm.
Should our intelligent European standards be rescued from the wicked Americans?
Europe is not the paradise of high standards. For example, we always act as though we had a small rural farming to be protected unlike the US. That is nonsense. We also have a highly industrialized agriculture that urgently needs ecological standards. That our European standards must be improved is drowned in the discussion. To want to ensure them through the TTP is a threat, not a promise.
Will TTIP increase prosperity – which is the reason for trade agreements?
Hardly. Official studies show the direct effects for more jobs and growth will be minimal. Industry and some politicians exaggerate the results of these studies. Industry trade association s exaggerated the growth effects too high by a factor of ten and had to stop this deception on account of criticism from Foodwatch. Advocates pretend these effects will happen quasi over night.
The economic effects of this agreement will first be manifest from 2027. For example, the European commission assumes every citizen will have nine more euros in his or her pocket after ten years. To gain approval of a gigantic agreement in this way is absurd.
Does politics rely on the TTIP – with its miserable growth prospects?
If you ask me, politicians have not looked closely at the agreement. They hear the phrase free trade and then the bells ring. Whoever is against TTIP is slandered as schizophrenic or an enemy of international trade. Outrageous political conclusions were drawn. How was that possible?
Yes, how was that possible?
I am not a follower of conspiracy theories. I cannot explain the TTIP obsession as only the blind economic gullibility of politics. The naïve hope of a free economic program resonates there. Since this program is rather paltry, the conclusion is obvious that something else is the driving force.
Could founding a new political entity, an EU-US supra-structure, be the goal?
I believe you are interpreting too much. In my opinion, it is much more prosaic. The interests of companies on both sides of the Atlantic are identical. Industry does not want more regulations – they fear regulations as the devil fears holy water… These rules can only be changed or improved with the agreement of the trade partner. National legislative possibilities will be noticeably restricted. A fundamental power shift wo9udl occur here.
From its informal hegemony, the economy will gain a formal hegemony, namely a codification of corporate interests. That is their highest goal with the TTIP.
Will investor protection be transferred to private arbitration courts?
That is one of the central elements of the TTIP agreement. Investments of the economy have absolute priority. Establishing a parallel justice system will enable companies to enforce their profit interests more effectively than in the past.
Is our culture threatened by the TTIP, the city theater, opera houses and bookstores?
The culture is being negotiated. But we do not know what is on the table. We have no access to the draft agreement texts. This makes the whole project very problematic.
This violates the nature of democracy. What they are debating publically is the idea of laws. Who will pass TTIP? The national parliaments will only be able to say Yes or No and vote across-the-board without discussing the details when the agreement is negotiated at the end. TTIP could take effect without a national parliamentarian ever raising his or her hand.
How is that?
With trade agreements, there is the possibility of temporary acceptance. On commission of the ministerial council, the European commission can resolve that the agreement can only be passed with the consent of the European Parliament. I think TTIP would pass today in the European Parliament.
Katja Kipping, the chairperson of DIE LINKE (The Left) party, calls TTIP an attack on democracy. Do you agree?
Yes, exactly. If TTIP passes, then every law in Europe that touches trade and investments must conform to the rules of the agreement in the future. TTIP as international law will have priority over European and national legislation.
What does that mean?
This means social progress depends on approval of a trade partner. To me, this goes much too far. We only want to facilitate trade, not form a political union with the US!
That sounds as though the US limits everything and we are the treasure of a higher culture. Is that too simple – and too anti-American?
All this has nothing to do with America against Europe or vice versa. The interests of corporations on both sides of the Atlantic are central.
What is the time schedule of the TTIP?
No one knows. Merkel and Obama want to complete this by the end of the year. The European commission says the middle of next year (2016). I believe this could even extend into the 2017 German election campaigns – if the agreement is not stopped, perhaps by a government.
What do you think of Sigmar Gabriel? He is not the leader of TTIP critics.
That could never be said of Gabriel.
Do you think he could be for the agreement as the economics minister and then suddenly against it as the SPD chancellor candidate?
That will depend on how strong are the critics and whether we can mobilize further. He will change his opinion if there is a danger of substantially losing votes.
What will come out of TTIP at the end?
That depends on whether the criticism of TTIP becomes European, whether we can intensify debates in France and influence the mood there. Then Gabriel could not keep saying we Germans are isolated in Europe. Then the chances of overturning this agreement would be really good.
Perhaps a European civil society will come out of criticism of the TTIP.
The European civil society already exists. 400 organizations are involved in the informal European civil rights projects. We have the goal of collecting three million signatures by the end of October.
If that does not happen, will you stop the agreement with the methods of Greenpeace?
With civil disobedience?
Yes, Greenpeace activists occupied oil platforms and rescued whales with their inflatable boats. Those were marvelous pictures. Would something like that be helpful against TTIP?
That is hard. We cannot chain ourselves to anything.
Perhaps to an American car or a chlorinated chicken.
At the end, better arguments are needed. The good thing is that people have become more suspicious since the outbreak of the financial crisis. Many feel the economy determines politics more than they themselves, the sovereign. These negative experiences create uneasiness about the TTIP. Maybe we will be successful without life rafts.
RELATED MARCH 2015 INTERVIEW WITH THILO BODE:
Foodwatch boss: 'Europeans will not stomach TTIP anymore,' March 18, 2015 http://www.euractiv.com/sections/trade-society/foodwatch-boss-europeans-will-not-stomach-ttip-anymore-312984
The EU-US free trade agreement, TTIP, is a big lie, says Thilo Bode, the director of the NGO Foodwatch, discussing his latest book on the transatlantic trade deal.
Thilo Bode founded the consumer rights organization Foodwatch in 2002 following the BSE (Mad Cow Disease) scandal.
He previously served as the manager of Greenpeace. Bode’s new book TTIP: The Free Trade Lie. Why TTIP only benefits corporations – and hurts all of us. He spoke with EurActiv Germany's Dario Sarmadi.
The majority of Europeans consider TTIP a good thing. Only the majority of Germans and Austrians are against it. Are we paranoid?
Most Europeans are just not correctly informed. My experience is that the more people know about TTIP, the more skeptical they are. We Europeans are allergic to that, if we allow our legislative sovereignty to be restricted. If France is also able to mobilize a majority against TTIP, then TTIP will not come. Not in its current form. The people will not stomach it anymore. They were cheated in the financial crisis, they had to pay for it, and they do not want to pay again.
But the internet is already flooded with TTIP critics, campaigns, articles and videos. Why did you feel you had to write an entire book on it now?
The issue is still not being debated honestly; the advantages and disadvantages of TTIP are falsely presented. My book is a polemic that explains the risks of the agreement and backs up the arguments against TTIP.
In a position piece for EurActiv, the secretary-general of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) referred to TTIP as a “bridge to the future”. He promised worldwide increases in prosperity, which he says Germany can benefit from. Does Mr. Tauber belong to the so-called “free trade liers” you refer to?
Of course he is one of them. Mr. Tauber misinforms the public. He should just come out and concretely say what the outcome of TTIP will be – but nobody can do that at this point in time. The predictions being made in these often outlandish studies on the economic opportunities of TTIP, do not amount to much. And supporters like Mr. Tauber, who refer to these studies, exaggerate the results and often even falsely present them. They turn one-time increases into annual growth rates. They do not mention that there will also be losers. Apparently TTIP’s supporters are so blinded by the idea of free trade that they no longer really see what TTIP actually entails.
What will thrive under TTIP?
Economic interests will gain much greater influence on legislation.
Are you referring to the controversial investor protection clause?
That is only one component. The binding character of TTIP under international law means EU law or German law may not violate standards which were agreed on in TTIP. As a result, our legislators cannot one-sidedly improve standards that are mutually recognized. They are dependent on the approval of their US trade partner. And how probable is it, that standards will be improved in the future – after all, TTIP is about cost-saving and socio-political standards often come at a higher cost. Therein lies the crux of the matter: technological and socio-political standardizations are thrown into one pot.
But TTIP supporters still warn against China. They believe it is better to set standards within a transatlantic alliance than to let these be dictated by China later.
That is utter nonsense. What standards do the Chinese want to set? Standards on chemicals and food labeling? We as Europeans would not allow that. China is not going to dictate to us what kind of safety standards should be applied to baby food. After all, the Chinese and Indians buy European baby food because they want our standards. Of course we are able and even obliged to set our own standards. If we submit to this fear mongering in politics, then we are eliminating ourselves as designers of globalization. It says a lot about the fraternity of German scientists and economist, that no one is saying anything against this economically outrageous argumentation. You can be sure: Europe will not sink without TTIP.
Chlorine-treated chicken has become a symbol for decreasing food safety standards, but so far adverse health effects, at least, have not been proven. Are we exaggerating the fear of falling food standards?
At Foodwatch we did not make chlorine-treated chicken a symbol of TTIP’s risks, for which it is indeed unsuitable. By the way, I do not believe that TTIP will bring hormone-treated meat or genetically modified products without appropriate labeling from the United States to Europe. But that is not a resounding success. Maintaining standards on food safety is not a consolation but a danger. As a matter of fact, many standards in food labeling, in animal husbandry, in agricultural policy are disastrous. We need better standards, but TTIP practically rules out a race to the top over socio-political norms. Improved animal husbandry is not in the interest of food companies, neither in Europe nor in America.
Should we as consumers also fear worsening conditions under TTIP?
Of course. In the long-term, stronger influence from the economy will lead to standards being watered down. That could happen with chemicals, for example – in the United States even asbestos is still a permitted substance. But the danger in the chemicals industry is not that our high level of chemical safety will immediately be discarded. Instead, it is that suspicious substances will no longer qualify as such if we recognize the American approval procedure. Endocrine disruptors, for example, are substances present in thousands of everyday products and jeopardize the hormone balance. Americans do not consider these substances to be suspicious, while Europeans have a different view. So regulation in this sector is pushed off. That is what the TTIP negotiations show.
In your book, you also criticize the lack of transparency in the TTIP negotiations. Now the EU’s new Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström released almost everything that there is to release. What more do you want?
But she did not do that. We still do not have an overview of the negotiations. Not even the MEPs know what is going on. We do not see the negotiation documents that contain the position of the Americans. If I do not know these, then I cannot have an overview. The German government’s actions lack credibility when it denounces the European Commission’s lack of transparency. After all it is just as intransparent. What a fairytale Mr. Gabriel tells us: Our children would curse us if we do not agree to TTIP. Mrs. Merkel says our legislative autonomy will not be restricted. In a letter to us, the Chancellery confirmed precisely the opposite. It is an impertinence that we are not comprehensively and correctly being informed on a treaty which would directly influence our lives.
In your book, you do not speak against free trade but, instead, call for a new TTIP mandate. What would a “good” TTIP look like?
I do not have anything against free trade. I also support the idea of aiming to cut costs by aligning technical standards. But we do not need an agreement as highly complex as TTIP to establish technical standards. A transatlantic equivalence agreement for organic foods already exists, allowing mutual recognition of product standards and organic certifications. We need a free trade agreement that is purely limited to technological standards. Precisely because I am for free trade, I say that we must stop TTIP.