November 2014        

EU negotiation terms declassified

Nicola Lawlor

A number of weeks ago the EU finally declassified the terms of reference of the EU Commission in negotiating the highly secretive agreement known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
      Despite the secrecy and unaccountable nature of the talks, those interested in the negotiations had a good sense of what was coming through, looking at similar trade agreements, understanding the nature of monopoly capitalism globally, and through leaked reports, including an important impact assessment report commissioned by the EU itself.
      The terms of reference now disclosed, unfortunately, did not surprise critics. In fact they arguably go further, in strengthening the power of capital and in particular big business, than we might have thought.
      It is somewhat ironic that the declassified document has much superficial language about transparency and engaging with civil society when this document itself, dated June 2013, was released to the public only in October 2014, more than a year after negotiations formally began.
      As for engaging with civil society, we know that 93 per cent of all private meetings held in advance were with corporate lobbyists and not civil society or interested citizens.
      So, what does it actually say? As critics have suggested, it specifically talks about the “reciprocal liberalisation of goods and services . . . with a high level of ambition going beyond existing WTO [World Trade Organisation] commitments” and the “effective opening of each other’s markets” while “removing unnecessary obstacles to trade and investment . . . by reaching an ambitious level of regulatory compatibility for goods and services, including through mutual recognition, harmonisation . . .
      “This should include specific and substantive provisions and procedures in sectors of significant importance to the transatlantic economy, including, but not limited to, automotives, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other health industries, Information and Communication Technologies and financial services . . .”
      Never in the history of such trade agreements has harmonisation meant the upward lifting of standards in such areas as food safety, health and safety at work, minimum capital ratios, workers’ rights, or other such “obstacles.” The harmonisation will be downwards and will negatively affect workers, consumers, citizens, and the environment.
      There are not many tariffs or duties remaining between the EU and the United States, so the obstacles are in large part protective standards in the EU regarding food safety, production, labour rights, state enterprises, and other non-trade barriers.
      “The aim of the negotiations on trade in services will be to bind the existing level of liberalisation . . . at the highest level of liberalisation . . . covering substantially all sectors and all modes of supply while achieving new market access by tackling remaining long-standing market access barriers . . . aim at including provisions on anti-trust, mergers and state-aids. Furthermore, the Agreement should address state monopolies, state owned enterprises and enterprises entrusted with special or exclusive rights . . . ensuring unrestricted and sustainable access to raw materials.”
      This is quite simply a recipe for further liberalisation, and then privatisation, which will make state enterprise unsustainable and ultimately illegal. The inclusion of an “investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism” will mean there is no going back from privatisation without a fundamental breach with the international legal system.
      The document also outlines the direction that public procurement will take, “ensuring treatment no less favourable than that accorded to locally established suppliers . . . to address barriers having a negative impact on each other’s public procurement markets, including local content or local production requirements, in particular Buy America provisions.”
      This, without doubt, will favour large monopoly corporations, which, through sheer size and scale, will win contracts ahead of smaller, more local service-providers.
      And finally, the document includes a number of specific references to finance and capital flows and in the same vein seeks to increase the mobility and flow of capital, free of barriers, and harmonise regulations on banking and finance. (Back to business as usual.) “The Agreement shall include provisions on the full liberalisation of current payments and capital movements . . .” This will only lead to further instability, anarchy, and imbalances between economies.

Home page  >  Socialist Voice  >  November 2014  >  EU negotiation terms declassified
Baile  >  Socialist Voice  >  Samhain 2014  >  EU negotiation terms declassified