By Graham Vanbergen
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron is accusing those who oppose the expansive trade deal with the United States of making up horror stories about the agreement in order to poison the pact.
That agreement is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and critics all along the political spectrum are exposing the enormous dangers of the deal — all without having to invent a single scary story.
Back in January the EU Commission published their response to the consultation on TTIP and it was found that 97% of the 150,000 responses opposed the trade deal. These respondents represented the general public. The biggest petition in the EU’s history was then presented that contained the signatures of 2 million citizens (now nearly 3 million) opposed to TTIP. Both were rejected as were proposals even for a simple hearing of the European Citizens Initiative.
Then in April this year, thousands of protestors took to the streets of cities all over Europe as unelected officials of the EU Commission continue to ignore the concerns of its citizens.
In June, fellow MEPs from many political parties who are also opposed to TTIP joined Ukip in standing, shouting, booing and clapping to show their dissatisfaction with proceedings. MEPs were due to set out their first formal position on TTIP since negotiations started two years ago and the meeting descended into chaos (video). The meeting was then stopped by the commissioners.
Meanwhile David Cameron has persistently attempted to call out those working to derail the deal. Cameron has accused critics of inventing false scare stories whilst urging business chiefs to help make the case to overcome sustained attacks from left-wing opponents and warned Britain would “rue the day if we miss this opportunity” to open up transatlantic markets.
Cameron, who (increasingly) seldom listens to the general public or elected members of parliament representing the electorate will no doubt use all his powers to get this deal though to redeem himself after being called incompetent by his own military generals and by the Obama administration over Syria.
In sharp comparison, both Paris and Berlin want the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) of TTIP removed from the transatlantic trade treaty currently being negotiated with Washington. This is a game changer.
Matthias Fekl, the French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, told EurActiv France that he would “never allow private tribunals in the pay of multinational companies to dictate the policies of sovereign states, particularly in certain domains like health and the environment”.
That was back in January. Nine months later and France has now reinforced that message and gone one big step forward.
In an interview with Sud-Ouest, Matthias Fekl threatened to “call a complete halt” to the TTIP negotiations if things do not change. EurActiv France reports. America has shown no desire to change any of the major issues that have been challenged.
Fekl told the French newspaper that he believes the “total lack of transparency” in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations poses a “democratic problem”.
Fekl, the Minister of State for Foreign Trade called on the United States to show “reciprocity” in the negotiations. “American members of parliament have access to a much higher number of documents than we do in Europe,” he said.
The German people are now taking a stand and now it is being reported in the USA that sentiment is going against the deal – “It is entirely possible that the U.S. could seek to conclude the deal in the next few years only to find that European governments are unwilling to risk the ire of their voters”.
Matthias Fekl, explained that, ever since the negotiations began in 2013, “These negotiations have been and are being conducted in a total lack of transparency,” and that France has, as of yet, received “no serious offer from the Americans.”
The reasons for this stunning public rejection had probably already been accurately listed more than a year ago. Jean Arthuis, a member of the European Parliament, and formerly France’s Minister of Economy and Finance, headlined in Le Figaro, on 10 April 2014, “7 good reasons to oppose the transatlantic treaty”. There is no indication that the situation has changed since then, as regards the basic demands that President Obama is making. Arthuis said at that time, that he was opposed to;
- Private arbitration of disputes between States and businesses. Such a procedure is strictly contrary to the idea that I have of the sovereignty of States. …
- Any questioning of the European system of appellations of origin. According to the US proposal, there would be a non-binding register, and only for wines and spirits. Such a reform would kill many European local products, whose value is based on their certified origin.
- Signing of an agreement with a power that legalizes widespread and systematic spying on my fellow European citizens and European businesses. As long as the agreement does not protect the personal data of European and US citizens, it cannot be signed.
- Allowing the United States proposal of a transatlantic common financial space, who adamantly refuse a common regulation of finance, and they refuse to abolish systematic discrimination by the US financial markets against European financial services.
- The questioning of European health protections. We do not want our animals treated with growth hormones nor products derived from GMOs, or chemical decontamination of meat, or of genetically modified seeds or non-therapeutic antibiotics in animal feed.
- The signing of an agreement if it does not include the end of the US monetary dumping. Since the abolition of the gold convertibility of the dollar and the transition to the system of floating exchange rates, the dollar is both American national currency and the main unit for exchange reserves in the world. The Federal Reserve then continually practices monetary dumping, by influencing the amount of dollars available to facilitate exports from the United States. As things now stand, America’s monetary weapon has the same effect as customs duties against every other nation. [And he will not sign unless it’s removed.]
- Allow the emerging digital services in Europe to be swept up by US giants such as Google, Amazon or Netflix. They’re giant absolute masters in tax optimization, which make Europe a “digital colony.”
France is now considering “all options including an outright termination of negotiations” says France’s Trade Minister.
Concern over the impact of TTIP has united disparate groups from French farmers to German constitutional lawyers and politicians on the left and right.
50,000 demonstrators are expected to gather in front of Berlin’s central train station on October 10th to protest both the TTIP and a similar deal between the EU and Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). That event is part of the week-long International Days of Action against corporate-friendly trade deals. Two thirds of Germans are now opposed to the deal, hence the expected strong turn-out.
The European public, already heavily opposed to TTIP also oppose America’s bombings of Middle Eastern countries, which have forced hundreds of thousands of refugees into Europe. European leaders are being compelled to question their relationship and alliance with the United States.
David Cameron, already in breach of basic democratic principles back in Britain by sending special forces ground troops and RAF bombing missions in Syria is of course used to supporting the dismantling of democracy, no matter whether at home or abroad.
Universally ignored by almost all media outlets in every western country, including Britain, whose governments has called for Assad to go was a respectable YouGov report that concluded some 55% of Syrians wanted Assad to stay. Cameron had one third less of the electorate supporting him at the last election than Assad had of his people.
The result of America’s constant pressure and bullying of its european ‘allies’ to get involved in the bombing of countries where millions of refugees are expected in the year ahead, is that the european people are, in greater numbers, questioning the rationality of their elected leaders. This has only added to EU citizens suspicions over secret trade deals such as TTIP with America and is not only empowering them but forcing their own leaders to rethink the order of importance.
America seems to have forgotten Europe’s own pressures. Between the economic crisis that has rumbled on since 2008, the threat of a “Grexit” earlier in the summer, security concerns and the rise of terrorism and now the humanitarian crisis unfolding on Europe’s borders with the arrival of so many refugees, the political unity of Europe is at stake. There is a clear inability by politicians to unite on major challenges that may well pull the EU apart, say politicians – TTIP is no longer an imperative on the agenda.
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