EU free-trade agreements with Canada and US: imagine the fallout if put to national referendums

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and several members of the EC College participated in the European Parliament plenary session and the weekly Commission meeting, which was held on 05/07/2016. From the left to the right: Kristalina Georgieva, Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Jean-Claude Juncker and Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of Commission, in charge of Energy Union. Date: 05/07/2016. Location: Strasbourg – European Parliamnet.© European Union, 2016 / Photo: Jean-François Badias.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and several members of the EC College participated in the European Parliament plenary session and the weekly Commission meeting, which was held on 05/07/2016. From the left to the right: Kristalina Georgieva, Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Jean-Claude Juncker and Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of EU Commission, in charge of Energy Union. Date: 05/07/2016. Location: Strasbourg – European Parliamnet.© European Union, 2016 / Photo: Jean-François Badias.

When it comes to ‘selling’ its proposals to EU member states’ government and peoples, the European Commission turns the calendar some centuries back and starts painting saintly icons. The more inportant the proposal it is, the more boldly the Commission hides the real ‘catch 22s’ from citizens, under the bright colors of imaginary gains for all. It usually invokes various hollow arguments and falsly praises its own motion, as strenghtening people’s rights and protecting the envoronment. Those two points in general accompany any political platform or ideology in Europe, as the ‘politically correct’ and attractive ambalage of any possible and impossible proposition.

The EU Commission did exaclty that last Tuesday 5 July, when it presented its wishful thinking as a super incontrovertible proposal, in favour of the draft EU-Canada free trade agreement, the text of which the Brussels bureaucrats have recently concluded authoring. This is a far reaching free trade, foreign investment protection and more agreement to be signed, if ever, between the EU and Canada, briefly called Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA. A similar pact is still being inconclusively negotiated with the US.

What are the odds

For one thing, the EU Commission fears that under the currently very cloudy political and social climate in Europe, such a free trade agreement may become an ‘anathema’ for large parts of the population and the media. What is even more annoying for the Brussels bureaucracy is that, this proposal may provoke automatic and strong reactions from political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations. In short, now is not the best time to ‘sell’ a free-trade agreement of such big dimensions to European voters.

Still, the Commission works hard to promote to the best of its abilities the CETA, in these difficult times for the ‘free trade’ minded neo-liberals. To do this the EU’s executive took refuge in its old method of idyllic portrayal, coldly resorting to covering up, lying and falsly crying loudly that it protects people’s rights and the environment. Coming to think of it, this attitude is not much differnt from what most European political parties and leaders, mainstream or extremists, are doing these days.

Hiding key terms

In brief, the Commission in its ‘Fact Sheet’ published last Tuesday to inform us all about this draft trade agreement with Canada, didn’t include a single word about the special ‘court system’ the CETA institutionalizes to protect the investments of multinationals. To achieve that, the CETA excludes the investments under its umbrella from the jurisdiction of national courts and legislatives, by introducing “a new investment court system and enhanced rules on investment protection”. This is really a dream world for multinationals, having a special court system of their own to protect themselves from the will of the people and the national courts.

By the same token, the Commission tries indirectly via Canada, to revitalize the almost dead analogous agreement with the US, the infamous Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is being negotiated for two years now. Under the heavy fire of the public opinion and the business community, this TTIP is currently rather dead, because there is no visible end in the never ending negotiations between Washington and Brussels. The TTIP talks always stumble exactly on the same issues the CETA is now trying to introduce; the judicial impunity and the ‘liberties’ of the multinationals in the health and environment spheres. Evidently the ‘catch 22’ is hidden in the “new investment court system and the enhanced rules on investment protection”, which confers to multinationals the special status of ‘untouchables’ vis-à-vis the national courts and the legislatives.

Provoking the people

What can be more provocative for the heavily taxed, badly paid and hard working or unemployed Europeans, than a new legal system actually controlled by the multinationals, shielding their tax avoidance practices and defending their rights to pollute? That’s why the Commission erased the key phrase from the ‘Fact Sheet’ most media would use as a source, and hid it in a Press Release issued separately, in the hope that it won’t attract much attention.

Let’s see this issue from a different angle. Two weeks after the Brexit vote the analysts have agreed that the people who are making a living in medium, small and very small sized business in the English provinces plus the inward looking older voters, overcame the globally oriented Londoners and the younger generations. This is a blow to the globalization ideology and practice, inflicted by the country which spearheaded it, back in the Thatcherite era. Given that, there is currently nothing more ‘globalist’ than an EU-Canada free trade and investment agreement. The Brexit vote comes as a slam to the Commission’s efforts to ‘sell’ the CETA to the Europeans.

Think of the Brexit

Thinking of the Brexit, it is clear by now that it wasn’t Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage who created the popular impulse for the ‘leave’. Those two harlequins just rode the waves to promote themselves in the power system of their country. They both fell victims though of the ‘globalization’ masters of the London City, the strongest advocates of ‘remain’. The invisible lords of the global financial system had enough of the duo and their gross exaggerations and overt lies about the virtues of ‘leave’. The fact that Johnson and Farage both unexpectedly denied to practically and actively back the enforcement of Brexit, is very telling. Nevertheless, the global financial overlords couldn’t overturn the tide and their threats just reduced its force.

In conclusion, it will be rather impossible for the Commission to ‘sell’ the CETA and the TTIP to the Europeans in the foreseeable future. Simply imagine what the consequences would be, if those free trade agreements were put to the test of national referendums. Never forget why in relevant plebiscites the French and the Dutch said ‘no’ to the European Constitutional Treaty in 2005, amidst a very good economic conjuncture with all the political forces, the media and the international bodies strongly advocating the ‘yes’ side. Don’t bet your money, then, on the prospects of the CETA and the TTIP.

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