Appeared in Bulgarian at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
The agreement between the EU and Canada is the equivalent of the land contracts that illiterate African leaders were forced to sign in the XIX century, writes George Monbiot in “The Guardian.” Meanwhile, even Bulgarian MPs are finally worried by SETA
Is it over? Is it true? If its true, this is a victory that once seemed hopeless, faced with the stronghold of political, corporate and bureaucratic power.
TTIP – Transatlantic partnership for trade and investment – seems lifeless. German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said: “The talks with the United States de facto failed.” French Prime Minister Manu Waltz said that negotiations are “downright stagnant.” Belgian and Austrian ministers have said the same. The power of the people wins. For now.
But the lobbyists who wanted this charter for corporate rights, never give up. TTIP was removed from the scene with boos, but another contract is expected to soon be activated, and whose likely impact will be almost identical,. It is in the final stage, requiring only final approval. If this happens before Britain leaves the European Union, we will probably be subordinate to it in the next 20 years.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement CETA, is seemingly a deal between the European Union and Canada. You might be wondering, what harm could Canada cause to us? The agreement allows any corporation that operates there, regardless of where it has its headquarters, to sue governments before an international tribunal. It threatens to tear apart laws that protect us from exploitation, and is an obstacle to the passing of laws on both sides of the Atlantic.
Its weak to say that there is no mandate for such agreements – they got an unambiguous counter-mandate. The consultations which the EU reluctantly started, concerning the TTIP proposal to grant new legal rights to corporations, received 150,000 replies, 97% of which were disapproving. But if when shopping you have a choice between various types of butter, with big decisions you are not given an alternative.
It is unclear whether national parliaments will have the opportunity to veto this contract. The EU Trade Commissioner argued that this is not necessary – the contract can be passed only by the European Parliament. But even if you allow national parliaments to discuss it, they will be given the option only to adopt it or abandon it. It is assumed that the basics of the contract have already been established.
Only after negotiations were concluded between representatives of Europe and Canada, and the text of the agreement was leaked, it was published by the European Commission. It is 1600 pages long. It has neither content nor explanatory text. As for transparency, fairness and clarity, this is the equivalent of the contracts for lands that were forced upon illiterate African leaders in the 19th century. In these circumstances, the parliamentarians could hardly make a well-informed decision.
If you want to buy second-hand car today, the seller can twist things, but he also – thanks to the rules protecting consumers in the EU – is obliged to explain the risks to the buyer. If you want to know whether to sign this trade agreement or not, you will not have such protection. The site of the European Union, explains that this is a wonderful “car”, but it doesn’t say a word about the risks.
And here’s the answer to the question of whether the CETA negotiations were conducted in the dark. “Not at all … During the five-year talks the Committee held various meetings for dialogue with civil society involving stakeholders.” Following the link I found that four meetings were held, all in Brussels, where corporate trade associations had the leading role, and so they might have had inside information anyway. Where is the publicity? Where is the attempt to go beyond the golden circle of lobbyists and cronies? Where are the efforts to involve other nations in the discussion? Where are the debates, the impulse to look for authentic public engagement, let alone to seek consent? If this is called transparency, I am afraid to think what secrecy would look like.
After spending hours struggling with the contract, I realized that I didn’t stand a chance to grasp what the consequences of it might be. I had to rely on experts who work for groups such as Attac in Germany and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Like TTIP, CETA threatens to cement privatization, by making impossible the re-nationalization (of the British Railways for example) or the attempts by cities to take control of declining public services (as Joseph Chamberlain did in Birmingham in the XIX century, thus laying the foundations of modern social provisions). Analogical to TTIP, SETA uses broad definitions for both investment and expropriation which could allow corporations to sue governments when they consider that their “expected future profits” are threatened by new laws.
Like TTIP, SETA places restrictions on the methods by which governments can protect their people. It seems to prohibit for example, the adoption of rules that would prevent banks from expanding into the state of “too big to fail.” It seems to threaten our planning laws and other protective measures based on common sense.
Anything that is not explicitly excluded from the agreement is subordinated to it. In other words, if governments do not anticipate a potential risk, they will have to adhere to the agreement. It seems that the EU has given up on the ability to separate investment and retail banking.
SETA claims that its a trade agreement, but many of its provisions have little to do with trade. These are attempts to limit democracy on behalf of corporate power. Millions of people in Europe and Canada want to leave the neoliberal era. But such contracts will lock us into it, and allow policies that we rejected, to govern us to the grave. If Parliaments reject this treaty, a new deal is prepared: Agreement on Trade in Services, for which the EU is negotiating with both the United States and 21 other countries. The government of Theresa May is full of enthusiasm, and the Department of International Trade stated: “The UK remains true to the ambitious agreement on trade in services.” So much for the return of control.
Corporate lobbyists and government-prisoners seek to foist such contracts for more than 20 years already, starting with the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (it was destroyed, like TTIP, with mass public protests in 1998). Working in secret, without democratic consent, they will continue to return to this topic, hoping to wear out our resistance.
When you are told that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, here’s what that means: This fight will continue throughout your life and we have to win every time, but they need to win only once. Never lower your guard. Never let them win.
Author: George Monbiot / The Guardian
At last! Some Bulgarian MPs are worried by SETA
The Parliamentary Economic Committee will propose to the National Assembly to oblige Ministers to report on the expected consequences to Bulgaria from the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union (SETA). The deputies took this decision yesterday at the committee at the proposal of its President Petar Kanev, as well as Kornelia Ninova and Zhelyu Boychev of “BSP-Left Bulgaria”. Another point demands the government coordinate with the Parliament, its position on the agreement.
As is known, SETA can go through the European council of economic ministers in October, then quickly be submitted for approval in the European Parliament. A positive vote in the European Parliament will be sufficient to provisionally enter into force, before being ratified by the national parliaments of member states. The only chance this does not happen, is for enough government representatives in the European Council to not allow the procedure, or for MEPs to reject it. Bulgarian MPs have already received a letter from their Hungarian counterparts, expressing concern over what is happening and have called for joint action. MP Petar Kanev said that a similar letter has been received by the Greek Parliament.
The commission’s decision yesterday did not come easy and came after a re-run at the insistence of Dimitar Bayraktarov of the Patriotic Front, as representatives of GERB initially abstained. Previously, members of the committee rejected a similar proposal from a group of MPs from ABC, headed by Mariana Todorova, which insists not only on presentation of an analysis of the government, but also for the Prime Minister to be heard in a plenary session. The MPs wanted the government to impose restrictions on SETA in potential sectors including public services, and for Bulgaria to not give consent for the temporary entry of the agreement into force. Aside from the MPs who proposed it, however, it was supported only by BSP and Bayraktarov. Durring the discussion on the subject in July, MPs from GERB quietly they left the room.