Fight the TTIP

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A cluster of economic treaties is under negotiation between the leading imperialist countries and their satellites. Imperialist powers are faced with a serious problem of profitability. All these negotiations and wheeler-dealing are no coincidence. They include:

  • the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Europe and Canada, which awaits ratification;
  • the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and the USA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US and a number of Asian countries;
  • the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) between some 51 countries in the World Trade Organisation, which is still being negotiated.

US companies are sitting on about $1.8 trillion of idle cash which would be invested, if only it could be invested profitably. The situation is similar elsewhere: in the UK, companies’ cash reserves total about £550bn ($850bn); in Europe the figure is about €900bn ($1.1 trillion); in Japan about ¥250trn ($2.1 trillion), a staggering 51% of GDP. These enormous sums are sitting idle, not because firms don’t want to invest, but because of the lack of profitability. This situation has been going on for several years. Now capitalism is trying to break out of this stagnation with the help of these treaties, which are intended to steamroller any obstacles to capitalist exploitation.

The US, as the leading imperialist power, is the main player in these talks, but all the leading imperialist powers of Europe and Asia are also trying to cut advantageous deals at each other’s expense.

These treaties are designed to exclude China and Russia in an attempt to marginalise and weaken them. Also excluded are all African and most Latin American, Middle Eastern and Asian countries, underlining that these treaties are created solely to benefit imperialist countries and puppet regimes. Naturally, this all comes wrapped up in the usual garbage of corporate ideology which makes out that this is really about cooperating for a stable peaceful prosperous world. In reality, these treaties are all about power and plunder, not peace, freedom and common wealth.

Corporate agenda

In all the imperialist states, there are myriad restrictions, regulations, ‘governmental interference’ and safeguards of people’s welfare, built up as concessions by capital to popular struggles over decades. What these treaties have in common is a corporate agenda which will remove or dilute a vast array of these protections, enabling corporations to completely bypass national legislatures in many important policy areas and directly establish those rules and regulations most advantageous to themselves. Labour standards, public health provisions, food safety regulations, environmental protections, hazardous materials restrictions, internet privacy and more – all are on the chopping block to be ‘improved’, that is, destroyed. TTIP will open up public services such as education and the health service to competition from corporate giants, all seeking their pound of flesh. This is designed to prevent any possibility of re-nationalising the NHS and instead to replace it with a two-tier system: a fast-track private modern health care system for the wealthy, and a crumbling, inadequate public system for the rest of us, designed to patch us up so we can get back to work or die. The quality of education will become even more a function of privilege than it already is. So-called ‘intellectual property’ provisions will seek to exert greater control over the commodification and spread of human knowledge, concentrating the power over valuable technology in the hands of a few giant corporations.

Suing governments

The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is one of the most powerful components of these deals, enabling corporations who accuse governments of damaging their profits to completely circumvent national legislation. Instead, companies can take their claims to a secret arbitration tribunal whose verdicts cannot be subjected to review or appeal. ISDS allows corporations to claim billions in compensation for their supposed losses.

Services

Up to 80% of the imperialist countries’ economies consist of ‘services’. The word ‘services’ suggests that you are doing something to help or aid someone. In fact these ‘services’ that the imperialists are haggling about are intended to do only one thing: help companies grab more profits from the poor, the exploited and working people all over the world. TISA will have a wide-ranging impact on ‘service’ provision, deregulating in myriad ways, especially in the financial industry, where we can expect to see extensive liberalisation.

Underdeveloped countries

These treaties are unashamedly about the interests of the imperialist nations, who are ganging up to raid the poorest nations even further. The benefits of the treaties are restricted to their signatories, whose nations represent the richest quarter of the world: all attempts to protect national economies and to prevent foreign exploitation are further ‘obstacles’ which must be removed to please imperialist corporations.

Secrecy

These entire proceedings demonstrate total contempt for the supposed safeguards of ‘parliamentary oversight’. The negotiations are secret, the documents are secret, the treaty texts are secret, records of discussions with lobbyists are secret. These agreements are models of Orwellian doublespeak: their provisions for increasing ‘transparency in government’ actually focus on how to take it away by restricting access to information about them. European parliamentarians can only inspect documents if they swear to secrecy and visit a special reading room where no recording apparatus of any kind is allowed.

Access to the documents by ordinary people will, in most cases, be restricted for decades. Bourgeois ‘democracy’ is exposed as a complete sham, designed to fool and distract people, while the real business gets conducted out of sight, behind our backs. Never mind the crocodile tears shed by the opportunists and petit-bourgeois over violations of national sovereignty. What is needed is a real, international anti-imperialist resistance which will bring an end to bloodsucking capitalism for ever.

The first successful step in this direction has been taken by the government of Uruguay, where the progressive coalition government has voted to withdraw from the TISA negotiations, following a campaign by trade unions, farmers and environmentalists. We have to follow their example and call for British and EU withdrawal from these predatory negotiations.

No to the imperialist corporate agenda! No to TTIP, TISA and TPP!

Steve Palmer

FRFI 247 October/November 2015