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Austria’s New Coalition Betrays on CETA Trade Agreement

By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – 28.05.2018

US President Trump told the world his government rejects negotiations on the highly controversial TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). Citizen groups and EU opponents of the Obama comprehensive trade agreement breathed a sigh of relief. Too little attention has been given to the agreement reached between Canada and CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (German: Umfassendes Wirtschafts- und Handelsabkommen), sometimes called the Canada-EU Trade Agreement. Secretly and behind any public open discussion, the largest global multinational corporations are moving the world closer to a top-down corporate dictatorship, a 21st Century version of Mussolini’s Corporativism. A major potential roadblock to CETA approval has now fallen in Austria under a new populist coalition government of Sebastian Kurz.

Legally the CETA must be approved by the national parliaments in a majority of the 28 EU member states before becoming operative. Now it comes out that Sebastian Kurz’s populist Austrian coalition, after campaigning on a platform of NO to CETA and TTIP, secretly agreed late in 2017 to renege on their election campaign promises opposing CETA as a precondition for the refugee-critical conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) of Sebastian Kurz as Chancellor, to be able to form a coalition government with the right populist FPÖ. It represents a major betrayal of Austrian voters as well as of the future of EU sovereign national laws on environment, health and safety. But it gets worse.

In terms of the legitimacy of the Austrian elections in October 2017, the coalition FPÖ party campaigned hard against any acceptance of the multinational CETA trade deal. It promised a Swiss-style “direct democracy” referendum process of citizen vote on issues where a substantial number of citizen petitions warranted such. In their election campaign the FPÖ promised repeatedly such slogans as ”with us no CETA” and “… CETA only with a peoples’ referendum.”

Pre-election polls showed that 72% of Austrians opposed both the TTIP and the closely-related CETA on grounds it would damage Austrian small and mid-size businesses to the advantage of global multinationals. Citizen groups gathered an impressive 562,000 signatures opposing both CETA and TTIP before the election.

Only days following the election, on November 21, 2017, the FPÖ showed signs of retracting that opposition when they surprised voters and voted in Parliament in favor of the CETA’s most controversial proviso, the so-called the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism (German: Investitionsschiedsgerichten). That ISDS proviso allows Canadian corporations sue any EU government over any new law or policy that might reduce their profits in future such as a new German minimum wage law or stricter laws prohibiting toxic chemicals such as glyphosate or neonicotinoids. However, the Canadian company or investor in say, Germany, does not sue in a German court. They rather go to a special secret arbitration tribunal over which the EU state has no control. Opposition to the ISDS was a central platform of the Austrian FPÖ campaign before October 15. Most USA large corporations have subsidiary companies in Canada meaning CETA is a backdoor for the now-frozen TTIP with the USA.

Forcing EU states to dilute laws

Among its provisions, under CETA as under TTIP if there is a difference in rigor for example in the environmental or safety and health standards for EU states and the Canadian rules, the lowest standard (North American) applies. The Canadian government has largely followed US loose corporate regulations in recent years and this under CETA now would threaten a diminishing of EU strict regulations. According to an Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

and Greenpeace-Holland study, “Canada has weaker food safety and labelling standards than the EU, and industrial agriculture more heavily dependent on pesticides and GMO crops. CETA gives Canadian and US multinationals the tools to undermine rules concerning cloning, GMO crops, growth hormones and country of origin labelling, among others.”

According to the September, 2017 joint study, CETA will “promote the harmonization of food safety standards to the lowest common denominator, and the weakening of the EU’s risk assessment standards for food products.” A horrifying example is the decision in March 2016, by the Canadian authorities to approve AquAdvantage Salmon, the first genetically modified animal to be approved for human consumption in the country. Canada did not require labelling. Under CETA now, unlabeled GMO salmon will be sold across the EU. That holds for other unlabeled Canadian GMO foods as well as industrial agribusiness products such as beef.

Giant Agribusiness Threatens EU Family Farm

With CETA, for example, current EU laws requiring Country of Origin Labeling for meat and fish could be challenged by Canadian agribusiness whose meat exports will now come almost tariff-free to compete with carefully-controlled EU meat products.

Another proviso of CETA relates to reducing business costs and limiting regulation. In reality it will mean stronger EU food and agricultural policies will be weakened under pressure from large Canadian-US agribusiness companies such as IBP or Cargill Foods. To date the EU agriculture associations have largely contained the economic cost-reduction pressure that has destroyed family farming smaller units in North America since the 1980’s and replaced it with cartel formations of giant food industry.

Driven by US agribusiness lobbying at the USDA and Canadian Department of Agriculture, economies of scale in meat processing as an example have created documented horrendous sanitary conditions in giant processing operations that slaughter up to 1,000,000 cattle a year at a plant. Now with CETA, EU small farmers will simply be driven into bankruptcy as was done since the 1980s in North America. There the giant meat processing firms had 25-30% lower costs than smaller meat packing firms that were driven out of business.

The creation of North American agribusiness, a major focus of the TTIP as of the CETA, involves the dramatic reduction of labor costs and speedup of the meat processing portions that are not automated. Work is not protected by trade union agreements, labor is mostly immigrant and largely illegal meaning they are vulnerable to threat from employers demanding longer hours and lessened safety conditions.

North American slaughterhouse workers face conditions of speedup on the meat chains that they must cut and process that they have abnormally high rate of work-related injuries or nerve damage but the Government regulators turn a blind eye and the workers are mostly sub-minimum wage illegal workers from Mexico or Central America who have little recourse to change it.

As I account in my book, Seeds of Destruction, the cartelization and vertical integration of agriculture in North America after World War II was a brainchild of the Rockefeller Standard Oil family, notably Nelson Rockefeller and a project they financed at Harvard Business School that created the term “agribusiness.” The countries of the European Union until today have largely defended more small-scale meat and food production by way of safety, health, environment and labor laws. With the flood of far cheaper Canadian (North American in reality) beef and other foods into the EU under CETA, European small scale, high quality agriculture producers will be literally slaughtered to the gain of mass agribusiness cartels that can now globalize in the all-important EU market as well.

Austria is a Warning Bell

Now on May 16 the Austrian coalition parties, FPÖ and the ÖVP of Sebastian Kurz, turned on the voters and voted in the Council of Ministers in favor of approving CETA including with the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. It will now come to the full Parliament before Summer for a final vote where passage looks certain.

The European Commission proposed the signature of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and despite need for national parliaments to ratify, CETA entered into force provisionally on 21 September 2017. National parliaments in EU countries have still to approve it before it can take full effect.

With an Austrian coalition government, one that owes its existence to vigorous opposition to CETA and defense of the right of citizens to hold a referendum on it and other issues, now betraying that voter pledge and backing CETA, implications for not just Austrian citizens—farmers and all consumers—but as well for the quality of world food exports, the health of world eaters (meaning us all) is to undergo a dramatic decline at a time we can ill afford it.

Under CETA now the world food chain will face over the coming decade or so an overwhelming concentration of corporate agribusiness control that will combine the two great agriculture production regions—North America and the EU. That, if it is allowed, will be devastating.

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

#StopCETA: Thousands protest EU-Canada trade deal in demos across Europe

RT | January 22, 2017

Protesters in more than a dozen European states have taken to the streets in scheduled demonstrations against the yet-to-be-approved CETA trade agreement, charging it will result in the loss of jobs, lower safety standards, and grant freer rein to corporations.

“The people and the planet are not merchandise,” read a banner carried at the front of a column of demonstrators in Madrid.

In Dublin, protesters dressed as politicians from the ruling Fine Gael party handed over a “blank check” to a man dressed as a “corporation,” wearing a skull mask.

A procession of 130 tractors and as many as 18,000 people marched through the heart of Berlin before symbolically handing over a petition at the German agricultural ministry. The demonstration, organized by Germany’s Green Party and environmentally-conscious farmers wasn’t exclusively aimed at CETA, but the treaty received prominent mentions in the list of complaints.

Other notable rallies, documented on social media, were staged in Paris, Madrid and several other Spanish cities, Ourense in Portugal and Brussels.

TTIP, and TiSA, two other unratified pro-free trade treaties were also condemned.

The broad coalition of anti-globalists, environmentalists and labor movements that was behind what they called the Decentralized Day of Action against CETA, which had been negotiated for seven years, prior to being signed last October, outlined three main objections to CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

The first was regulatory harmonization between Canada and the EU which would mean goods are produced to the same standard, and can be easily imported without additional certification.

“With the excuse of improving trade between the countries, regulations designed to protect the environment, workers’ rights, public services and consumer standards, will be reduced to the minimum common denominator,” said StopCETA.net.

The second is the additional legal protection given to foreign investors.

“Multinational corporations will have the right to sue governments if laws or regulations are introduced that cause them loss of profits,” continued the organizers.

And the third argument focused on the secrecy of the treaty, which was negotiated behind closed doors, and which will need to be ratified by the European Parliament this spring, before being approved by the national legislatures of the 28 EU member states.

Proponents of CETA argue that it will boost trade between Canada and Europe by 20 percent, and annually add €12 billion to the EU economy and €8.4 billion to Canada’s economy.

After several decades in which trade barriers were removed by governments with scant consultation with the public, there’s been growing resistance to new agreements from both above and below.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a deal similar to CETA, but involving the much larger US economy, has also been met with fierce public resistance in Europe, and Donald Trump has signaled that dismantling TTIP is one of his priorities as President of the US.

The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) that plans to open up the service industries of 23 mostly developed countries to foreign companies and individuals, has gone through 21 rounds of negotiations since 2013, with no final document published yet, and no deadline for the end of talks.

January 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Belgium’s Wallonia rejects ‘undemocratic’ EU ultimatum on CETA

RT | October 24, 2016

Wallonia is not going to be pressured into agreeing the EU-Canada trade deal according to the leader of the French-speaking Belgian region Paul Magnette. The EU has given Belgium an ultimatum to end its objection to the agreement by Monday.

“Every time you try to put an ultimatum it makes a calm debate and a democratic debate impossible,” Magnette said at a meeting in Brussels.

“We don’t need an ultimatum,” he told reporters. “We will not decide anything under an ultimatum or under pressure.”

On Sunday the leader of the Wallonia region told the Belga news agency the ultimatum from the EU “is not compatible with the exercise of democratic rights.”

“We are not against a treaty with Canada,” Magnette said. “But we won’t have one that jeopardizes social and environmental standards and the protection of public services and we want absolutely no private arbitration mechanisms.”

Magnette was referring to an introduction of a secret corporate court system, empowering big business to sue states for policies that threaten their profits.

Belgium has been given until Monday to resolve an internal disagreement holding back the CETA trade deal with Canada. The pact needs the backing of all 28 EU countries to be passed. Belgium cannot sign without Walloon support.

The EU has warned that unless Belgium makes its position clear, it will cancel this week’s EU-Canada summit. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel is expected to make a speech on Monday, an EU source told Reuters.

Wallonia is a region of 3.6 million people, and has become an obstacle in the controversial free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada. The region has refused to approve the deal, fearing an influx of Canadian pork and beef products would undermine local farmers.

CETA promises to eliminate tariffs on 98 percent of goods traded between the EU and Canada. The agreement encompasses regulatory cooperation, shipping, sustainable development and access to government tenders.

Supporters of CETA say the deal will be worth $13 billion a year to the EU and $9 billion to Canada.

Opponents say the trade deal will violate workers’ rights and benefit the interests of the wealthy elite and corporations.

The EU has warned a failure to complete the agreement after seven years of negotiations will jeopardize the bloc’s trade policy.

October 24, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Reported Death Of TTIP – An Abhorrent Political Deception

Reported Death Of TTIP Is Nothing More Than Political Deception Tactic

By Graham Vanbergen | TruePublica | September 9, 2016

The global mainstream media have loudly hailed the stunning success of the peoples uprising against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP in the light of its demise. In the last few years protests broke out all over Europe as the unelected bureaucrats steamed ahead with this unpopular trade deal, even after the results of the largest ever consultation study in the EU Commission’s history resulted in a 97% negative response of 150,000 people.

The emerging movement spawned enormous online activism never seen before, culminating in the largest petition in Europe’s history with a staggering collective of over 3.2 million signatures delivered by passionate foot-soldiers right to the epicentre of where the political elite inhabit in the EU. The beating heart of TTIP activism was Berlin, Paris and London. This is not to forget the huge protest effort made by citizens across almost all of the EU’s major cities.

Infographic: Corporate Europe Observatory

Infographic: Corporate Europe Observatory

When preparing for TTIP negotiations, 560 meetings took place between 2012 and 2013. Just 4% were represented by public interest and civil society. Unashamedly, the Commission allowed 92% of all TTIP meetings to be dominated by lobbyists and corporate trade associations  Today, these shadowy agitators amount to over 30,000 grey suits stalking the halls of the Commission HQ in the de facto capital of the European Union in Brussels.

In May of this year Wikileaks confirmed that TTIP amounted to “a huge transfer of power from people to big business.” Greenpeace Netherlands then leaked 248 secret pages of the controversial trade deal between the U.S. and EU, exposing how environmental regulations, climate protections and consumer rights were effectively being “bartered away behind closed doors.” Tensions amongst civil society rose to fever pitch with the devastating news.

Der Spiegel Germany wrote “Protests Threaten Trans-Atlantic Trade Deal” as the leaks became public. With concerted effort activists seemingly brought the trade agreement to the brink of collapse within days. At the same time, Merkel’s grandly staged meeting with US President Barack Obama in Hanover was nothing more than showmanship. It aimed to show the strain of negotiations, as if somehow Germany (and therefore the EU) was going to get a better deal from TTIP and pacify the building rage of her citizens.

As if to rub salt into the wounds a report by TruePublica, published in The European Financial Review confirmed that corruption in the EU trading bloc had now reached 14 per cent of GDP – a staggering €1 trillion. By now 70 per cent of all European citizens believe corruption to be at the heart of their respective governments and the EU Commission itself, and that a corporate coup d’tat is taking the place of democratic principles that Europe fought so hard for over generations.

Then, out of the blue, an unexpected announcement is made last week. The media on all sides of the spectrum is broadly going along with the story that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel have agreed that negotiations between the EU and the US on TTIP, have essentially failed. That’s it – the deal is dead. Hoorah!

The Telegraph – “EU’s TTIP trade deal with the US has collapsed, says Germany”

The Independent – “TTIP negotiations should stop, French government says”

ZeroHedge – “The Americans Give Us Nothing”: France Effectively Kills TTIP’

RT – ‘TTIP negotiations between EU and US have de facto failed’ – German economy minister”

Not so fast. You don’t think that the American’s are going to let the biggest trade deal in human history fail just because 97% of citizens reject it do you? No, France and Germany just need a plan. After Brexit, Britain can stay out of the firing line of the protest movement for a while.

Mass protests in Japan, the second largest economy in the TPP bloc are under pressure by the US to open up its agricultural and automotive sectors.

Mass protests in Japan

So, they looked to Japan. It had the same problem with its version of the trade deal similarly called TPP. Mass protests broke out as the same secret meetings gripped the political foreground. Its Prime Minister “Shinzo Abe, instructed the coalition early in the year not to “forcibly” proceed with the TPP negotiations until after elections, Kyodo News reported. Abe genuinely “feared a voter backlash in the Upper House elections” amid the growing scandal of a 242 page leaked document laying bare the bones of the deal. Having been elected June 11th, Abe now intends to force the deal through “this fall”.

I made enquiries with sources close to the ground on the EU/US TTIP deal along the same lines; was this simply a delaying tactic until after elections in 2017 for France’s Hollande and Germany’s Merkel? The response was not wholly unexpected.

“The seemingly early celebration of the end of TTIP has also surprised us a bit. Despite last week’s statements by the German and French trade ministers and the way these have been portrayed, we are continuing to campaign against the deal.”

In another exchange:

“The declarations of French and German leaders aim to: divert attention away from CETA, reduce the numbers in the streets of Germany on 17th September, put TTIP on hold while elections take place in France, Germany and the USA. The fifteenth round of TTIP negotiations will happen in the first week of October… This has been confirmed by our US friends.”

I then contacted Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO). It is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making. They have been exposing the misinformation and propaganda of the EU Commission for years.

The CEO response to my same question was emphatic and quite clear:

“Public opposition to CETA and TTIP has led French and German leaders to please voters with words against TTIP. Unfortunately, the next round of TTIP negotiations is scheduled for early October and no EU leader has publicly said he or she will vote against CETA in the EU Council in October. This is clearly not the end of TTIP and CETA, just the beginning of electoral campaigns in France and Germany.”

Germany and France have taken the same stance as Japan on these trade agreements, they are not dead at all – they are lying.

I then spoke to Peter Koenig, an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources and posed the same question. He said:

“Following a debate on PressTV Edition Française, where I was one of the interviewees, the focus was on the German and French Ministers’ expressed conclusion that TTIP negotiations failed. I wrote an article “The TTIP is Dead”, hoping that spreading of this ‘promise’ by the highest authorities of the two key countries in the EU would make sure among the European populace that any deviation from this ‘promise’ would be perceived as a lie and receive strongest public expressions of protest.”

“In the meantime, it has become clear that the TTIP and TISA ‘deals’ are not at all dead. In fact, shortly after the German and French announcements, Jean-Claude Juncker, the unelected President of the European Commission, declared majestically that for him the negotiations are not dead.”

Koenig continues,

“There are other means to infiltrate the TTIP into the EU, i.e. through CETA and according to Juncker, doesn’t need ratification of each EU members’ parliament. Then there is TISA, the even more secret ‘trade agreement’ between 50 countries around the globe. TISA could easily be used to clandestinely impose TTIP rules on Europe.”

Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now confirmed what Peter Koenig is saying in a Guardian piece “Think TTIP is a threat to democracy? There’s another trade deal that’s already signed

“TTIP is not alone. Its smaller sister deal between the EU and Canada is called CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). CETA is just as dangerous as TTIP; indeed it’s in the vanguard of TTIP-style deals, because it’s already been signed by the European commission and the Canadian government. It now awaits ratification over the next 12 months.

The one positive thing about CETA is that it has already been signed and that means that we’re allowed to see it. Its 1,500 pages show us that it’s a threat to not only our food standards, but also the battle against climate change, our ability to regulate big banks to prevent another crash and our power to renationalise industries.

CETA contains a new legal system, open only to foreign corporations and investors. Should the British government make a decision, say, to outlaw dangerous chemicals, improve food safety or put cigarettes in plain packaging, a Canadian company can sue the British government for “unfairness”. And by unfairness this simply means they can’t make as much profit as they expected. The “trial” would be held as a special tribunal, overseen by corporate lawyers.”

What is missing from this statement is that any American corporation headquartered in Canada can sue any nation in the EU via CETA for the same reasons – namely, loss of ‘expected’ profits. They don’t actually have to be Canadian corporations.

As Global Justice also confirms, Canada has itself fought and lost a plentiful and diverse range of legal cases brought by US corporations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) for “outlawing carcinogenic chemicals in petrol, reinvesting in local communities and halting the devastation of quarries.” If TTIP doesn’t bring this horrific erosion of democratic power to the shores of Europe, CETA will. ‘Brexit’ will mean for nothing. It will be sold to the British people as a global trade agreement which will be heralded as a great success and supported by much of the media who themselves have a vested interest in such deals.

In the end, does it matter if it’s called TTIP, CETA, TISA and the like, they are all shadowy unaccountable acronyms designed to enrich the few via extreme neoliberal capitalism under the guise of free trade.

September 11, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Post-Brexit, Is the EU Flaunting Its Undemocratic Tendencies?

By Joyce Nelson | CounterPunch | July 6, 2016

Stung by Brexit, the EU bureaucrats seem intent on showing just how undemocratic they can be. Here are two examples just in the last seven days.

The Glyphosate License

On June 24, EU member states again refused (for a third time this year) to approve a renewal of the license for the weed-killer glyphosate manufactured by Monsanto and other corporations involved in GMO crop cultivation. That should have meant that the license would expire by the end of June, and Monsanto’s Roundup and other glyphosate weed-killers would have to be withdrawn from Europe by the end of this year.

Instead, on June 29 the European Commission (EC) decided “unilaterally” to extend the glyphosate license for another 18 months. [1]

The decision “drew heavy criticism from the Greens in the European Parliament, who said the decision showed the Commission’s ‘disdain’ for the opposition by the public and EU governments to the controversial toxic herbicide.” [2] Belgian Green Member of the European Parliament Bart Staes said, “As perhaps the first EU decision after the UK referendum, it shows the [EC] executive is failing to learn the clear lesson that the EU needs to finally start listening to its citizens again.” [3]

Many were simply shocked that an unelected body of bureaucrats would cater so blatantly to the corporate sector’s last-minute lobbying.

The EC claims that, because of member nations’ indecision on the matter, its own decision about glyphosate was based on assessments made by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), prolonging the authorisation until a new scientific review is concluded before the end of 2017, but Greenpeace has called the EFSA study “a whitewash.” [4]

Lawrence Woodward, co-director of Beyond GM, has called the EC’s unilateral decision “reckless.” [5] It comes at the same time that dozens of individuals and organizations have signed an open “Letter from America,” urging European citizens, politicians and regulators to not adopt a “failing agricultural technology” and sharing examples of glyphosate and GMO repercussions across North America. [6]

CETA Ratification

At virtually the same time that the EC made this controversial decision on glyphosate, it made another that is even more undemocratic.

On June 28, a German news agency reported that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told EU leaders the Commission is planning to push through a controversial free trade agreement between Canada and the EU – known as CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement – without giving national parliaments any say in it. [7] According to the German press, Juncker argued that allowing national parliaments to vote on the agreement would “paralyze the process” and raise questions about the EU’s “credibility.” Juncker claimed that CETA “would fall within the exclusive competence of the EU executive” and therefore doesn’t need to be ratified by national parliaments within the 28-nation bloc, sources in Brussels told the Germany news agency DPA. [8]

Most EU members, however, view CETA as a “mixed” agreement, meaning “that each country would have to push the deal through their parliaments.” [9]

In late June 2016, the EC’s Juncker was reported as saying that he “personally couldn’t care less” whether lawmakers get to vote on CETA. [10]

Millions of Canadians and Europeans have fought against CETA for the past six years. Like the TPP and TTIP, it is a draconian agreement that would hand multinational corporations immense power to overrule elected local governments on numerous fronts. In Canada, CETA was supposed to be voted on by every Canadian provincial and territorial government before any ratification could take place, but in September 2014 (during the reign of Stephen Harper) the CETA deal was signed without there having been any public consultation whatsoever in Canada. The 2014 announcement was also the first time people in Canada and Europe were allowed to see the official text, which had been kept secret during the years of negotiations.

Unfortunately, Canada’s International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland is enthused about what the EU is doing. According to The Globe and Mail newspaper (July 3), “The British vote to exit the European Union has refocused

Europe’s attention on the need to send a message to the world that liberalized trade is the path to greater prosperity, Ms. Freeland said.” [11]

She also explained that once the European Parliament approves CETA, “a great deal of the agreement would come into force immediately, more than 90 per cent,” she said, “those portions deemed to be within the European Union’s jurisdiction, those go into force right away.” [12]

Freeland told The Globe and Mail that concerns about CETA’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism – which allows multinational corporations to sue governments over regulations that harm their future profits – had been addressed by a rewrite of the treaty’s investment chapter. [13] But according to Council of Canadians, those changes “actually make [the provisions] worse. The reforms enshrine extra rights for foreign investors that everyone else – including domestic investors – don’t have. They allow foreign corporations to circumvent a country’s own courts, giving them special status to challenge laws that apply equally to everyone through a [private] court system exclusively for their use.” [14]

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Europe this week for a NATO summit, and officials “say he will lobby hard for other European leaders not to stand in the way of [CETA’s] ratification.” [15]

The Pushback

Reportedly, the pushback in Europe has been immediate, with Germany and France wanting “their national parliaments to be involved” in CETA ratification. On July 5, Deutsche Welle reported that “Juncker appears to be backtracking,” and would propose at a July 5 EC meeting that CETA would require “both the approval of the European parliament and national legislatures.” [16]

The Globe and Mail reported on July 5 that Juncker’s “new recommendation… could call for applying those EU parts of the treaty while the ratification process [by national legislatures] is under way.” [17] That would mean (as Canada’s Chrystia Freeland had earlier explained) more than 90% of CETA could be approved by the EU as part of its “jurisdiction” and needing no national legislative approvals. Such a process would make a mockery of democratic rights on both sides of the Atlantic.

That appears to be what is happening.

Following the July 5 EC meeting in Strasbourg, France, the CBC reported: “Legal opinions advanced by the commission suggest that most of the agreement – perhaps as much as 95 per cent – falls comfortably with the European Union’s jurisdiction… ‘This is an agreement that Europe needs,’ EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement. ‘The open issue of competence for such trade agreements will be for the European Court of Justice to clarify, in the near future. From a strict legal standpoint, the commission considers this agreement to fall under exclusive EU competence. However, the political situation in the council is clear, and we understand the need for proposing it as a ‘mixed’ agreement, in order to allow for a speedy signature’.” [18]

But as nations gear up to wrangle with the EU (in the European Court of Justice) over what parts of the CETA treaty fall within their jurisdiction, and what parts “fall under exclusive EU competence,” the EC could approve 95% of CETA before elected legislatures even vote.

The Council of Canadians warns on its website (July 5): “One important concern to note, ‘The commission may recommend provisionally applying the EU-parts of the Canada deal while full ratification is pending.’ The French newspaper Le Monde has previously reported that even if CETA is deemed to be a ‘mixed’ agreement, the deal could enter into force ‘provisionally’ even before EU member state parliaments vote on it. It notes, ‘If EU ministers agreed at the signing of the CETA on its provisional application, it could come into effect the following month. Such a decision would have serious implications. Symbolically, first because it would send the message that European governments finally [have] little regard for the views of parliamentarians and thus of European citizens strongly against the agreement’.” [19]

Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow stated after the EC meeting in Strasbourg, “Like many Canadians, Europeans are worried about CETA’s attacks on democracy, its weakening of social and safety standards, its contribution to privatization and attacks on public services. After the Brexit vote, policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic would be better counseled to listen to voters, rather than pushing discredited [trade] solutions down people’s throats.” [20]

Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden has called CETA a “toxic deal” and says that the way the EC is acting “reinforces the widely held suspicion that the EU makes big decisions with harmful consequences for ordinary people with very little in the way of democratic process,” he said. “Rather than take a step back and question why there is hostility to the EU, they try to speed up this awful trade deal.” [21]

Union members, environmentalists, social activists and “fair trade” groups say CETA is just as dangerous as the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal between the EU and the U.S., which hands massive power to multinationals and is a direct threat to democracy on both sides of the Atlantic. The way the EC is handling CETA is a stark clue to what’s in store for TTIP.

Footnotes:
[1] “European Commission Extends Glyphosate License without Real Restrictions,” Sustainable Pulse, June 29, 2016.

[2] Frederic Simon, “EU muddling on glyphosate fuelled Brexit populism,” EurActiv.com, July 1, 2016.

[3] Quoted in ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Katie Pohlman, “Neil Young: Say No to GMOs on ‘Behalf of All Living Things’,” EcoWatch, July 1, 2016.

[6] Quoted in ibid.

[7] “EU Commission Seeks to Push Through Free Trade Agreement with Canada (CETA) without Parliamentary Approval,” Deutsche Welle, June 28, 2016.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Reuters, “EU Commission to opt for simple approval for Canada deal: EU official,” June 28, 2016.

[10] “EU Commission: CETA should be approved by national parliaments,” Deutsche Welle, July 5, 2016.

[11] Robert Fife, “Despite Brexit vote, key EU powers vow to ratify CETA deal,” The Globe and Mail, July 3, 2016.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Council of Canadians, “CETA changes make investor-state provisions worse,” February 3, 2016.

[15] Fife, op cit.

[16] “EU Commission: CETA should be approved by national parliaments,” Deutsche Welle, July 5, 2016.

[17] “EC set to scrap plans to fast-track CETA deal: report,” The Globe and Mail, July 5, 2016.

[18] “Canada gets clarity on how Europe will ratify trade deal,” CBC, July 5, 2016.

[19] Council of Canadians, “CETA to be considered a ‘mixed’ agreement, now more vulnerable to defeat,” July 5, 2016.

[20] Council of Canadians, “CETA vulnerable to defeat: Council of Canadians,” July 5, 2016.

[21] Lamiat Sabin “Brexit ‘Might Not Stop Awful Ceta’,” Morning Star, July 5, 2016.


Joyce Nelson is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer/researcher working on her sixth book.

July 6, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO invents Russian threats in the Baltic

By Oliver Tickel  |  The Ecologist |  February 19, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin will “launch a campaign of undercover attacks to destabilise the Baltic states on Nato’s eastern flank”, the Telegraph reports today – along with all other mainstream news media.

How do we know this? Because the UK’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said so. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia watch out – the Russian peril is fast coming your way.

“There are lots of worries”, Fallon told the newspaper. “I’m worried about Putin. There’s no effective control of the border, I’m worried about his pressure on the Baltics, the way he is testing NATO, the submarines and aircraft … They are modernising their conventional forces, they are modernising their nuclear forces and they are testing NATO, so we need to respond.”

Covert attack by Russia on the Baltic states is “a very real and present danger”, Fallon insisted. Now where did we hear that before? Ah yes. On 16th December 1998 President Bill Clinton said that that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein presented a clear and present dangerto the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere.

We all know where that led: the Iraq war followed a few years later. We also know that the claim was a monstrous untruth: Saddam had no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. So why should we believe Fallon now? Where is his evidence? He has none. When you already know the truth, who needs evidence?

Fallon – and NATO – should keep their eyes on the ball

But while Fallon’s attention is focused on the imaginary threat to the Baltic states, there is another country that really could be ‘at risk’ – and not because of cyber-attack, invasion by ‘green men’ or a campaign of destabilisation emanating from the Kremlin.

No, the EU, the European Central Bank, the IMF and European finance ministers have already been doing all the destabilisation that’s needed – forcing Greece into a deep programme of austerity that has seen the economy shrink by 25% over five years, the closure of vital public services, mass unemployment and the forced sell-off of public assets.

And now the Greeks – and their newly elected Syriza government – have had enough. This week the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras flatly refused to renew the €240 billion ‘bailout’ package, which comes with all the austerity strings, and he today advanced proposals for a ‘six-month assistance package’ free of harsh conditions to give Greece time to renegotiate its debt.

The standoff continues, and will be decided tomorrow by EU finance ministers. It’s not looking good: Germany has already stated that the Greek proposal “does not meet the conditions”. But if the finance minsters don’t agree, then what?

You guessed it: Tsipras will turn to Russia. Earlier this month Tsipras and Putin agreed on a range of bilateral ties, including the construction of a pipeline that would carry Russian natural gas from the Turkish border across Greece to the other countries of southern Europe.

This follows the re-routing of the ‘South Stream’ pipeline, which had been due to cross Bulgaria but was effectively blocked by the EU’s retrospective application of energy market rules, under heavy pressure from the USA. Last November and December Putin negotiated the pipeline’s realignment across Turkey with Turkish President Erdogan – right up to the Greek border.

Following the agreement between Putin and Tsipras, which came complete with an invitation to Moscow on Victory over the Nazis day, 9th May, the pipeline link to the major countries of southern Europe is now complete, at least on paper. And once it’s built, Greece will effectively control – and profit from – that gas supply, and take a strategic position in Europe’s energy landscape.

But Greece is a NATO member!

Greece’s increasingly warm relationship with Russia is already causing concern among other EU and NATO countries. German Defense Minister Ursula von Der Leyen has said that Greece was “putting at risk its position in the NATO alliance with its approach to Russia.”

This provoked a fierce retort from Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos who branded the attack as “unacceptable and extortionate” – noting that “Greece was always on the side of the Allies when they pushed back German occupation troops.”

“Statements that replace the EU and NATO’s institutional bodies are unacceptable as blackmailing”, he added. “They undermine the European institutions except if Germany’s aim is to dissolve the European Union and the NATO.”

So if Tsipras’s refinancing proposal is refused tomorrow will Greece quit NATO and the EU, to join the Eurasian Union? Not if Mr Putin gets his way: Greece is worth much more to Russia as an ally within the EU and NATO than outside – where it can veto more trade sanctions against Russia, block the TTIP and CETA trade deals with the USA and Canada, and oppose NATO’s increasing belligerence from within.

But we could see Greece simply renouncing its manifestly unpayable and unjust €320 billion national debt, and quitting the Eurozone straitjacket – while receiving an emergency liquidity package from Russia to support the launch of the New Drachma.

In fact, we could see a re-run of important elements of the Ukraine play of December 2013, when Russia offered a support package under which it would buy $15 billion in bonds from Ukraine, supporting its collapsing currency, and supply it with deeply discounted gas – £268 per cubic metre rather than the maarket price of $400.

A $15 billion purchase of New Drachma denominated Greek bonds would be a superb launch for Greece’s new currency, and would firmly cement Greece’s long term alliance with Russia, providing it with a valuable long term bridgehead into both the EU and NATO.

This move would also give inspiration and confidence to progressive political movements across Europe that take inspiration from Syriza’s fight for economic justice – in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, the UK and beyond – and bear the powerful message: there is an alternative.

And while NATO, the EU, the USA and their loyal servants, among them the UK’s Michael Fallon, deliberately whip up a fictitious threat in the Baltic, ignoring the real danger they face to the south, the masterly Mr Putin would once again make fools of them all.

 

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Street Demonstrations In 21 European Countries Held To Protest Against TAFTA/TTIP; Another ACTA Revolt Brewing?

By Glyn Moody | Techdirt | October 15, 2014

Last month, the European Commission refused to accept a request to allow an official EU-wide petition called a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to take place. This was a curiously maladroit move by the Commission: it would have been easy to allow the petition against TAFTA/TTIP and CETA to proceed, thank the organizers once it was completed, file it away somewhere and then ignore it. Instead, by refusing to allow it to take place, the European Commission has highlighted in a dramatic manner the deeply undemocratic way in which so-called trade agreements are conducted.

Moreover, those making the request have simply gone ahead anyway, launching what they call the “Self-organised European Citizens’ initiative Against TTIP and CETA“. Even though this was only launched last week, it has already collected over 600,000 signatures from European citizens at the time of writing, and there is every indication that it will go well past the nominal one million signatures that the ECI would have required. The European Commission’s refusal to allow the official petition was doubly stupid, since it came shortly before a Europe-wide day of action against TAFTA/TTIP that took place last Saturday, and doubtless encouraged people to take to the streets in order to make their views felt:

On October 11, 2014, tens of thousands of people and hundreds of organisations in 21 countries are organising actions to reclaim democracy, and stop the negotiations on three far-reaching trade agreements: the EU-US deal (TTIP), the EU-Canada deal (CETA) and the trade in services deal (TiSA).

This decentralised European Day of Action — consisting of over 300 actions, marches, meetings and flash mobs — is being organised by an unprecedented alliance of civil society groups and individuals, social movements, trade unions, rights defenders, farmers and grassroots activist groups.

Reporting on the event, Euractiv.com wrote:

Some 400 activist groups marched all over Europe on Saturday (11 October) in protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as the EU-US trade deal crystallises opposition to a wide variety of issues — from shale gas to corporate finance.

That last point is important. Euractiv.com goes on to explain:

The opposition to TTIP has many faces however, and seems to embody a wide variety of concerns. In France, many small demonstrations focused on opposition to shale gas, especially in the South of France, while in Berlin protesters were worried that TTIP would weaken the powers of the German regions, or Länders.

Potentially, that could make the European opposition to TAFTA/TTIP even broader-based than it was to ACTA, where people were largely concerned about a single issue — digital rights. And just as the ACTA demonstrations started off small scale, but grew to hundreds of thousands of people before ACTA was rejected by the European Parliament, so the anti-TTIP movement in Europe could easily swell larger still. Especially if the European Commission continues to conduct the negotiations in secret and without any input from its citizens.

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October 15, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 2 Comments