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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

TTIP "trade" agreement talks indefinitely suspended

by Gaius Publius

Count this as a victory. It looks like the Atlantic version of TPP, called TTIP, has failed.

Despite the fervent best wishes of the U.S. corporate class, President Barack Obama, and other aligned politicians, it looks like the people of Europe have killed TTIP. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber; source)

Background: The U.S. corporate world has been aching to pass three "trade" mega-deals — TPP, TTIP and TiSA.

  • The first, TPP, ropes in nations bordering the Pacific, including the U.S. Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile and much of Asia (but deliberately not China). 
  • The second, TTIP is the same kind of treaty on the Altantic side and includes the U.S., the U.K, and the European Union. 
  • TiSA, a more or less global "trade in services" agreement, is the worst of the three and deserves its own, separate treatment. TiSA would radically open local markets to foreign companies that offer "services" — everything from law firms to companies that supply imported contract labor.

    (Think about that — companies that supply imported contract labor. Under TiSA, I think unions are instantly dead. You don't have to export jobs to slave labor, very-low-wage, countries if you can import the slave labor here under treaty-mandated expedited visas.)

The citizens of the U.S., both on the left and the right of the political spectrum, have been opposed to these kinds of agreements for years, ever since the devastation caused by Bill Clinton's NAFTA became apparent. Both the Trump campaign and the Sanders campaign were strongly opposed (or in Trump's case, said they were strongly opposed), which accounts for much of their ascendancy.

Opposition to corporate-written "trade" agreements is a huge part of what makes this election a "change election."

A good, brief Wikileaks-produced video explaining these three "trade" mega-deals

Now, thanks mainly to the frustration of the negotiators in Europe — and strong opposition from European citizens — TTIP talks have not just broken down; they've been indefinitely suspended.

This is not complete victory; they could be revived. But momentum has definitely stalled, and this could well be the death knell for this one. Michelle Chen writing at the The Nation:
Another Free-Trade Deal Bites the Dust

Negotiations surrounding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have been indefinitely suspended.

What if a trade deal died and nobody noticed? The presidential campaign trail has been awash in angry backlash against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the latest in a slew of controversial free-trade deals that symbolize to American voters the evils of corporate globalization. But another trade deal collapsed silently on the other side of the globe. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was supposed to be the Atlantic world’s analog to the TPP, but after three years of frustrated negotiations, it was just pronounced dead by key ministers, or at least temporarily moribund, overwhelmed by a phalanx of populist opposition across the continent. How’d that happen?
Chen goes on to explain:
Though smaller in scope than the TPP, TTIP paralleled the Pacific agreement in that it built on trade-agreement proposals that had stalled in previous discussions, ultimately collapsed during the round of World Trade Organization negotiations that began in 2001, and have fizzled out in the years since. EU and US trade ministers had hoped to sell it as a boon to global trade. But an increasingly cynical European public wasn’t buying it, seeing it instead as another pathway to more deregulation and corporate impunity.

Following months of gridlock and protests, and despite a meeting scheduled for next month in New York to continue discussions, negotiations have effectively ground to a halt. (October’s meetings are apparently aimed at redirecting talks toward a smaller-scale, preliminary pact as a substitute to the full TTIP. This is seen as progress, if not outright victory, for campaigns mobilizing against the EU free trade agenda deal by deal.)

It could be that corporate lobbyists and ministers are just hoping for a more opportune political climate, but the demise of this version of TTIP illustrates that, in real-life political terms, trade deals could mostly prove useless at best for trade and devastating at worst for democracy....
"Another pathway to more deregulation and corporate impunity" it certainly is — in fact all of them are that. Makes you wonder why any U.S. president would push so hard to pass them. Isn't that person sworn to "protect and defend the Constitution" and not subvert it? But things are what they are, as are the people doing them. We each have our tasks, I guess.

I would call victory on this one and celebrate. The Europeans brought down TTIP. Can we do the same for TPP? One down and two to go. Onward.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)