Kicking the trade agreements can down the road
Trade deals are stalled due to popular pressure In both the European Parliament and Congress. What’s going on?
When the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations were launched in 2013, veteran Tory politician Ken Clarke MP said that the deal needed to be done quickly. Chief US negotiator Mike Froman said he hoped it would be done on ‘one tank of gas’. And the G7 this month called for an urgent conclusion to the talks.
But now TTIP in Europe and the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the USA are mired in controversy and delay. And the EU-Canada deal, CETA, which has already been agreed several times, is still months away from facing a vote in the European, Canadian or EU national legislatures. Where has it all gone wrong?
Ken was at his most disarmingly avuncular when he warned the All Party TTIP meeting’s inaugural meeting that if the negotiations dragged on long enough for the people to find out what was going on, opposition would mount, possibly fatally. He’s a bright boy, Ken is, and he seems to have been dead on.
Popular opposition to special deals for foreign investors, and concerns about job losses, raiding of public services like the NHS, and lowering regulatory standards have mounted. The European Parliament’s report on TTIP was sent back to the Trade Committee on 10 June, but one opportunity for discussion has been missed and it is now due for reconsideration on 29 June, meaning a plenary vote before the autumn is unlikely.
In the US, an initial delay in the Senate was compounded last Friday by a crushing defeat for ‘fast track’ which would have made passage of TPP, TTIP and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). The vote could have been rescheduled for today, but the votes were clearly not there, so it has been postponed till the end of July (and, again, maybe until the fall.)
It would be a mistake to assume that these trade deals will lie down and die, and campaigning needs to continue and be redoubled. And we need to build opposition to CETA and TISA, as well as other EU trade agreements already under negotiation, for example with Japan.
But people have woken up to the dangers these agreements pose, and supporters of the deals will need to come up with a much better offer to get the public back on side. Maybe they could start looking at what unions and campaigners have been saying for years about a fairer alternative: trade deals that work for people, rather than profits?