ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Tribune : le pacte transatlantique, le coup d’État néolibéral
by Marc Delepouve
Translated Thursday 15 August 2013, by
Opinion piece by Marc Delepouve, trade unionist and academic. On July 8th 2013 negotiations began working towards a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Pact. The aim is to reach an agreement on the liberalisation of trade and investment between the European Union (EU) and the United States. The European Commission is responsible for leading these negotiations on behalf of the EU. This mandate was given to them in mid-June by Council of EU Ministers responsible for foreign trade.
On July 29th, in an opinion piece published in French newspaper Libération France’s Minister for Foreign Trade Nicole Bricq wrote that she had “asked the European Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, to make public his mandate in the negotiations”, adding that “this mandate is already available on several internet sites” due to “leaks”.* Meanwhile, her own ministry has not yet published this document that she herself validated two months previously. Should one be surprised by this game of double standards being played by the minister, knowing that – according to the “leaks” she mentions – the mandate of the Commission reaches far outside the economic sphere and represents a significant democratic retreat twinned with a renewed menace to social rights?
The guidelines set out by the Commission foresee the implementation of a new body of international justice before which one state can challenge another and, more importantly, in which an investor can directly challenge a state when the latter is implementing measures that could reduce the profits of this investor. Corporations and states will be placed on the same level and capital, inflated by the power of law, will be on an equal footing with sovereign democracy.
Social rights are in the firing line of the Trans-Atlantic Pact. The intensification of the free market and its extension into new sectors lies at the heart of the Commission’s mandate. This will result in an aggravation of the constraints imposed in the name of competitiveness and increased pressure on social rights and salaries. Nevertheless, the mandate specifies that “Parties will not encourage trade or foreign direct investment by lowering domestic environmental, labour or occupational health and safety legislation and standards.” These words are in clear contrast with the socially destructive policies being pursued in countries such as Greece, Portugal and Hungary (wage reduction, extension of the working hours, etc.) These words, consequently, are little more than an unrealistic political caution, given how, in the face of extreme free market conditions, the policies of solidarity in favour of national economic interests are quickly discarded. There is no description of such a policy in the Commission’s mandate. Finally, it is necessary to highlight the intended harmonisation of health, environmental and security standards intended in the document to the end of aiding trans-Atlantic trade and investment. The United States’ standards in agriculture and nutrition (hormones, GMOs…), and energy (shale gas) should be cause for alarm.
The overarching goal of the trans-Atlantic pate, according to how it was defined in June, is to further the submission of the democratic institutions of the EU and its member states to the laws of the market and multinational corporations. Most sectors of society will be impacted. Through this coup d’état the neoliberal transformation underway in society for over three decades will advance considerably in favour of private multinationals, their managers and shareholders.
The trans-Atlantic Pact is a further attempted neoliberal coup. Will it be one attempt too many? Will it be the one that triggers the unity and growth in Europe of forces in defence of to democracy, social progress and defence of the environment?
*Humanité decided, for reasons of transparence and democracy to publish this document, hitherto hidden from citizens on its internet site and to outline its secretive content in its June 24 edition.
• Exclusif. Humanite.fr publie les bases de travail pour l’accord de libre-échange transatlantique
• Ils disent non au grand marché transatlantique
• L’accord transatlantique décrié mais pas remis en question