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How TTIP, TPP, TISA, CETA and other trade deals should be negotiated

We are not just against any and all trade deals

Wednesday 17 June 2015, by mond


A lot has been written on what is bad about TTIP, CETA, TISA, TPP, etc. Some people accuse us about being opposed to any trade deal at all. To repute this let us imagine for a moment on how such trade deal would ideally look like and how they should have been negotiated.

Who would participate in such negotiations?

Up until around 2009 the US and Europe tried to impose their neoliberal agenda onto the world via WTO negotiations. The general idea there was to create deals that would favor the rich and powerful countries in the long run. To gain the support of the disadvantaged poorer countries the deals usually contained some bargaining to give them some short term incentives (and most likely in some cases also outright bribes) to sign the deals.

After around 2009 the poorer countries organized themself and where more and more reluctant to sign deals that where not favorable for their country. So the process got stuck. The rich and powerful nations like US and EU had no interest in a fair world market and the less rich and less powerful could no longer be easily bribed to act against their interest.

This is when the US started to shift their focus on deals like ACTA, TTIP, TISA, TPP, etc.. that where negotiated without the participation of poorer countries. Due to their economic power, these rules would still affect the poorer countries but they would not have a say in it.

So as a result new trade agreements should be negotiated with the participation of all interested countries.

Of course we also need experts from civil society participating within this process. NGOs, trade unions, etc.

How should such deals be negotiated?

Usually such trade deals are used for so called "policy laundering". Most of the stuff that is in such deals is widely unpopular as it is directed against the interest of the majority of people while a small majority of rich is profiting from this. In a democracy it is not so easy to propose unpopular things as there could be some resistance from the voters.

So trade deals are a nice way around this. The bad stuff is proposed in secret meetings. Once the final trade deal is presented each of the negotiation parties can argue that the bad stuff was not proposed by them but was the result of a compromise solution. This way the corrupt political class has an easy way of proposing legislation without the risk of being held directly responsible for it.

To avoid the "policy laundering" it is of uttermost importance that all these deals will be negotiated with a maximum of transparency. Not only is is necessary that the draft texts of the deal is always available to the public, it is even necessary that there is log of who proposed what and why. We also need to know who voted in favor or against including or excluding some provision into the text.

Of course each of the negotiating parties should come to the table with a clear and democratically established mandate of what to archive within the negotiations. We should also expect that we get regular reports on how their actions (proposed provisions and the voting on the provisions of others) fits within their mandate.

I would argue that any trade deal that would be negotiated in this way would not be that bad. This is of course is the reason why the ruling elites will never agree to do negotiations this way. It would take away one of their most important tools do subvert the democratic process.

So if we want our democracy back we should just demand this level of transparency from any new trade deal. We should not accept any deal that was not produced with this level of transparency.

What should be the content of such trade deals?

A lot of problems that we face right now are global ones. Climate change does not stop at national boarders. The competition between nation states leads to race to the bottom in environmental and safety standards, labor laws and wages. Half of the people on this planet live in poverty and around 10 million are starving each year.

What we would need in international trade deals would be provisions to counter these tendencies: To establish mandatory minimum standards in wages, labor laws, environmental protection, individual freedoms and human rights.

The division of labor and free trade can improve efficiency and create more wealth for all of use as much as they can be harmful. The main purpose of these trade deals needs to be to make sure that we all profit from this and not just a very tiny elite.

Given the unbelievable outrages scandal that millions of people are starving on this planet, of course we need to make sure that it is first and foremost the poorest people on this planet who can profit from such deals.

TTIP, TPP, TISA, CETA and all the other current and recent trade deals are almost 180 degrees opposed to everything that is written above. So we have to get rid of them in order to make room for something good.

Arbitration Tribunals?

Well, with a trade treaty that is built like the one above one would expect that it contains good things and after all it would not hurt if those could be enforce. So the idea of some arbitration body or court would make sense. But certainly no one would put the representatives of private corporations in such a position as those are the ones that are most likely to violate such treaties.

— Franz Schäfer (Mond), June 2015

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