More than 1,000 rallied in Westminster on Saturday, October 11, as part of a Europe-wide protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The TTIP is designed to aid the free flow of finance capital, and ride roughshod over countries’ sovereignty and negate the public authority of those countries in favour of the rule of international finance capital.
Tens of thousands of people held mass rallies all over Europe on Saturday against TTIP and its aims. Talks on TTIP started last February and have been mostly held behind closed doors. The government of Britain is backing this neo-liberal deal, claiming it could add billions to the economy by reducing regulations and other barriers to trade. In reality, it is a neo-liberal arrangement for the unfettered dictate of the monopolies. Not least, it would open up public services, including schools and hospitals, to privatisation under the direction of the health monopolies, particularly those of the United States, under the guise of “harmonisation” of regulations. In particular, it would aim to make irreversible this privatisation, which is not to say that the state would be by-passed. In fact, the role of the state as the agent of the monopolies would be enhanced by means of TTIP.
Under TTIP, the monopolies would be empowered by means of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) to sue publicly-owned bodies if they thought there was an “indirect expropriation” of future profits. Explaining how this could happen, technology writer Glyn Moody told RT (Russia Today) that such companies with a stake in the NHS could sue the government. “This clause would kick in and the companies that have taken these parts of the NHS will say then: ‘Hang on, you’re taking our future profits. We are going to sue you for billions of euro,’”he said. “That is exactly what will happen with the NHS,” Moody said. “So basically privatisation will be locked in. You couldn`t reverse it or rather you could reverse it, but you’d end up paying billions or possibly tens of billions of euro if you did so.”
The point is that ISDS disputes are adjudicated by ad hoc arbitration panels which operate outside and above the judicial system of the host countries. The arbitration panels are made up from a small group of commercial lawyers, but their decisions are given the force of law through the international treaties that create them.
The effect of empowering investor protection tribunals is to weaken the ability of the public authority at any level to impose restrictions on the activities of investors within its jurisdiction. They have been used under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and in bilateral investment agreements. Investor protection agreements have
been a key element in the neo-liberal
globalisation of trade since the 1980s. They are part of the neo-liberal offensive aimed at depriving people of having any say about important issues so that international monopolies can operate freely throughout the world as they see fit.
Protests against TTIP on October 11 took place in 22 countries across Europe – marches, rallies and other public events – in over 1,000 locations in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic and Scandinavian countries.
According to the international organisation ATTAC, the decentralised Day of Actions united an unprecedented number of civil society groups and individuals, social movements, trade unions and rights defenders.
The main aim of the wave of protests is to put an end to the negotiations on three major trade agreements: the EU-US deal (TTIP), the EU-Canada deal (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA) and the trade in services deal (TiSA).
In London, British historian and investigative journalist Andy Worthington told RT’s Harry Fear that people have reasons not to trust politicians who have been reassuring them since the 1980s, yet “handing over more and more power to corporations”.
The leaders of Canada and the EU signed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) this September, which is yet to be finalised. It will remove over 99 percent of tariffs between the two economies by 2016, reported RT.
The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is planned to liberalise the trade of services such as banking and transport between 23 parties, initiated by the US. Its draft version was released this June by WikiLeaks, which was followed by rising criticism.
Trade unions also have warned that the TTIP deal would make privatisation of services irreversible if it allowed corporations to make decisions over public policy makers or the general public. Speaking at the TUC in Liverpool on September 10, Unite Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail urged Congress delegates to oppose TTIP and rally support amongst working people to demand that David Cameron keep Britain’s health services out of the TTIP agreement. “It is clear this government thought they could do this deal in secret – a deal that would mean the irreversible sell-off of our NHS to America,”Cartmail said. “Wall Street financiers like Blackrock and Invesco are already heavily invested in the NHS – over 70 percent of new contracts are now in private hands. Over £11 billion of our money in the hands of casino capitalists,”she added.
For Your Information
For the information of our readers, we reproduce below Composite Motion 3 on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which was passed unanimously:
Congress 2014 Composite resolution – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
Congress is extremely concerned about the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade treaty, a wide-ranging trade deal giving unprecedented power and influence to transnational corporations that would become the benchmark for all future trade agreements, currently being negotiated between the EU and the USA and recognises the threat posed. While there may be economic benefits in reducing trade tariffs and reviewing regulation for certain industrial sectors, Congress believes that the primary purpose of TTIP is to extend corporate investor rights.
A key element of the TTIP is the introduction of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause, which would act as a tribunal/arbitration. The ISDS could see millions of pounds paid out to those big private sector corporations should NHS services be brought back into the public sector in the future.
As with all trade agreements, TTIP is being negotiated mainly in secret. The current negotiations lack transparency and proper democratic oversight.
a) allow corporations to sue sovereign states, elected governments and other authorities legislating in the public interest where this curtails their ability to maximise their profits, by recourse to an Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism;
b) threaten the future of our NHS and other key public services;
c) risk job losses, despite unsubstantiated claims to the contrary;
d) potentially undermine labour standards, pay, conditions and trade union rights as the US refuses to ratify core ILO conventions and operates anti-union “right to work” policies in half of its states;
e) reverse years of European progress on environmental standards, food safety and control of dangerous chemicals, given US refusal to accept stricter EU regulation of substances long banned in the EU; and
f) deprive EU member states of billions of pounds in lost tariff revenue.
Key concerns are:
i) the threat to our National Health Service and sections of the public sector that may be opened up to the private sector leaving a future Labour government with no legal right to take back into public ownership (including previously publicly owned transport and utilities) and that could lead to a far more widespread fragmentation of NHS services, putting them into the hands of big private sector corporations;
ii) the quasi-judicial process on the Investor-State Dispute Settlement under which multinational corporations may sue, in secret courts, nation states whose laws or actions are deemed incompatible with free trade;
iii) opening up European markets to US Frankenstein foods – hormone enriched beef, chlorinated poultry and genetically modified cereals and salmon;
iv) the mutual recognition of regulatory standards which will lead to a race to the bottom and the creation of a Transatlantic Regulatory Council which will give privileged access to multinational corporations; and
v) the impact on creators’ intellectual property rights.
Congress notes that free trade agreements rarely, if ever, benefit working people and are pushed by corporations who use them as a means to maximise profits and further their own interests.
The idea of transatlantic trade may well be supported by those that would profit from it, but for our health services based on values, principles and sustainability it could be a financial disaster, adding another nail in the NHS coffin. The TUC and a number of other organisations have been campaigning to exempt the NHS from the negotiations and Congress now calls on the General Council to keep the pressure on and raise the profile of the calamitous affects the TTIP could have on the NHS.
Congress remains unconvinced by official claims of job creation arising out of TTIP, and considers that the dangers to public services, workers’ rights and environmental standards outweigh any potential benefits. Congress remains unconvinced about the likelihood of a binding labour rights chapter based on ILO Core Conventions.
Congress has similar concerns over current negotiations for the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA).
Congress believes that on the current path we will be presented with a fait accompli in the form of an inadequate, unacceptable agreement that we have had no chance of influencing or amending and where time will make it difficult to mobilise opposition.
Congress resolves that the TUC should:
1) oppose Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms and a ratchet clause;
2) call for the exclusion of all public services, including education and health, public procurement, public utilities and public transport (whether in public or private ownership) from the negotiations;
3) demand no levelling down in relation to consumer, worker or environmental protection;
4) insist on genuine consultation with civil society organisations, including trade unions;
5) work with like-minded organisations, including the ETUC, in opposing all detrimental aspects of TTIP and in campaigning for alternative EU trade and investment policies; and
6) welcome the decision of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Trade to exclude the audio-visual sector from the initial TTIP agenda, and lobby the UK government to oppose its future inclusion, in order to preserve the European Cultural Exception and the unique national nature of arts and entertainment activity within Europe.
Congress therefore resolves that the trade union movement should now call for the TTIP negotiations to be halted and adopt a clear position of outright opposition to TTIP, and the other trade agreements currently being negotiated, whilst continuing to monitor progress and press for improvements to promote decent jobs and growth and safeguard labour, consumer, environmental and health and safety standards through lobbying, campaigning and negotiating, in alliance with the ETUC and AFLCIO.
Congress agrees that all pending and future trade agreements entered into by the EU should be subject to a vigorous and transparent regime of scrutiny and consultation, ensuring that they are of benefit and acceptable to the millions of people affected by their content, in all countries covered by the agreement.
Destabilisation – US Weapon in Energy War
By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya *, Russia Today OpEd, October 8, 2014
The US is doing its best to estrange the EU from Russia to get the upper hand in a free trade deal, and also, to manipulate European countries into buying America’s relatively more expensive natural gas.
TTIP and Ukraine
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a Euro-Atlantic free trade agreement that is the subject of ongoing negotiations between the US and the EU. The deadline for finalising the TTIP free trade agreement is in 2015. Its goal is to create what is referred to as the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA) and to cement the European Union with the United States as one supranational trading bloc.
These trade negations have been passing under the public’s radar, because they have been taking place very discreetly behind closed doors. The very TTIP’s name is designed to conceal, and was selected by policy and trade mandarins, because of their fears a public backlash could erupt against the negotiations, as it did in the case of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) talks in 2001. Like the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which was signed in Ottawa between Canada and the EU on September 26, wordsmiths calculatingly picked the name TTIP to try to hide the fact that it is a free trade agreement.
Washington is doing its best to disrupt trade ties between its EU partners and the Russian Federation in order to get greater leverage in the TTIP negotiations. Its strategy is to economically weaken its European partners by getting them to cut ties with Moscow through anti-Russia sanctions that will directly hurt their economies too. Washington calculates that this will force a weakened EU to maximise the economic concessions to the US in the TTIP talks.
Geopolitically, this is a story about Euro-Atlantic (read Euro-US) integration versus Eurasian (read Euro-Asian) integration. It seeks to reduce Russian influence in the EU and any risks of the strengthening of trade ties between Russia and the EU by trying to marginalise the Russians in Europe. TTIP negotiations have intensified because the US wants to amalgamate the EU with North America, because it fears that countries like Germany could start considering a Eurasian alternative involving Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the post-Soviet space.
The crisis in Ukraine precisely serves the US’s dual purpose to weaken both the EU and Russia. It seeks not only to expand NATO and encircle Russia, but also to damage EU-Russia ties. Ukraine is literally being exploited and used by the US to create a rift between Moscow and the EU and to portray Russia as a bogyman and threat to European security.
Petro-Politics: US LNG vs Gazprom
The US has also been fighting an energy war that involves controlling energy reserves, the pipelines and strategic corridors that energy is transported through. US involvement, commitments, and concerns in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Iraq, the Levant, the Persian Gulf, and Ukraine have all been part of this energy war.
Shale gas and hydraulic fracturing of gas is part of this equation too. Fracking is transforming the US, which has the fourth largest shale gas reserves in the world, into a natural gas exporter. Washington plans to begin exporting gas from North America in 2015 and 2016.
At the same time, the US has been using North American integration to strengthening its hold on Canadian energy resources. Canada is one of the largest producers of natural gas, largest possessors of proven oil reserves, largest producers of crude oil, and possesses the largest shale gas reserves, and, on the whole, one of the top energy producers in the world.
In the context of US energy exports, Washington wants to compete against and even sideline Russia in the natural gas market. For that reason the US has been lobbying the EU and Turkey to stop buying gas from Russia’s energy giant Gazprom and, instead, to begin importing it from the US. The objective of pushing Russia out of energy markets has been part of a long-term US strategy that has been heavily discussed in the Washington Beltway before the US even invaded Iraq in 2003.
American gas, however, is much more expensive than the Russian since it has to be fracked, liquefied, and transported at much higher costs. The American liquefied natural gas (LNG) does not have any chance of competing against Russian gas exports to Europe under fair circumstances and in a genuinely free market.
The so-called free market, however, is not-so-free. There has always been political manipulation taking place to give an advantage to the corporations and conglomerates that certain governments wait on.
Instead of competing fairly in the EU energy market, the US has been working hard to eliminate Russia as a competitor by getting Brussels to simply cut its energy ties with Gazprom and the Russian energy sector. This is precisely why the US has pushed the EU member states to impose sanctions against Russia and this way put legal restrictions and barriers to buying Russian gas.
Energy war and Ukraine: The Empire of “frack” and shale gas
In context of the energy war, a Polish LNG terminal has been setup in the Baltic port of Swinoujscie with plans to receive its first deliveries of natural gas from North America by the end of June 2015.
Poland and Ukraine are both seen as important possessions for the US in its quest to dominate the gas trade. The two countries that have the second and fourth largest shale gas deposits – if you exclude Russia, their respective reserves are the first and second largest in Europe. The US has plans to control the large untapped shale gas reserves in both countries.
Major US oil companies Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Marathon Oil – which operate in Iraqi Kurdistan and is a shareholder of post-Jamahiriya Libya’s Waha Oil Company – have all got huge stakes in exploring and developing Polish shale gas.
Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich’s government had signed a deal with the Anglo-Dutch energy giant Royal Dutch Shell to explore and drill for natural gas in East Ukraine in January 2013 with zero taxes. Another agreement was signed in November 2013 between Yanukovich’s government and Chevron to also explore and develop the energy reserves in West Ukraine. Just a year earlier, in 2012, Kiev also awarded a gas contract off the Crimean coast to a consortium led by ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell to develop the Skifska gas field.
The Skifska gas field is not the only field off the Crimean coast that US oil and gas corporations were interested in. Next to it Skifska are located the Foroska, Prykerchenska, and Tavriya fields. While Prykerchenska field was awarded to the US offshore company Vanco Prykerchenska Ltd. and Foroska was under the management of Chornomornaftogaz, the Foroska and Tarivya fields were both the subjects of continuing discussions.
In part, US hostilities towards the rebels in East Ukraine are tied to protecting the shale gas concessions that American energy corporations have received from Kiev. Andrey Purgin, the Deputy Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, has even stated that the same US tactics that were used in Iraq, which include the calculated destruction of civilian infrastructure, are being applied in Eastern Ukraine. These US operations are run via proxy “soldiers of fortune” or mercenaries and “hired guns”. According to a May 2014 report by Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper, the ill-famed US private security firm Academi, which had renamed itself from Blackwater and Xe Services owing to its awful record in Iraq, was unleashed on Donetsk and Lugansk.
Energy war and Syria: Mediterranean lockout?
The situation in Syria, where the US has deliberately been destroying energy infrastructure under the mantra of fighting the ISIL, can also be viewed from the same prism of petro-politics. The natural gas off the Levantine coastline that encompasses Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Gaza hold immense reserves of natural gas. Here too the US is working to push out Russia and to control the gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Since 2000, Russian engineering construction company Stroytransgaz has been active in Syria and received contracts to build two gas refineries in the Homs area and to construct the Syrian portion of the Arab Gas Pipeline that connects Lebanon and Syria to Jordan and Egypt. Another Russian energy company, Soyuzneftegaz, got a tender from Damascus to operate on its eastern border with Iraq in 2004. In 2007, the Syria Gas Company (SGC) and Stroytransgaz agreed to jointly work on developing the natural gas reserves discovered in the fields of Homs. Amidst the crisis in Syria, Soyuzneftegaz signed an important offshore exploration agreement with Damascus on December 25, 2013.
Moreover, it just so happens that the crisis in Syria erupted during negations between Syria, Iraq, and Iran to build a gas pipeline from the world’s largest natural gas field to the Syrian coast. Damascus signed the agreement with Iraq and Iran on June 25, 2011. Until the contract was cancelled in 2009, Stroytransgaz was even supposed to connect the pipeline between the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and the Syrian port of Baniyas.
Qatar and Turkey were hostile to the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline agreement since it sidelined them as a natural gas exporter and as an energy corridor. The possibility that the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline could be used to export gas to the EU as a lower-priced rival to US LNG also had to be viewed negatively in Washington.
What the fighting in Syria and Iraq has done is put this project on hold whereas regime change will nullify it.
Destabilisation as US Bargaining Tactic?
While the US has been stoking tensions in Europe to help it in the TTIP negations with Brussels, the Pentagon has been redeploying to the Middle East. The Pentagon-led buildup in the region is about anything but fight ISIL. In part, it may be tied to US nuclear negations with Iran. On top of other goals, the US-led military buildup could be intended to give Washington additional leverage against Tehran in the nuclear talks.
Creating instability looks to be part of a packaged approach. Whatever the case is, its creation appears to be used to support US negotiations and bargaining. This is very clear in the case of the tension in Ukraine, where Washington is using the crisis to its advantage in TTIP talks and to peddle its LNG to the EU by using sanctions to lockout Russian gas.
* Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist, award-winning author and geopolitical analyst.