We have been assured that TTIP will never happen because it is proving too controversial. But CETA – Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement appears to have taken its place. Or has it?
This report in the Financial times appears to reflect a consensus that a Canada – EU trade deal is A Good Thing, and it is outrageous that Wallonia, one small corner of Europe, with 3.5 million inhabitants, merely a province of Belgium, not a country should be able to hinder it.
But the report does at least include some of Wallonia’s objections, stating that CETA will allow Canada to override local labour rights and environmental concerns (my emphasis)– exactly the problem with TTIP. Wallonia’s objectors range from Communists to Christian Democrats.
Some comments on the FT article do put the case against CETA rather better, pointing out that far from being a diverse bunch of Luddites blocking obviously sensible arrangements, the whole thing could be a back door to allow USA firms access to European markets, with large multinationals, not just Canadian, having power to drive small local firms out of business.
There appears to have been some obfuscation, with ‘warnings’ that if this little obstacle is allowed to prevail, the EU will be paralysed permanently from now on. However, the obfuscators are right in that it will be relevant to the Brexit negotiations. CETA, like TTIP – and Brexit – is much more than a mere trade agreement, which only has to be ratified by the European Parliament, not all national parliaments.
This issue opens several other cans of worms. The most obvious is the future (if any) of Brexit. What is the attitude of the British government to CETA? What difference does (sorry, would) Brexit make? Might it even make Brexit a good idea?
But the real puzzle is why only Wallonia? Why is the rest of Europe, where demonstrations against TTIP have taken place, sleepwalking into this trap? As I said last week, I did not foresee much of the damage done by the prospect of Brexit. My main reason for voting Remain was that only a government with the bargaining power of the EU had a Cat in Hell’s chance of taking on TTIP – or CETA. I further believe that the Citizens’ Basic Income will at least help Europeans, individually and as governments, to wake up to the dangers. CETA is TTIP surreptitiously introduced by another name, and would (will??) snap shut a gate blocking any pretence at democracy anywhere in Europe.
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One bright light in the general gloom, soon to be ex-President Obama is at least aware of the Citizens’ Basic Income. He does not actually endorse it, but he agrees that it is an attempt to address problems which do need addressing. Has Joi Ito read Guy Standing’s work on The Precariat, or do great minds just think alike? The linked interview with MIT’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) guru suffers from the same omissions that worry me about all other mentions of the Basic Income. In a comprehensive, and quite frightening discussion on the ramifications of AI, Ito mentions the Basic income about four-fifths of the way through, and climate change is only mentioned in passing, elsewhere in the discussion.
Pity even Jill Stein , the Green Party Presidential candidate of all people, doesn’t make the link either.