When Free Trade Goes Bad



From top: Protests against CETA and TTIP in Brussels, Belgium; Dan Boyle

No trade deal is worth the introduction of anti-democratic measure to produce a newly created corporate ‘right’.

Dan Boyle writes:

CETA has been thwarted. For the uninitiated CETA is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement agreed, but yet to be ratified, between Canada and The European Union.

It was to be the precursor agreement, the John The Baptist of trade deals, before the bringing into being of the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) agreement with the United States.

This Messiah trade deal had been expected to kickstart the global economy.

The European Union elite is now aghast. There isn’t, nor has there ever been, a Plan B. The continuing strategy will be to keep trying to make the square fit the round hole.

Anti-globalisation activists are whooping in delight. For them a new world view can be perceived. However it’s probable that both the horror of the elite and the delight of the activists is misplaced.

Eventually trade deals will be put in place. The real question is whether the interval brought about by this stumble, will be used to achieve trade deals that don’t erode the best hopes for systems of participative democracy or the structures of fair societies.

The real lesson of Brexit, of Trump in the US, and the growth of a slew of far right parties across Europe, is that globalisation (as it has been applied) stinks. In developed countries it furthers the marginalisation for those already on the peripheries of such societies.

It widens the existing unacceptable levels of income inequality. It lessens the role of the State, through democratically elected governments, to affect positive change for citizens.

The mantra for any trade deal should be that you are free to trade with us as long as you adhere to our standards; standards on workers rights, on consumer protection, on preservation of the environment.

The willingness to dilute such rights for some questionable economic benefit, has helped to create the uncertain world of today.

CETA is less of a threat than TTIP in this regard. Where the stench remains is the attempt, through these agreements, to produce a newly created corporate ‘right’ to protect profit.

Through this ‘right’ corporations would be able to sue states that produce legislation, designed to enhance the rights of their citizens, if the result of the enforcement of such rights impact on corporations’ profits.

No trade deal is worth the introduction of such an anti-democratic measure.

It is time to step back. Time to do this better. Time to admit that free trade is never quite free. Time to accept that trade is but a part, and only a small part, of a more open world.

If we can get these things right then we might begin to think of a world that is really free.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Yesterday: The Set Menu

15 thoughts on “When Free Trade Goes Bad

  1. TheCitizen

    What in the name of all that’s sacred is wrong with me today – I agree with Dan Boyle.
    *goes to mirror for a long hard look at myself.

    1. bisted

      …me too…but I suppose it was bound to happen…what with the Greens in Europe joining with the shinners to finance an investigation into media ownership in Ireland…

  2. SOQ

    If TTIP is loaded against democracies then who negotiated it? The core problem with the EU is that there are some within its upper ranks who are not only unelected, they at best regard the will of its peoples as a nuisance.

    The emergence of the far right is more a reaction to the erosion of national sovereignty rather than any trade agreement. The more a federal Europe is forced onto its peoples, the more nationalism will rise. How long before Le Pen comes to power in France for example? Then things will really start getting ugly.

        1. Ray O'Connor

          government just does what it’s told

          Ministers decide, advisors advise, but why would they question the advice being given, as former elected representative said

          the minister relied on the advice, the advisors say it was the ministers decision

          therefore nobody is responsible, and the game continues

  3. galwaytt

    …for the first time I can ever remember, whether Dan as a Green or just Dan as a commentator, I agree with his comments. I know – as per The Citizen above, the world is truly upside down today.

    CETA but more especially TTIP offer nothing to ordinary citizens bar a lowering of the bar to the lowest common denominator of two parties. In the EU case, it would be lose, lose, lose all day long.

  4. Sheik Yahbouti

    It would appear that the Walloons have been battered into submission. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

  5. Ray O'Connor

    the EU, civil service, the powers that be, call them what you will, are all creatures of our political system.

    while i agree with Dan the problem ultimately exists with the political class that created these creatures without adequate accountability, and it is a process which the Greens bought into in government.

    until political parties accept responsibility for building in loop holes to benefit the connected few and rectify their mistakes nothing will change.

    thankfully we now have a growing group of independents which seek to hold individuals as well as their appointers to account, e.g. Claire Daly elsewhere on this site.

  6. spudnick

    Devil’s advocate comment: The idea behind the ‘suing the State’ aspect of TTIP was intended to tackle the possibility where: say you have a government, the elected reps of which are cosy with local Widget X Industries, who do very well selling at high prices to the people. Widget Y Industries, a foreign corp, can make the widget much cheaper and want to sell into the domestic market at a lower price than WIdget X enjoys, therefore saving consumers money. So Widget X lobby their pals in government, and anti-imports tariffs suddenly descend, killing the opportunity for Widget Y and keeping WIdget X enjoying their high prices.

    In this case Widget Y would have the opportunity for legal recourse against the government under the TTIP proposals – and everyone would enjoy lower prices. WIdget X’s workers would lose out though of course.

    Of course, in practice all we’ve seen instead is the likes of Philip Morris attempting to sue over health legislation – not quite the same thing as the noble ideas above…

      1. Ray O'Connor

        this could also apply to the provision of state services not just competing companies is my understanding of it.

        So any contract awarded to irish water could be open to public competition, health services, prison services etc could be contested on the basis that the private sector lost money due to state monopolies

        i can see the logic considering how inefficient some of our state providers are, but i think it’s an excuse for main stream parties to abdicate their responsibilities to run the services efficiently when in government

        i’m open to correction on this however

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