Governments and corporate lobbyists keep inventing new ways to embed privatisation and circumvent democracy – in this case, the Canada-EU deal
TTIP has failed but they have a new agreement coming which could be even worse, but if that one fails too they have yet another one up their sleeve. The Europeans, Americans, and the Canadian neoliberals are hoping to eventually slip one of these deals through. The British government is also dead enthusiastic for it too. Neoliberalism is like the invasion of the body snatchers - they're everywhere.
But the lobbyists who demanded this charter for corporate rights never give up. TTIP has been booed off the stage but another treaty, whose probable impacts are almost identical, is waiting in the wings. And this one is more advanced, wanting only final approval. If this happens before Britain leaves the EU, we are likely to be stuck with it for 20 years.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) is ostensibly a deal between the EU and Canada. You might ask what harm Canada could do us. But it allows any corporation that operates there, wherever its headquarters might be, to sue governments before an international tribunal. It threatens to tear down laws protecting us from exploitation and prevent parliaments on both sides of the Atlantic from legislating.
After long hours struggling with the treaty, I realised I hadn’t a hope of grasping its implications. I have had to rely on experts commissioned by groups such as Attac in Germany and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Like TTIP, Ceta threatens to lock in privatisation, making renationalisation (of Britain’s railways, say) or attempts by cities to take control of failing public services (as Joseph Chamberlain did in Birmingham in the 19th century, laying the foundations for modern social provision) impossible. Like TTIP, it uses a broad definition of both investment and expropriation to allow corporations to sue governments when they believe their “future anticipated profits” might be threatened by new laws.
Like TTIP, it restricts the ways in which governments may protect their people. It appears to prohibit, for example, rules that would prevent banks from becoming too big to fail. It seems to threaten our planning laws and other commonsense protections.
Anything not specifically exempted from the agreement is considered covered. In other words, if governments do not spot a potential hazard before the hazard emerges, they are stuck with it. The EU appears to have relinquished its ability, for example, to insist that investment and retail banking be separated.
Ceta claims to be a trade treaty, but many of its provisions have little to do with trade. They are attempts to circumscribe democracy on behalf of corporate power. Millions of people in Europe and Canada want to emerge from the neoliberal era. But such treaties would lock us into it, allowing the politics we have rejected to govern us beyond the grave.