Startling changes have taken place this year in the realm of governance. British citizens voted to leave the European Union, the United States elected Donald Trump for President—an outcome unimaginable for many of us. In Europe, as well as elsewhere, a wave of right wing leaders and parties are moving into positions of power or at least of prominence. In the midst of these political shifts is growing public disenchantment with the neo-liberal project and the free trade agreements that give transnational corporations more rights than governments. Disappointment in elected officials that promise greater equity, but act in favor of corporations; the increasing infringement on democratic processes by free trade treaties crafted for and with corporations—both of these sentiments have also, in part, contributed to these dramatic outcomes.
Another crisis of democracy is taking place right now in the European Parliament. Leaders of the European Parliament tried to push through a vote on the controversial EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) recently—without a public debate or receiving opinions from important committees such as ENVI (environment) and EMPL (employment) about impacts of CETA on these issues. After a massive public outcry, the parliament had to back track and delayed the vote to February 2017 and agreed to accept the opinions of the two committees that were rightfully adamant about engaging in the CETA debate.
As Corporate Europe Observatory states in The great CETA swindle:
A record 3.5 million people across Europe signed a petition against CETA and its twin agreement TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). European and Canadian trade unions, as well as consumer, environmental and public health groups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) reject the agreement. Constitutional challenges against CETA have been filed in Germany and Canada and the compatibility of CETA’s controversial privileges for foreign investors with EU law is likely to be judged by the European Court of Justice.
Once again—elected officials are failing to listen to their citizens. The ratification is also being fast tracked in the Canadian Parliament.
In the midst of this political context, IATP’s European office, together with European partners, launched a speaking-tour on CETA, TTIP and Trump starting 29 November in Brussels—the seat of the European Parliament. With meetings lined up with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), followed by public events, press conferences and meetings with politicians in Germany, Hungary, France and Poland—the tour will highlight the critical problems with CETA and TTIP for European agriculture. Joining in this endeavor are other European organizations that have set up national level meetings and events to highlight the critical problem with the new generation of agreements such as CETA and TTIP and why they undermine democracy and hurt family farming.
The events start from analysis presented in Selling Off the Farm: Corporate Meat’s Takeover through TTIP (a joint effort of IATP, the Council of Canadians, Compassion in World Farming, German farmers’ organization AbL, and PowerShift, with additional analysis on CETA. IATP’s Sharon Anglin Treat and Shefali Sharma, the report’s co-authors, will explain why these treaties will further consolidate power in the hands of agribusiness and drive down further the prices paid to farmers that are already well below their cost of production.
At stake is the upcoming vote on CETA and the ratification of the treaty in European member states—the fate of CETA could help determine the fate of TTIP. A “Yes” to CETA may lead the Trump administration to reconsider its trade agenda with the EU. A “No” vote may actually put an end to the over-reach of these undemocratic treaties once and for all. It may enable us to create the much needed space for an open debate and thinking about the kind of trade system we want--a system that upholds social justice, environmental principles and the public interest. Will elected officials continue to turn a deaf ear to these critiques and continue to make space for right wing populist forces that promise a mirage of a different reality---or will they have learned their lesson?
See also the statement released by 450 organizations across Europe on CETA, 28th November.