Local politics enters the global contest

23 May 2016 by Sol Trumbo Vila

CC - Mehr Demokratie

European municipalities join the battle against TTIP to protect sovereignty and public services, demonstrating how to take political initiative and build an alternative economy

Opponents of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) see their chances of victory increasing. Local authorities are now also increasingly taking a strong position against supranational structures that negotiate opaque trade deals.

Recent declarations by the two Austrian presidential contenders ensuring they would block TTIP, Hollande’s declarations claiming he would not approve TTIP at any cost and the Polish Agriculture minister rejecting the TTIP provisions about food safety rules revealed in the leaks published by Greenpeace Netherlands, have placed the EU Commission and the EU Chamber of Commerce on the defensive. They have reason to be worried, support for TTIP is plunging in the US and Germany - from more than 50% in 2014 to less than 20% now - to the extent that US Consulting firms working for Pro-TTIP groups call for coordinated actions to win the public debate and “control the news cycle”.

Indeed the news now is that TTIP is falling apart. The German newspaper Der Spiegel recognises that “an unprecedented protest movement” is threatening to collapse TTIP. Both Der Spiegel and the Guardian praise the professionalism of the anti-TTIP activists, many of them applying the lessons from two decades of fighting the trade regime built around the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

, the World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

and the WTO WTO
World Trade Organisation
The WTO, founded on 1st January 1995, replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The main innovation is that the WTO enjoys the status of an international organization. Its role is to ensure that no member States adopt any kind of protectionism whatsoever, in order to accelerate the liberalization global trading and to facilitate the strategies of the multinationals. It has an international court (the Dispute Settlement Body) which judges any alleged violations of its founding text drawn up in Marrakesh.

. This occurs in a context of organisational practices inspired by the occupation of the public space and the use of communication technologies. The latest example occurred last weekend with the success of the French movement NuitDebout calling for a self-organised #WorldDebout.

In the struggle against the global trade regime the political trenches are different than a decade ago, and this explains how the anti-TTIP movement has expanded beyond the anti-neoliberal and anti-corporate led trade circles. The definite battle line has been drawn around the defence of sovereignty and the “right to decide”. This was evident in the first gathering of Free-TTIP cities convened in Barcelona last month. The host of the meeting, Barcelona City Council representative Gerardo Pisarello, framed TTIP in terms of loss of sovereignty and democracy, “We the cities want to have a say in the politics that will affect the lives of our citizens”, stating that with this treaty many social policies “will be effectively blocked”. To date more than 1800 European cities and regions have declared themselves TTIP- Free zones.

The defence of democracy at the local level relates to the flourishing of a new economy, the alternatives emerging before the incapacity of both the state and the market – the key actors of the last century – to solve the daily needs of a growing number of people. This new economy takes many forms and names and by no coincidence Barcelona is one of the places where we find many examples of the commons collaborative economy practices. As rightly stated in Barcelona by Attac Austria President and key activist of the anti-TTIP European Alliance Alexandra Strickner “We are not working only against Free Trade Agreements as in the past; there is a fight for alternatives”.

For the municipalities represented in Barcelona their capacity to promote Public Alternatives was an issue of major concern. Public procurement has become a key tool to expand and consolidate local alternatives to the current economic system based on global value chains dependent on fossil fuels and low labour standards. The Barcelona declaration states “We are deeply concerned that these treaties will put our capacity to legislate and use public funds (including public procurement) at risk, severely damaging our task to aid people in basic issues such as: housing, health, environment, social services, education, local economic development or food safety.” In other words, trade agreements can block and reverse global trends such as the remunicipalisation of water services or other services. The Barcelona conference confirmed that broadly accepted global governance tools like the principle of subsidiarity and useful regulations like the Directive 2014/24/UE about public procurement are being dismantled with the new generation of trade agreements.

What are the next steps? The broad coalition of social movements, civil society organisations and more combative trade unions should consolidate the alliance with the network of free-TTIP cities. Now that some EU governments are openly questioning TTIP the European coalition is already focusing on CETA. Dubbed the Canadian TTIP, CETA is due to be ratified this autumn as a “back door” for US multinationals with a base in Canada aiming to enter the so far protected European markets. An “autumn of dissent” is already being prepared with different mobilisations against the various Free Trade Agreements and the transnational corporations that promote them. This is a good opportunity to consolidate the engagement of the cities in the mobilisations, which will require imagination and political commitment.

If CETA is defeated it would be a fatal blow to TTIP, however there are more battles on the horizon, such as the TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement). These battles against various acronym-lade trade agreements is simply evidence of a broader reality; the corporate capture of national and supranational institutions, which forces civil society to be on the defensive. However, the Barcelona meeting demonstrated that municipal governments united in the struggle to defend democracy and sovereignty is an effective strategy that can protect and promote the blossoming of post-capitalist spaces.

Local governments are becoming a strategic actor protecting citizens’ rights where nation-states have failed. And commitments are being made. Grenoble, one of the first cities to remunicipalise water services in France, took up the torch and will host the next TTIP, CETA and TiSA-Free Zones gathering. These transformative cities should not become islands in a sea of neoliberal globalisation, but spaces to develop a political practice that protects and nurtures the local while ensuring international solidarity and cooperation.

Source: TNI

Sol Trumbo Vila

Investigador en el Transnational Institute (TNI) y activista en varias redes internacionales como la “Campaña global para desmantelar el poder corporativo y poner fin a la impunidad”

Other articles in English by Sol Trumbo Vila (3)



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