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The grand transatlantic market is not about jobs

By Bernard Cassen

If the European Commission had an ounce of dignity it would draw the conclusions of the revelation by the whistleblower Edward Snowden of the massive intelligence operations deployed against the institutions of the European Union (EU) by the National Security Agency (NSA ). But otherwise, in the next few days negotiations with the United States for the creation of a transatlantic market, the TTIP, will begin in Washington.

The TTIP will greatly accelerate the cross border neoliberal project by erecting supreme norms embedding in international relations the confiscation of popular sovereignty by the markets, and the various forms of social, fiscal and environmental dumping, camouflaged behind the term ‘free trade.’ The two parties in the trade talks represent half of total global wealth and a third of international trade, putting them in a strong position to impose their law on then the rest of the planet.

Obviously, this is not the way that this project is ‘sold’ to the public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic. Dangled before us are the prospects for growth and jobs resulting from the liberalisation of trade between the Old and New Worlds, rescuing us from the current crisis without spending a single euro.

We unfortunately cannot exclude that through intellectual laziness, sheer ignorance or naivety, European political leaders (including some claiming to be of the Left) believe that sales pitch. The European Commission has spared no efforts in its bid to negotiate with the United States on behalf of the whole of the EU. It has just financed a “study” that an agreement on trade and investment with the United States would increase EU gross domestic product by 0.5% and create 400,000 jobs.

The Commission has form in this kind of hoax. In 1988, following the entry into force of the Single European Act, it commissioned a report stating that the implementation of the Single European market, scheduled for the end of 1992, would create between 2 and 5 million jobs in the Europe of twelve countries that existed at the time.

We are still waiting! Like the forecasts from a quarter of a century ago, the figures presented by Brussels today are devoid of any credibility. Especially because the authors of these ‘studies’ do not include the number of jobs lost due to liberalisation. The report is replete with tables, graphs and mathematical models designed to give a ‘scientific’ veneer to the conclusions desired by the payer, in this case the Commission.

Another ‘payer’, Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation, has come up with very different figures to those released by Brussels, but just as unreliable. According to a ‘study’ that was entrusted to the Ifo Institute in Munich, a transatlantic agreement would – in the ‘long term’, it is said, cautiously – increase in real terms the income per capita of Americans by 13%, but only 5% on average for the citizens of member countries of the EU. If the Commission and European governments really believed in ‘studies’, they would, with the latter in hand, play hard ball with the negotiators in Washington. But that’s not at all their approach…

In truth, job creation happens to be today’s alibi for widespread dumping and the abandonment of tariffs or regulatory protections in all areas, including agriculture, health, food, personal data, privacy etc.., and these will be irreversible. And for personal data, the Snowden scandal reveals the real determination of the EU….

Neoliberalism functions as an ‘organised gang’, straddling both sides of the Atlantic …

The foundation of this ‘organised gang’ in Europe, the Commission, has shown how little it cares of the mandate obtained from governments: Commissioner Karel De Gucht, in charge of the TTIP negotiation, has already announced that it reserves the right to ‘discuss’ cultural issues if its US partners demand it, even though, under pressure from France, this area had been explicitly excluded from the scope negotiations. Francois Hollande’s ‘victory’, who believed he had secured France’s ‘cultural exception’, may well be ephemeral…

Faced with TTIP, the left of the Left – in most of the political parties, in unions or NGOs such as as Attac – finds itself in the usual stalemate when it comes to free trade. On the one hand, it denounces with great accuracy the social and ecological disasters that will come from a transatlantic agreement or other free trade projects, on the other it is unable to put forward different policies that it would implement if it were to take the reins of government.

Yet the alternative to free trade has a name: it is protectionism, a word that must be said in hushed tones in some of these milieu. But protectionism – regardless of where the wall is erected, but preferably at a regional, therefore, in this case, European level – is not necessarily ‘selfish’. It can be used to serve the people, cohesion and selflessness. The left of the Left needs to opens its eyes to reality, end its conformism and stop running scared of a word that has become a bogeyman.

Memoire des Luttes

Translation/edit by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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