DEMOCRACY for sale – Free Trade Agreements…

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…I always thought it spelled DEMOCRACY, but apparently it spells “DEMOCRAZY“…

I am quite fond of a system where all people have an equal opportunity to get their voice heard, a system of government in which all the people of a state or polity are involved in making decisions about its affairs – Democracy.

But for quite some time now Democracy is deeply threatened by various forms of dictatorship, oligarchy, populism and last but definitely not least, Capitalism.

www.sorenandersson.comDemocracy – at its best…!

Recently we all experienced what Democracy can achieve, when the wast majority of countries on this planet through negotiations agreed; first on a set of Global Goals for Sustainable Development and then the Paris Agreement, a global agreement on the reduction of Climate Change.

For the People by the People!

These agreements where made by countries from all over the world, representing all different political systems, all different ethnicities and all religious communities, united in the belief that together we can solve the challenges ahead.

However, the basic and unchangeable rule of Democracy – “One Human = One Vote” – is more and more being distorted to “One Dollar/Euro = One vote“, by organisations, corporations and wealthy people.

This Sell-out of Democracy comes in many shapes and is not seldom disguised as “top-level” Economic forums or hidden in secretive “Free” Trade agreements… 

Davos, World Economic Forum WEF16

www.sorenandersson.comI heard someone, attending the WEF16 in Davos, explaining in an interview, that one of the reason he went there was that it was an opportunity to efficiently have meetings with a lot of “people that matters” in a short time.

Isn’t this in a way the Essence of the problem we are facing? – the Inequality and the amassment of wealth and power to a very small amount of people. Small enough to gather for a few days at a convention centre in a small exclusive town in Switzerland.

According to a recent report from OxfamIn 2015, just 62 individuals had the same wealth as 3.6 billion people – the bottom half of humanity. This figure is down from 388 individuals as recently as 2010.” And while the wealth of the richest 62 people has risen by 44% in the five years since 2010, the wealth of the bottom half fell by 41% in the same period.

The lack of Democracy, “One human – One vote” is in a way “manifested in Davos, when a small (0,0003 % of total global population, and 82% male) and extremely wealthy elite is given exclusive privileges and special access to politicians and various world leaders while the vast majority of humanity isn’t even represented.

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Picture: pwc

Isn’t it almost “absurd” that such an extreme minority is given so much attention, by democratically elected leaders and “objective, unbiased” media…
When considering the role many of these people undoubtedly have played in creating and further increasing the Inequality and Climate dilemma, it becomes even more “absurd”.

And it becomes even more “absurd” when a survey among 1400 CEO:s around the world lists “over-regulation” as the biggest threat to business (by 79% of CEOs), followed by geopolitical uncertainty (74%) and other key threats including cyber attacks (61%).
In contrast, climate change and environmental damage was mentioned as a threat to business growth by just 50% of CEOs.

The findings were similar to a separate survey of 13,000 business leaders produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF). It also found a relative absence of concern about climate change and environmental risk amongst business leaders.

By contrast, a wider survey of economists, academics and civil society also produced by the WEF listed climate change as the biggest potential threat to the global economy in 2016.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s Greed”

Mahatma Gandhi

should the continued Greed and “Denialism” from 0,0003 % of the global population count before everybody else’s concern – what about Democracy?

Free Trade

…anything that in any way could inflict limitations or disturbance to Global Free Trade, such as regulations or taxation on aviation and shipping, or a global price on CO2, have been meticulously erased from the Paris Agreement… Links to: Reuters, Independent, The Telegraph, World Maritime News, KevinAndersson.info

Looking Back…

www.sorenandersson.comRecently I read some articles about the development of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC and events from the first meeting in Rio, the Earth Summit, the Agenda 21, Kyoto protocol etc. up to the recent COP 21 in Paris.

One thing that baffles me is that parallel to this long chain of events, aiming for a more Sustainable society and for Humanity to be good stewards of our planet, almost all our current free trade agreements have been negotiated and agreed – and [almost] none of them include any kind of provision to take care of our Climate or to economize with the resources of our planet.

On the contrary, most free trade agreements are solely focusing on removing all trade barriers, specifically economic barriers, regardless of environmental consequences.

World Trade Organisation

The World Trade Organisation, WTO was established at the Marrakesh ministerial meeting in April 1994 and officially launched on 1 January 1995 – Three years after the Earth Summit…

www.sorenandersson.comPreamble to the WTO Agreement:
“Trade and economic endeavor should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living, ensuring full employment and a large and steadily growing volume of real income and effective demand, and expanding the production of and trade in goods and services,
while allowing for the optimal use of the world’s resources in accordance with the objective of sustainable development, seeking both to protect and preserve the environment and to enhance the means for doing so in a manner consistent with
respective needs and concerns at different levels of economic development.”

What happened with the second part of the WTO agreement, the text highlighted in red?

When browsing through the WTO:s own “retroperspective“, over its 20 years of existence, except from a reference to the above preamble and a short quote from a speech by Nelson Mandela in May 1998, Environment and Sustainability is hardly even mentioned – it is solely about economics, de-regulation, globalization and elimination of any trade-restrictions…

And even today if you look at WTO:s webpage “What we stand for“, the following is stated in relation to the environment.

Protect the environment
“The WTO’s agreements permit members to take measures to protect not only the environment but also public health, animal health and plant health. However, these measures must be applied in the same way to both national and foreign businesses. In other words, members must not use environmental protection measures as a means of disguising protectionist policies.”

…isn’t this only a veiled way to “suggest” that a Country’s sovereignty should not be executed if it inflicts with trade – what about Democracy?

TTIP & TPP versus Democracy…

There are numerous trade-agreements already in existence around the worldList!

For a number of years very secretive negotiations have been going on to establish new far-reaching trade-agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

www.sorenandersson.comTTIP & TPP is about much more than trade: the involved parties have already abolished or reduced most of the duties, therefore the TTIP & TPP is mainly focusing on rectifying and standardizing rules, laws, labeling- and approval procedures. In short, TTIP & TPP aims to remove what the industry calls “technical barriers”.

to reduce laws and rules that have evolved over years following democratic procedures in both national and international systems into a mere “technical barrier” for trade, is not only disrespectful. It demonstrates contempt of the democratic processes.   

Agreements built for Large Corporations not for Citizens…

The negotiations have been carried out with strict confidentiality from the public, allowing for no transparency what so ever. The only information available about the details of the agreement comes from leaked documents.

Politicians are only allowed to read documents relating to TTIP in a secure European Parliament restricted reading room. They are also required to sign a 14-page document ultimately promising not to share the information with their constituents.

Green MEP Ms Scott Cato described the experience earlier this year comparing it to “a scene from a James Bond film”. She said: “I don’t feel what I was granted access to contained the important details. Key information seems to have been retracted; there was little of interest. But what I did see did not leave me with any sense of reassurance, either that the process of negotiating this trade deal is democratic, or that the negotiators are operating on behalf of citizens. It reconfirmed that this is a corporate discussion, not a democratic one.

Ms Scott Cato also said: “As an MEP I’m party to the transatlantic trade deal’s inner workings. I’m sworn to secrecy, but this much I can say: TTIP is undemocratic

At the same time, industry lobbyists and large corporations have been given almost free access to the negotiators. And just recently the Guardian revealed in an article that the EU is likely to have given Fossil fuel giant Exxon exclusive access to its confidential negotiating strategies…!

www.sorenandersson.comBetween January 2012 and February 2014, as TTIP discussions began, the Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) had 597 behind-closed-door meetings with lobbyists to discuss the negotiations, according to internal Commission files obtained by research group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO). There were 528 meetings (88 %) with business lobbyists while only 53 (9 %) were with groups such as trade unions and NGOs. The remainder (16) were with other parties such as public institutions and academics.

Corruption
…any risk of corruption when negotiating the world most extensive trade agreements?

On Thursday (Jan 21) the Japanese minister, Akira Amari, who was the country’s top negotiator for the huge trans-Pacific trade deal (TPP) was accused of corruption.
This article from the Guardian shows how much corporations paid US senators to fast-track the TPP bill through the US congress – a transparently legal corrupt behavior, efficiently distorting democracy.

Watch this short film from “Sum of Us” explaining more about the TTIP:

…and this one from Attac.org:

Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS)

This is probably the most discussed part of the proposed Trade Agreements, and definitely a huge threat on Democracy – a dispute settlement system allowing foreign investors to sue entire nations in special “secretive” arbitral tribunals for the alleged expropriation of future profits through changes in laws or regulations.

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Click for: Sen. Elisabeth Warren Article

One of the key problems with ISDS is that it creates a supranational “court” whose power to impose huge fines can have a chilling effect on the introduction of new legislation.
Companies can use the threat of ISDS claims to discourage governments from introducing laws or regulations that might reduce corporate profits. That’s an indirect way in which TTIP is likely to undermine national sovereignty.
But there’s another aspect of the proposed agreement that is explicitly designed to allow EU and US corporations to influence – and block – new laws… if they in any way are ” a barrier to trade”.

Notably, only foreign investors can sue states under investment treaties, because states are the parties to the treaty, and only states can be held liable to pay damages for breach of the treaty. States have no corresponding right to bring an original claim against a foreign investor under such treaties, again because investors are not parties to the treaty and therefore cannot be in breach of it…[?]

Read more about the “investors’ super-rights in EU trade deals” – here, and more on the “regulatory cooperation” – here.

The use of ISDS-systems has increased significantly in recent years, and the trend is continuing. But since the transparency is very limited UNCTAD calculates that the correct number of cases is significantly greater then what is officially revealed .

In a recent study professor Gus van Harten and lawyer Pavel Malysheusk have looked at all the known and publicly available ISDS cases that led to a judgment until spring 2015. The trend is clear – there are large companies (revenue over $ 1 billion annually), and especially the largest companies (rev. 10 billion), which benefit financially from the ISDS. It is noteworthy that the largest companies win far more cases than all the others using the system (70.8% vs. average 42.2% of the cases examined). One conclusion of the study is also that the ISDS industry (arbitration, etc.) “unsurprisingly” obtains considerable revenue from the system.

A couple of examples of recent investor-state disputes:

TransCanada sues USA over Keystone pipeline

www.sorenandersson.comTransCanada Corp sued the U.S government on Wednesday, Jan 6th, to reverse President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, and also plans to seek $15 billion in damages from a trade tribunal. – Read more.

Vattenfall sues Germany over the Nuclear Decommissioning

www.sorenandersson.comEven before we have an agreement by the European Community commissioners over the appalling anti-democracy Transatlantic Trade And Investment Partnership (TTIP), energy company Vattenfall is suing Germany for phasing out nuclear power and replacing it with renewables. In a secret court, the company is demanding a whopping 4.7 billion Euros in compensation. – Read more.

DEMOCRACY is Not for Sale!

From the CEO:s concern that “over-regulation” is the biggest threat for future business to the secretive negotiations to establish agreements explicitly designed to allow EU and US corporations to influence – and block – new laws… if they in any way are ” a barrier to trade” and arbitral tribunals with the ability to sue countries… if new rules in any way could reduce corporate profits, it is blatantly clear that the extremely wealthy together with multinational corporations seek to disarm democracy in their favor.

Following decades of unabated pressure, decades where the corporate world have discarded their social responsibility it is now attacking the foundation of our Democracy, the basic and unchangeable rule – “One Human = One Vote” trying to replace it with “One Dollar/Euro = One vote“…

We cannot let that happen!

“FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY are dreams
you never give up”

- Aung San Suu Kyi