Another Trade Pact Looms Across the Atlantic


While the Trans Pacific Partnership is expected to come up for a vote in Congress this fall, its beloved sibling, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, is reportedly “taking on water.” Now it’s time to “sink the Bismarck,” if you will.

The TTIP is a massive EU-US trade and investment treaty still under negotiation. Notably, the United Kingdom is still part of the EU despite the successful June 23 “Brexit” vote to exit the bloc. It remains to be seen how the UK’s existing TTIP obligations will affect the Brexit process—a “divorce” that will take at least two years under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

In terms of possibly killing the TTIP, America may be getting some unexpected help from German activist Thilo Bode (“Tito Boda”). The noted social entrepreneur has sparked anti-TTIP sentiment so strongly, especially in Germany, that TTIP support there has slipped from an estimated 55% to 17% in two years.

Bode, 69, is best known for founding Foodwatch, an independent non-profit that boosts German consumer rights. He says European consumer-protection laws that ban unhealthy foods and support food labeling would be axed under TTIP.

Bode’s efforts showcase what can be done when informed people unify behind an important issue. According to Politico’s European edition, since the start of 2016, Bode “has expanded his campaign ... opening a new office in France—where skepticism over TTIP is mounting.”

Meanwhile, French Foreign Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said: “There is no more political support in France for the [TTIP] negotiations. France calls for an end to these negotiations.”

Furthermore, German Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel recently told the German news outlet ZDF that TTIP has “de facto failed,” while claiming that EU-US negotiations have stalled.

Taking this a step further, Bode shifted his focus from TTIP negotiations with the US to the lesser-known EU-Canada trade deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

CETA, the TTIP, the TPP and the Trade in Services Agreement complete the retinue of the most far-reaching modern trade deals that are in different stages of development. “If CETA [is successful], then TTIP will follow,” Bode predicted. But he believes the opposite is true: If CETA can be stopped, then the TTIP could be sunk with it.

That, if it turns out to be true, is huge—because the North American (NAFTA), Central American (CAFTA) and other operational free-trade pacts so far have not lived up to the rosy expectations that free-traders have cited. And there’s no reason to believe that any of these other trade treaties would be much different. So far, such pacts have fostered massive industrial losses, as the best-paying jobs have been eliminated or transferred to the cheapest-labor nations. This leaves former industrialized nations with mostly “service” jobs that pay poorly, explaining why critics often describe these pacts as “a race to the bottom.”

“Bode’s efforts were instrumental in creating the public pressure that caused the EU to drop plans to ratify [CETA] without involving national parliaments,” Politico explained. “The decision, taken by the European Commission (EC), could prove to be a mortal blow to CETA, subjecting the treaty’s every [provision] to the approval of 38 national and regional legislative bodies. It also sets a precedent for TTIP and other future trade deals, potentially subjecting them to the same legislative bottleneck.”

But even before national parliaments get to vote on CETA, the EC has a tactic of its own: Try to pass CETA upfront in a provisional manner. Bode called that “a slap in the face of democracy.” However, the decision might aid CETA’s opponents, provided they effectively portray CETA and its backers as undemocratic.

On Aug. 30, Foodwatch and two other organizations, Campact and Mehr Demokratie, “submitted a constitutional complaint against the CETA trade agreement to the Federal Constitutional Court,” a Foodwatch news release announced, adding, “125,047 people have endorsed the ‘No to CETA’ complaint — making it the biggest citizen suit in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

Things do sound promising. Yet the EU and the overall elite establishment represent a “many-headed hydra” that still might defeat the will of the people. Indeed, truly abolishing TTIP requires a more sustained effort. So, don’t pop the champagne corks just yet.

Mark Anderson is a veteran journalist who divides his time between Texas and Michigan. Email him at

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2016

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