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Unite against destructive trade 'partnerships'

“Localists of the world, unite!” That’s the timely call  from the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) to join the global resistance movement against two planned trade deals that would undermine decades of achievements.

Hundreds of advisers from the world’s most powerful corporations are working hard in secret sessions on the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is between the European Union and the United States. 

The two partnerships are set to overturn national and regional regulatory barriers to trade, and undermine the work of communities across the world who have been working for decades to build more just, sustainable and locally-based alternatives to the global corporate economy. 

Once agreed, the partnerships would pass control over not just food but health, the environment and the global financial system into the hands of transnational corporations like Monsanto.
TPP provisions include intellectual property, trade in services, the environment, labour rights, government procurement and state-owned enterprises. The vast scope of TTIP includes the reduction of all tariff barriers, reducing regulation to the barest minimum, protection for intellectual property and restriction of subsidies to state-owned enterprises.

The TTIP would, for example, override the recent French state’s ban on fracking and open Europe up to the import of genetically-modified organisms. The GMOs are high-risk products whose consequences are largely unknown. As Brian Emerson of ISEC explains:

Pro-local initiatives have grown by leaps and bounds, including farmers’ markets, food cooperatives, ’buy local’ and ‘move your money’ campaigns, small business alliances, and local renewable energy projects. However, ‘free’ trade treaties are a mortal threat to local economies worldwide.

Like trade treaties before them, the TPP and TTIP facilitate a race to the bottom that favours large, mobile corporations at the expense of local producers, small businesses, and workers. What’s more, these treaties subordinate local democracy to corporate interests, and hamstring the ability of communities to shift direction toward more prosperous local economies. To continue the inspiring success of their movements, localists need to join the global resistance against these treaties.

Some 600 corporate trade advisers to governments of 12 countries – United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – have just completed six days of talks on the TPP, paving the way for an agreement by the end of 2013.  

The second round talks on the TTIP, intended to open up a Transatlantic Free Trade Area between Europe and the USA, finished two weeks ago. 

ISEC is a non-profit organisation “dedicated to the revitalisation of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide”.  Its emphasis is on education for action: moving beyond single issues to look at the more fundamental influences that shape our lives.

ISEC’s film The Economics of Happiness describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, an unholy alliance of governments and big business continues to promote globalisation and the consolidation of corporate power. On the other are the localisers.

Many, like those in the Transition initiative, who have been patiently building alternatives to the reckless exploitation of the planet’s resources, have been avoiding a head-on confrontation. Whilst ISEC has been promoting localisation as an alternative to globalisation for three decades, an analysis of the secretive TPP/TTIP deals show that the real heart of the problem is the capitalist corporatocracy.   

ISEC’s call for resistance is important. But we have to go further. Some are beginning to discuss concrete alternatives. The Moving Beyond Capitalism conference, in Mexico next year shows that the momentum for real transformation is gathering pace.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor
27 November 2013

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