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The TTIP/CETA story

STOPEvery day, goods worth 2.5 billion euros are traded between the USA and the European Union, mostly with duty of around four percent of the value of the goods. That is why, towards the end of this year, a free trade agreement by the name of TTIP is to be concluded between the two economic powers, and another known as CETA between Canada and the EU. But why are the 312 million US citizens, 35 million Canadians and 504 million Europeans kept at an informal distance? Why are the USA, Canada and the EU negotiating this economic agreement in secret? And why do the big business associations have such lobbying power over the text of the agreements? Has anything like this every happened before, that more than 850 million people are having the wool pulled over their eyes? From now on, ECO123 will be giving you first-hand information about the planned economic agreements TTIP and CETA, and about the arguments of the supporters of regional and local forms of business and trade.

The CETA agreement dates back to negotiations between the EU with José Manuel Barroso and the conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper between 2009 and 2014. The text of the agreement is available, is pending ratification and came to public knowledge through a leak. The TTIP agreement is currently being negotiated between the EU and the USA, and still involves many controversies and risks. A first draft is due to be ready by the beginning of 2016.

The question that arises here is: are Portugal and its economy affected by this? The answer is YES. Who represents Portugal in the negotiations? As Portugal is part of the European Union, Portugal is represented in the negotiations both by the EU Parliament and its President Martin Schulz and by the EU Commission and Jean-Claude Juncker, and has no voice of its own. The topics under discussion are the dismantling of obstacles to trade and hindrances such as duties, and restrictions or bans on particular goods and their importation. But why are laws that relate to workers’ and consumers’ rights, nature conservation and the environment also up for discussion? Because, as the EU Commission in Brussels emphasises, differing laws between the USA and the countries of the EU have to be aligned. But what does “aligned” mean, and to whose benefit or disadvantage?

It may be true that the EU and the USA together account for half of global economic output, and the planned agreement would lead to the biggest free-trade area in the world, but why are the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa being kept out? And what do TTIP and CETA mean for our democracies, and justice systems, for the welfare state, for working standards and for small and medium-sized businesses, and what do they mean for public services, for procurement and transportation, GM technology, agribusiness, the financial markets, fossil and renewable energy?

What do these possible future free-trade zones mean for our identity? Do they mean the end of our economic and cultural traditions, the end of our small local and regional businesses, the end of small farms? What do international free-trade zones mean for the idea that it would be better for international trade to be reduced in order to improve environmental practices in the emission of CO2, in order to be less dependent on a fragile international transport system which is dependent on fossil fuels or even 100% based on such fuels? What happened to the idea of the regional, rural self-sufficiency of villages and even smaller local units, where trade would be restricted to a radius of 50 kilometres, not only to save fossil fuels but also to avoid being dependent? Foodstuffs would not have to be preserved or subjected to packaging mechanisms that are both hostile to the environment and produce rubbish. On the contrary, they would be sold fresh and direct, and ecological farming would be less at the mercy of the multinational agrochemical companies.

How great is the economic benefit?

ttipp cetaThe TTIP and CETA are only advantageous to big business and make consumers and small producers shoulder the disadvantages, say the supporters of regional and local forms of business and trade. Those leading the negotiations and the defenders of the free-trade agreements point to the synergy effects of the agreements being negotiated: they would promote investment, the creation of jobs, and hence economic growth. For their part, the critics of the TTIP and CETA point to the lack of transparency in the EU’s leadership of the negotiations, to the cultural, ecological and social identity of their regions in the member states, to the high legal and social security standards in our European systems in comparison to those in the USA or Canada.

The EU reacted promptly and, on 10th February, put the provisional outcome of the negotiations on the internet for all interested EU citizens in six languages: in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Polish at: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=1230

How great is the ecological damage?

Further economic growth is increasingly becoming the problem: growing energy consumption, shrinking resources, peak oil, “burn-out”, climate collapse. The more goods that are transported across the Atlantic in the future, whether by ship or plane, the more CO2 emissions there will be. So far so bad. Are regional and local trade our only alternatives then? How could business and trade function in an ecologically friendly manner, without more and more environmentally harmful transport having a detrimental effect on our climate? To this question, the Transition movement that has grown to several thousand environmental groups is giving a clear answer to Brussels.

The goal is “Yes, to local and ecological production” and “for fair local trade”. NO to the growth paradigm that will burn up our planet’s last fossil resources and end in climate chaos. “Yes” to slowing down and sufficiency and “Yes” to a local circular economy.

How much resistance is there? If you visit the website https://www.nao-ao-ttip.pt/ , you will find the arguments in Portuguese.

In its reporting, ECO123 places the emphasis on local production and shows the huge value that small, medium-sized and local businesses have for our economy. We start with a report by our colleague Daniela Guerreiro about the work and produce of a traditional butcher’s in Monchique, and will continue the series in future editions with a local dairy, an ecological winemaker, an organic farmer and beekeeper, and an olive oil press… Because TTIP starts right on our own doorstep.

About the author

Uwe Heitkamp, 53 years old, started working after university in daily newspapers and from 1984 on in public tv broadcasting companies such as WDR (Collogne), NDR (Hamburg), SDR (Stuttgart/Baden-Baden) in the ARD (first programme), wrote several books and directed the cinema movie about the anti nuclear movement in Germany in 1986 (Wackersdorf). After emigration in 1990 he founded 1995 the trilingual weekly printed newspaper “Algarve123”  and later the online edition www.algarve123.com. Heitkamp lives for 25 year in Monchique, Portugal. He loves mountain hiking and swimming in streams and lakes, writes and tells stories of success from people and their sustainable relationship between ecology and economy. His actual film “Revolutionary Roads” tells the 60 minute story of a long walk crossing Portugal. 10 rural people paint a picture of their lives in the hills of the serra and the hinterland. The film captures profound impressions of natural beauty and human life. Along which path is the future of Portugal to be found? (subscribe to ECO123 und watch the documentary in the Mediatec)

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