CETA will debilitate further the vanishing EU middle class as well as the building blocks of the European Union, i.e. its member states.
The EU Parliament recently approved the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a downsized version of the TTIP, the proposed EU-US trade and investment agreement.
In doing so, the Members of the European Parliament have totally failed to address the numerous concerns voiced by European civil society groups, and have sealed an agreement that is likely to weaken, not strengthen the EU.
That is likely to happen because, first of all, it will exacerbate inequality across Europe and will help obliterate further the already vanishing European middle class, and, second, it will hurt further the nation states, the building blocks of both the European Union and European international order without which stability and peace will vanish into thin air.
Brave Little Wallonia
It is true that CETA was signed at a grinning ceremony in Brussels by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk only in October 2016, after the Belgian region of Wallonia (Walloon) had been blocking it for weeks over some of the gravest concerns regarding the EU-Canada deal.
The EU’s poorest states, former communist Bulgaria and Romania, were also threatening to veto CETA but that was only because they were demanding that Canada lift its visa requirements for their citizens, a concession unrelated to CETA’s essence, which they were granted by Ottawa.
The fact of the matter is that the European Parliament as well as every single EU member state should have vetoed CETO for the right reasons – the ones that the brave citizens and parlamentarians of Belgium’s region Wallonia picked up on.
The fact that Wallonia alone stood up to the overwhelmingly powerful lobbies of big business on both sides of the Atlantic is indicative of the degree to which corporate interests have begun to sway the supposedly democratic governments in all of the EU member states, not to mention Canada.
In contrast, Wallonia, being a region, seems to enjoy parlamentarians with grassroots support who are closer to the concerns of the common people and the vanishing European middle class, rather than being primarily interested in catering to the greed of the financial and corporate elites.
Wallonia was primarily opposed to CETA’s proposed court system of special tribunals for settling disputes between foreign investors and national governments, a highly suspicious proposal given the fact that, hey, there are plenty of already existing, perfectly fine courts in the EU and Canada. (Why are special tribunals needed? What is this – war crimes in the former Yugoslavia??!)
At the end, Wallonia dropped its objection to CETA in exchange for a compromise: Belgium will be able to ask the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, if the proposed system of CETA investor-state tribunals is compatible with EU law. (Even it is found to be “compatible”, that doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong.)
Secrecy Is Great. Right?
Secrecy is probably the least of the huge concerns about CETA, a proxy for the TTIP, but it should always be acknowledged: how is it that anything that’s “so good” for everybody must be kept secret?!
The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement that messed up the Middle East was a secret. The 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact was kept secret. So was the WMD “evidence” that the George W. Bush Presidency “had” before starting the disastrous (for everyone) 2003 Iraq War. To name but a few examples of well kept international secrets generating horrifying outcomes. (As will CETA and the TTIP.)
The compromises the EU leadership appears to have made in the CETA and TTIP talks with EU food safety standards, environmental standards, and labor rights are frightening but there are much bigger things at stake here.
(The present EU leadership is great at humiliating compromises such as the disgraceful migrant deal with Turkey from March 2016 in which the entire European Union bowed its head to extortion of Turkish President Erdogan’s Neo-Ottomanist rule.)
Too many paradigms have been shifting (or should have been shifting) in the post-2008-Global-Financial-Crisis world, for it to be unknown that any secretive “trade liberalization” deals are just swell for big business, but are hardly ever good for the environment, the planet, humans, human dignity, and human nature.
The results of such deals hardly ever provide “the masses” with an improved quality of life, *real* food, and meaningful jobs with tolerable levels of stress.
The trade liberalization establishment and the corporate-controlled media keep yapping about how great a deal like CETA is because it is going to “create jobs” and “boost economic growth”, which will make “the people” better off.
Of course, CETA, TTIP and the like might create some jobs!
(Most of those might be in some kind of a mindless service industry but who cares about the “creative” aspects of the life of humans from the lower classes?)
However, for any crappy job an agreement like CETA creates in which an overstressed, underpaid, and ultimately frustrated, demoralized, and depressed human soul will be trapped for years, there will be plentiful benefits for the hyper rich.
How can anybody not be in favor of that?!
Some nice CEO of some multinational corporation (MNC) will start making 500 times, instead of 300 times the salary of the average corporate worker, and we should all support that.
That shy but distinguished board member over there will be raking up a few dozen more million, and their quest to make it from a millionaire to a billionaire is a noble, inspiring cause that we should all be in favor of.
Last but not least, the stereotypical mid-level corporate stooge will finally be able to put in that pool, or even afford a second one in their suburban house, and this is something that all good people on Planet Earth, not just the good people of the EU and Canada, should be working for, tirelessly, day and night.
Humiliating the Nation-State. And Common Sense
But growing economic polarization might not be the best part about trade liberalization deals benefiting the hyper rich. The ideologists of monstrosities such as CETA and the TTIP aren’t just content with securing ever greater profits for rapacious financial and corporate oligarchies, and just crushing the middle classes and the “little people” economically.
They seem to be eager to humiliate them morally and legally as well. Otherwise why would they come up with things such as special courts in which the hyper rich international elite represented by the MNCs and its servants will be able to sue and sentence nation-states?!
That is, sue and sentence nations, societies, cultures, communities?!
Try to wrap your head around the idea: the producer of some useless consumerist junk product or the proprietor of non-existent, virtual money will be allowed to sue and sentence your national, cultural, and historical identity which stand for values some dedicated people actually died for in the course of your nation’s history.
The reason? The above-mentioned corporate bonuses, “millionaire into billionaire” quests, purchasing an island of your own. And putting in that pool.
Not to worry, I am nowhere near being some ill-minded, misguided Socialist, nor am I the trolling foot soldier of an anti-Western hybrid war. But I do like common sense, dignity, and the opposite of greed. (There doesn‘t happen to be a good antonym for greed, have you noticed?)
That said, I like to point out the axioms that a successful developed western democracy can only be based on a vibrant middle class, and that an unregulated free market tends to get skewed in favor of big business, which then generates a vicious cycle of social polarization – like the one we are presently living in.
And that’s not even touching upon the economic and moral unsustainability of today’s consumerist society built upon instant gratification which is in turn based on more and more bad food (regardless of whether it’s “honest” junk food or fake “organic” products), more electronic waste (regardless of how hi-tech it is), more crappy clothes (regardless of whether they are second-hand or have a “designer” fashion price tag).
What CETA Stands For
In this CETA / TTIP world of the international big business oligarchy, GMOs are always safe.
So is hydrofracking (and, believe me, I more than welcome the effect the oil price drop caused by shale developments has had on thwarting the adventurism, to put it mildly, of Russian leader Putin and the likes – but that’s not the point here).
And climate change is non-existent (that non-existent climate change that has made snow exotic in my climate zone in the brief period since I was in middle school).
Why? Because powerful corporations will always be able to pay some scientist with flexible morals to declare: “Well, there isn’t “convincing” or “conclusive” evidence for that!”
Conclusive or convincing to whom?
They will always be able to have their corrupt accountants, consultants, PR executives, and lawyers tie you up an enormous amount of litigation in your democracy’s independent courts, and their lobbyists are going to buy off your elected official.
In many ways, these are the things that CETA, the secretive EU-Canada trade deal, stands for.
Destroying the West from Within
The West, consisting primarily of the EU and the USA, has no alternative in today’s world as the main source of humanity’s technical, social, and moral progress. Yet, it is beset with severe challenges, and the creeping takeover and domination of public interest by corporate interests is among the top five.
Agreements such as CETA and the TTIP are digging a deeper chasm between the disappearing middle class and the “little people” on the one hand, and the Trans-Atlantic corporate and financial elites on the other, destroying the former’s trust in justice, liberalism, and globalization, ultimately worsening the economy and making both Europe and America weaker, not stronger.
The geographically isolated USA and Canada might be fine lingering on with graver and graver social polarization (which can always explode in some form anywhere, by the way, for example, when coupled with international organized crime or racial tensions).
But for the European Union the worsening income and wealth inequality is a deadly prospect paving the way for its implosion eagerly assisted by ambitious foreign leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and forces such as jihadist terrorism.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, most trouble in European history has not come from nation-states but from empires destroying or dominating nation-states, or from nation-states transforming into empires.
More trouble is bound to come from the potential destruction of the EU as a supranational entity uniting nation-states which have willingly ceded some of their sovereignty.
In this, and many other ways, today’s unbridled international corporate and financial oligarchies are today’s evil empires. Paradoxically, the march of the corporations has been unyielding even after in 2008 they plunged the world into the worst financial and economic crisis in decades.
The EU and its member states, or Canada, or any country for that matter, cannot be democratic, fair, decent, self-respecting, and even prosperous, if it is heavily dominated by big business at the expense of the middle class.
But that’s not all: people have rights, nations have rights, communities have rights, animals have rights, and “nature” (take it any way you like), and the planet should probably be acknowledged their rights as well. It cannot all boil down to haphazard consumerism boosting corporate profits!
Common Sense and Morals, Anybody?
Humanity and the West in particular are in need of a new economic and social model that is economically, morally and environmentally sustainable, and in which people enjoy a better quality of life, more free time, that is, more creative time, rather than being corralled into overstressed and underpaid jobs in order to make the hyper rich more money that those hyper rich don’t even need.
Secret(ive) trade deals such as CETA and the TTIP executed by the political establishment to the benefit of the corporate establishment at the expense of the middle class won’t bring the West closer to a better world but will exacerbate an already compromised model.
It’s not just that trickle-down economics barely ever works, if it all. It is most of all a moral issue for the sake of morals themselves, not for the sake of who gets what.
By adopting CETA, the European leadership has secretively built a new highway for exacerbating social polarization and wealth inequality, weakening European democracy, unity, and stability, and making the EU ever more vulnerable to the gruesome tyrants and to the East which are eager to destroy it.
The entire political and corporate establishment in the EU pressured brave little Wallonia to rescind its veto on CETA arguing that the failure to sign the trade deal with Canada would be a heavy blow to the essence of the EU.
Actually, it is the other way around: the signing of secretive corporate-friendly deals is a heavy blow to the EU, making it more socially polarized and thus vulnerable to its enemies to the East. Because the Europeans can easily (and deliberately) be tricked into blaming the EU itself, rather than its immoral elites, for any trouble that befalls them.
Corporate greed and political corruption (masked as lobbyism), which have been eroding the great values of Western liberal democracy, are rapidly threatening to destroy such a lofty and worthy ideal as the European Union.
In these dark developments, it is the people and parliamentarians of the Belgian region of Wallonia that in their opposition to CETA have held their moral and political ground against overwhelming pressure by the political and corporate establishment.
The same obviously cannot be said of the Members of the European Parliament, most of whom are yet to keep scratching their heads as to why “populism” of all kinds is on the march, all the while assuming that they haven’t technically done anything wrong.
Any contribution is appreciated!
*Note: An earlier version of this article appeared on intelligencer post . com.