Saturday, July 21, 2018

JEFTA vs Trumpism: Between two evils

This is completely depressing. 1. So the answer to Trumpism apparently according to the Guardian (of all media) is the sort of business as usual that made Trumpism a thing in the first place. In order to stave off protectionism and "populism" it is now apparently some sort of common media wisdom that the sort of mega-regional trade deals that have consistently and forcefully in the neoliberal era, aimed and succeeded to remove democratic control and accountability as obstacles to free trade, are the "enlightened answer" to Trump. This is the sort of deal that initiated the backlash against the neoliberal order, and the anti-globalisation movement starting in Seattle in 1999. Until recently these were criticized by a broad spectrum of political and social forces and this criticism of the WTO, TTIP, NAFTA, CETA, CAFTA etc was ubiquitous and visible even in mainstream media. Now a cursory search of mainstream media articles even mildly critical of the deal turned up no results. Democracy today around the world is apparently being squashed to extermination, between a delirious Trumpist American supremacy and the technocratic / corporate negation of democracy that these sort of deals represent. 2. According to the article, "Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker sought to establish themselves as the flag-bearers of the free world". There is however no metric of authoritarianism today that wouldn't place (imperial nostalgist, media censor, extreme traditionalist) Abe to the right of Trump or Orban. And if the free-world's flag is being carried by the same Eurocrats that imposed neverending austerity and turned Greece into a protectorate, this is really a very, ehm, tainted concept of freedom... 3. Tusk has stated that this deal shows that the EU and Japan are coming "to the defence of a world order based on rules, freedom and transparency and common sense". Yet, these mega deal processes are among the most unaccountable and untransparent imaginable. This is also not a bug from the point of view of the Corporate - Eurocrat lobby and the 1% in both areas whose interests are served by the sort of trade deal that is JEFTA. This is a feature. 4. "Asked how he would respond to concerns that free trade could threaten jobs, Tusk responded: “Political uncertainty, tariff wars, excessive rhetoric, unpredictability, irresponsibility; they are a real risks for our businesses, not trade agreements.”" He is asked about jobs. He answers about businesses. Enough said. 5. Here is criticism of the deal from the European parliament's United Left group (GUE/NGL) group, which seems to be a mong the few still be paying attention to all this:
"“I doubt Council is taking a long-term perspective with their decision tomorrow when they sneak through the free trade agreement with Japan. If you were concerned about CETA, you should be worried about JEFTA. The Commission considers it a CETA+ agreement. It transfers decisions on regulatory reform from parliament to working groups of civil servants that take advice from businesses, industry and financial stakeholders.”
“The agreement exposes Japanese farmers to the competition of highly-subsidised products from Europe. It is not an exaggeration to say that centuries-old traditions in Japanese rural areas will be endangered.”...
“Furthermore, the agreement exposes European car workers to competition from the exploitative Japanese labour market, where unpaid over-time hours is the norm, where death by exhaustion (Karoshi) is commonplace. The labour rights chapter of the agreement is weak and lacks any enforcement. Our demand for a binding dispute settlement tool in the Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapter has been ignored.
Scholz also questioned the undemocratic way in which the agreement came about:
“How many national parliaments have been consulted before taking this decision? Has there been a transparent public debate in the national or even regional parliaments? Without debate and democratic accountability in member states, citizens will become alienated from the EU´s trade policy. This will lead to further weakening of trust in the EU.”
"In JEFTA, the so-called compromises are at the expense of consumers, small producers, and companies," Scholz criticized. "Much is clear from the fine print". However, JEFTA's main problem remains that the agreement "deprives parliaments in both Europe and Japan of regulatory control, and establishes an economic partnership that goes far beyond trade". The now-negotiated adequacy decision on data protection and data trade, for example, could bring lower data protection for European consumers. "People are increasingly losing control over what companies do with their personal information. I would like to remind the Commission and Council that data protection is a fundamental right in the EU. You have no right to make our data a commodity!"
For Japanese small farmers, the complete lifting of tariffs threatens their very existence "if they are fully exposed to the competition of cheap food from Europe," says Scholz. “Two-thirds of Japanese farmers are over 60 years old and farm very small plots. Their traditions will now end."
"The contractual provisions make it possible for JEFTA, under the pretext of reducing trade and investment barriers, to level down consumer and environmental protection standards as well. Japan has already had to abolish two long lists of provisions, as a precondition for our EU to accept to sit down at the negotiating table. This also applies to key aspects of today's social and economic development, such as environmental and social sustainability and labour standards."
Completely inadequate responses were made to concerns, particularly from development organizations, that JEFTA promoted the trafficking of illegally-harvested timber. Hardly controlled in Japan so far, the tropical wood could now reach the European market through this back door.
"With the vote in the European Parliament still scheduled for the coming months and before ratification in Council, MEPs must show the red card to the governments and reject the agreement. Everything else would mean ignoring the concerns of people in Europe and Japan once again."
6. See also this article from Marija Bartl and a consistent Social Democratic angle, on these regional mega trade deals generally:
"If it continues on this course, EU trade policy will further alienate EU citizens. Not only do the mega-regional trade agreements now pursued leave aside many important issues on which they have substantial impact – such as climate, migration or tax – but they also internally project an alienating picture.
These agreements seem to endorse a particular imaginary of the future – the EU as a high tech, cosmopolitan, transnational society, full of mobile actors, with excellent language skills, flexible worldviews and good education. And this image certainly fits the self-understanding of the elites participating in the negotiation of these agreements.
Yet, such a vision of globalization does not leave enough space for the population that has great trouble in imagining itself as part of these promised futures. Trump on the one hand, and Brexit on the other, along with the rise of far right all across Europe, attest to an important sense of exclusion that the current political economy produces."