Saying yes to Uncle Sam is the return of a friend who wants to hurt us…

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« The transatlantic market is the anchor of the global economy. It is the broadest, deepest and most integrated economic space in the world. » 

Transatlantic Policy Network
May 2008

There are some friends that we would prefer never to see again. Of those friends who hold your shoulder, pretend to support you « to death, to life », but betray you without flinching. In many respects, the relationship between Europe and the United States is of this order. 

Europe and the United States have long been friends. In 1949, faced with the communist ogre, did they not promise to support each other by creating NATO? Wasn’t their friendship forged throughout the Cold War? In the face of adversity, did they not stick together? According to the current President of the European Commission (José Manuel Durão Barroso), this long-standing friendship owes much to the values shared by Europe and the United States, namely: rule of law, democracy, freedom, respect for individual rights, solidarity, and promotion of economic freedom as a source of wealth and stability (1). That is why they are seeking to strengthen their strategic ties by conducting negotiations to create a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as soon as possible. A project that can be rephrased in a simpler way: Europe and Uncle Sam want to create a transatlantic market, and have in fact been negotiating in this sense since June 2013. 

Officially, all is well in the best of worlds. However, on closer inspection, the list of American dirty tricks in Europe is as long as the list of NSA phone taps… ». Thus, we will see at the end of the dossier that the terrorist ogre is not always the one we think, but let us emphasize right now a detail that is a stain: in June 2013, the consultant of an intelligence agency linked to the American army — Edward Snowden, of the National Security Agency provided the British daily newspaper The Guardian of compromising documents. These proved that the United States had developed a global espionage program, targeting both its friends and political enemies, and was as interested in the institutional world (European Union buildings) as in the common man. 

Let’s face it: it’s not worthy of a friend to secretly spy on our every move. To monitor who we meet, to record our conversations, to hack into our email box… In short, to violate our privacy. However, this is what the United States did with regard to a Europe that did not even flinch: an incomprehensible behavior, because in the end, what could be worse than the betrayal of a friend? Maybe one thing: pretend nothing happened, pretend everything is fine and continue a deeply flawed relationship built on lies that keep getting stronger. 

Thus, according to the European Commission, an economic marriage with the United States would yield an annual surplus of €545 for a European household of four. In addition to the hackneyed side of a flatly numerical and financial calculation (to which we will return in this file), this false promise hides an odious lie. Indeed, one of the major challenges of the transatlantic negotiations is to bring back an « MAI that wants to hurt us ». From 1995 to 1997, twenty-nine governments negotiated a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Basically, the idea was to allow multinationals to bring cases before international courts and against states when they felt that a policy measure was contrary to their financial interests. This made the social movements jump and denounce « this MAI that wants to harm us », and succeed in rejecting it in the ruts of history. 

Well, almost, because the MAI still exists today through certain bilateral agreements. For example, as a result of a dispute dating back to 2006, Ecuador was ordered in 2012 by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID, an agency of the World Bank) to pay more than $2 billion to the firm Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy). Similarly, following the Fukushima accident, Germany has decided to phase out nuclear power. An excellent decision for the safety of the population, but one that displeases the Swedish government, owner of the energy multinational Vattenfall (active in the German nuclear industry), which is claiming 3.7 billion euros in compensation from Germany! 

This is the horrible MAI that Europe and the United States would like to bring back to our table, in order to bleed to death the governments that would dare to take decisions (ecological, social or fiscal) considered too restrictive by investors and multinationals. The latter would obviously be the big winners, which is not a coincidence. Indeed, as we will explain in a short trip to the land of giants, the commercial marriage between Europe and the United States is a command of powerful multinationals. Some of them are also presented in boxes throughout the file. However, before going to meet them, it is probably best to explain why this transatlantic market project is a Tale for Unwashed Children.

File conceived and produced by Bruno Poncelet, trainer at CEPAG (Centre d’Education Populaire André Genot), animator of the platform be and author with Ricardo Cherenti of the book « Le grand marché transatlantique, les multinationales contre la démocratie », Éditions Bruno Leprince, 2011. 

Notes et références
  1. José Manuel Durão Barroso a fait référence à ces valeurs communes dans un discours peu connu, Un nouvel atlantisme pour le 21ème siècle, prononcé à Bruxelles le 26 mars 2010 (document en anglais référencé speech/10/135 dans les communiqués de presse de l’Union européenne).

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