12 Days Remaining

Friday 12th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

THE last 20 years have seen a global campaign to subordinate countries to corporations. 

Under the misnomer of "free trade," the world's most powerful companies have used their influence over capitalist governments to rewrite the rulebook when it comes to transferring goods, services and people across borders.

The aim is to remove all restrictions on the power of the big transnationals and to demolish the barriers to their activity posed by governments' right to enforce regulations in the interest of their citizens. 

Even as one arm of this neoliberal offensive, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), appears to be faltering - conservatives, liberals and social democrats were forced to delay a European Parliament vote on TTIP this week for fear they would lose it - another is advancing steadily.

This is the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which delegates to the GMB congress in Dublin heard yesterday will remove restrictions on the movement of "natural persons" between countries. 

Fans of what is known as globalisation - who in this country include the leaderships of the Conservative, Labour, Scottish National and Liberal Democrat parties - argue that these "trade" agreements make everyone better off.

The process will create one happy capitalist world in which the old divisions and inequalities between countries will cease to exist. 

Sadly, there is no evidence that this is the outcome of the wave after wave of deregulation and "liberalisation" our governments are signing up to.

Global inequality is not diminishing - indeed, poverty in most of Africa and much of Asia is getting worse.

The only places to have made significant steps towards poverty reduction over the last two decades are China and those Latin American countries which have reorientated to the left in the wake of Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution - ie precisely those countries which have resisted the neoliberal tide and embraced economic planning. 

And as inequality between nations has increased, so has inequality within them.

TiSA builds on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (Gats) which was agreed in 1995 and limits the ability of national governments to stop commercialisation of services such as healthcare, education, water and energy supply.

Services can be supplied within countries signed up to Gats in four "modes," each depicting a different way in which the supplier is present.

It is Mode 4 - "presence of a natural person" - which acts most strongly to undermine wages and trade union rights.

TiSA will extend the ability of companies to deploy foreign workers in the territory of other states without being subject to the employment laws or collective agreements which apply in those states.

In other words, corporations can undercut local workers while exploiting employees from abroad who will be paid less and work under worse conditions.

In the short term, this causes unemployment and lowers pay. 

In the long term it accelerates a race to the bottom for all workers in all participating countries and makes the employment rights the labour movement has fought for over the past two centuries increasingly meaningless.

Don't want to pay the minimum wage? Simple, just bus in workers not covered by it.

Resistance to such exploitative practices is made all but impossible by making them conditions of membership of ever-larger "free trade" blocs, so countries that object have to leave the entire framework and trade at a disadvantage.

Cold war ideologues used to argue that democracy could not exist without capitalism.

The massive abdication of powers by elected governments enshrined in treaties such as Gats, TiSA and TTIP and through the conditions of EU membership shows that the opposite is the case.

Capitalism can no longer tolerate the democratic right of peoples to decide how their societies should function.

Either capitalism or democracy will emerge victorious in this conflict of interest. They cannot both win.