GENET archive


6-Genetech §§: BIOSAFETY - Hidden economic interests influence EU politics

-------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------

TITLE:  World Trade Organisation: special report
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by George Monbiot
DATE:   December 16, 1999

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World Trade Organisation: special report

When the world trade talks in Seattle collapsed, British
ministers indicated that they would never again try to force the
world to accept a regime which threatened democratic government,
developing nations and human health. This is the third time they
have made this promise: already, for the third time, it has been

Eighteen months ago, when the proposed Multilateral Agreement on
Investment (MAI) first foundered, the British government assured
us that it had learned its lesson. The new treaty it was
brokering would defend the environment and developing countries.
When that turned out to be untrue, and the agreement collapsed
again, ministers swore that the environment and human rights
would be central to any future treaty. Within a fortnight, leaked
documents show, European officials had decided to shift the
entire MAI agenda to the world trade summit in Seattle. They did
so and, exposed and divided at the beginning of this month, they
failed. Again, they waited less than a fortnight to launch the
next attempt to facilitate a corporate takeover of the world. At
the Helsinki summit of European leaders last week the fallback
scheme began to be implemented.

European expansion has several potential benefits for the people
joining the European Union - democratisation, human rights and
peaceful relations with their neighbours - but these are not the
main issues driving enlargement. The growth of the EU is one of
the two central projects formulated and controlled by a shadowy
lobby group which has, for the past 15 years, exerted an iron
grip on policy-making in Brussels.

The European round table of Industrialists (ERT) is an alliance
of the chief executives of Europe's largest companies, whose
purpose is to formulate policies for adoption by the European
Commission. It has, so far, been astonishingly successful. The
Single European Act was framed not by the EC but by Wisse Dekker,
the president of Philips and subsequently chairman of the ERT.
His proposal became the basis of the EC's 1985 white paper. The
ERT has scheduled and steered the implementation of the act ever
since. The enlargement plans just approved by the European heads
of government were mapped out by Percy Barnevik, head of the
Swedish company Investor AB and chairman of an ERT working group.

The round table insisted not only that the EU be expanded in
precisely the sequence agreed at Helsinki, but also that new
entrants be forced to deregulate and privatise their economies
and invest massively in infrastructure designed for long-distance
freight. The EU has agreed to all of its principal demands. Until
July this year the British minister responsible for approving
these changes was Lord Simon. Before he became a minister, Lord
Simon was vice-chairman of the ERT.

The thinking behind these schemes becomes clear when you discover
what else the corporate lobby groups have been doing. Since 1995,
the EC, pressed by the ERT and other trade bodies, has quietly
been preparing for a single market with the US.

The Transatlantic Economic Partnership is a slower and subtler
creature than the World Trade Organisation or the MAI. One by one
it aims to pull down the "regulatory barriers" impeding the free
exchange of goods and services between Europe and America. What
this will mean in practice is that once a product has been
approved in one part of the new trading bloc, it must be accepted
everywhere. If the US government, for example, decides that
injecting cattle with growth hormones is safe, Europe will have
to adopt that as its regulatory standard.

The master plan is now falling into place. A greatly expanded
Europe will form part of a single trading bloc with the US,
Canada and Mexico, whose markets have already been integrated by
means of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. NAFTA
will grow to engulf all the Americas and the Caribbean. The
senate has already passed a bill (the Africa Growth and
Opportunity Act) forcing African countries to accept NAFTA terms
of trade. Russia and most of Asia are being dragged into line by
the International Monetary Fund.

Before long, in other words, only a minority of nations will lie
outside a legally harmonised neoliberal world order, and they
will swiftly find themselves obliged to join. By the time the
world trade agreement is ready to be re-negotiated, it will be
irrelevant, for the WTO's job will already have been done. The
world will consist of a single deregulated market, controlled by
multinational companies, in which no robust law intended to
protect the environment or human rights will be allowed to

As the previous failures to impose such plans have shown, schemes
like this can survive only in the dark: exposure makes them
shrivel and die. If this new global master plan is to be
thwarted, we must drag it into the light. 


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