Moderation: Alexandra Strickner (ATTAC Austria)
On the panel:
Lucille Dumas (ATTAC Morocco)
John Hillary (War on Want)
Carlos Aguilar (Hemispheric Social Alliance)
Bruno Ciccaglione (SDL intercategoriale)
The British NGO War on Want has been part of the Alter-Globalisation movement for a long time. It is working especially on the EU trade strategy.
To give a short introduction on the Global Europe strategy:
This program has been developed to serve the interests of European capital. The strategy has been formulated with and for European transnational companies (TNCs). The interesting question now is on how the EU is trying to implement it.
There has been a great event: the collapse of the WTO talks in Geneva last month. This is a moment we need to celebrate because of three reasons: First of all it brings an end to the immediate threat the WTO imposes on the people around the world such as job losses, privatisation of public services and hindrance of development. Secondly, it is very symbolic: the WTO creates the rules of globalization and world trade, therefore the fact that it has failed is important on a political level - it is an important sign against the neoliberal agenda. Thirdly it means another great victory for our movement and should give us courage for our next battles.
The EU wanted to achieve its interests through multilateral channels to reach the maximum possible impact. Facing WTOs failure the EU has introduced a new strategy: open up the international markets bilaterally to push forward the interests of European capital. The new strategy, which presents a new problem for our movement, has 3 main characteristics. Firstly, as already mentioned, the Global Europe strategy was born after facing the struggles of the WTO Doha round. Secondly, its main goal is to force foreign markets to open up for EU TNCs in the industrial sector, in services (which represent 75% of EUs GDP but only 25% of world trade), in investment (with changed rules and liberalization) and in the area of government procurement. It is well established that these actions would lead to massive job losses, major cutbacks to the financial resources of affected governments, and a grave deterioration of public services. Thirdly, the EU is continuing its neo-colonial project to secure the access of raw materials such as oil and minerals.
We have to realize that parallel to the international agenda the Global Europe strategy has major impacts inside the EU as well. It means an attack on the European social model and on essential labour standards, trying to convert the EU into the USA.
We had a great victory in the WTO, now we have to go out from there to achieve the same victories at the bilateral level.
We are sorry to have to inform you, that the first part of Lucille Dumas’ presentation could not be edited by us due to technical problems. Therefore we have to start our summary right in the middle:
Morocco has huge problems on the internal market; public hospitals for example work with the same methods as private companies. The role of the EU in these aspects seems to be to advance this idea through the aggressive promotion of privatisation. The EU has an important ideological role. Through forcing the implementation of new laws the EU tries to lift regulations which so far have protected the services sector. Morocco has followed Europe’s demands and has even opened up the services sector further. The government of Morocco believes that there are a lot of benefits in that area. But there are no real gains. The benefits are silting up in bureaucracy and are not used for the people. Even the Moroccan people believed in the first place, that privatisation would enhance the unsound public services sector. But their hopes were destroyed and the situation even got worse. The poorest people of Morocco for example have lost their access to public education.
But Morocco is caught in a web of contracts which are contradicting each other. That is placing the country in a difficult juridical position where it has to countercheck all their agreements to find loopholes to keep the ability to act. Protests against the contracts with the EU are difficult, because the EU has a good stand in Morocco and the people are afraid of loosing the much needed support of the European Union.
In 2006 there was the fourth Latin America and Caribbean - European Union summit in Vienna where the so called Consensus of Vienna was reached. This consensus presents the base of the strategy to create a free trade area between the EU and Latin America.
It is important to look at what is in the centre of this strategy. Firstly, Global Europe pretends to create jobs, richness, and to enable development. Secondly, through its neo-colonial character it forces global liberalization and promotes competitiveness. Thirdly, it is essential to understand that trade, services and investments can’t be seen separately from each other.
The 3 main points of the strategy are to open up markets, to decompose trade barriers to fight protectionism. According to the last point the EU seems to believe that its own market is already very open while the markets of the trading partners in the south are not. Another main point to keep in mind is the fact that the EU needs the import of raw materials to be able to produce their exports. Other important fields of interest of the strategy are to reach TRIPS+ agreements in the area of intellectual property (e.g. the pharmaceutical sector), bio fuels and the energy sector. Concerning agrarian aspects the EU has very defensive interests.
In view of the negotiations with Latin America the EU agenda has generated a new quality. The EU is blending trade negotiations with the political dialog to hide their real interests such as the implementation of the so called Singapore topics. But there is one advantage in the Global Europe strategy: it shows very explicitly what the European Union really wants concerning international trade.
Concerning the neoliberal agenda we have faced different experiences these last years: NAFTA for example and its negative impacts on jobs and other labour issues. The only ones that had real benefit were the big companies and the international capital. For European workers unions it has to be clear that EUs neoliberal strategy is not just faced on external relationships of Europe but is strongly directed to the inside of Europe as well. The explicit target is to modify and attack the European social model in order to help TNCs to be able to compete. A fact that is even shown by the title of the Global Europe Strategy: "competing in the world”.
But the approach of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is to support Global Europe if the European Commission ads a social clause. They want to help European TNCs to be able to compete in the world. The ETUC even supported the WTO trade negotiations and is caught in conflicting positions as you can see by the fact that there is no official statement concerning the failure of the WTO-Doha Round meeting in Geneva this July.
There are positive signs as well. Trade unions in the south have worked very hard and managed to pressure their governments to take up and defend a strong position at the WTO negotiations.
It is difficult to create an alliance between northern and southern trade unions. The challenge is to open up frank debates and discussions and to start to learn from each other. We cannot win this battle against these strategies just by ourselves as social movement. We need alliances between all the actors to make the criticism against the aggressive European policy be heard (especially in the European trade unions).
The most resent event to increase their awareness occurred in the European Court of Justice as it clarified on the legal rights of trade unions to take collective actions. Therefore a trade union can take actions and go to strike, but these rights are conditioned by the right of TNCs to compete. This states the open contradictions within the European trade unions.