Recent Developments on Trade Policy in the EU and a Zombie Emerging Again on the International Political Scene: the Triade

The relationship of the EU to the rest of the world is primarily based on trade. The role a new Europe should play in a better world therefore primarily needs to be based on a new trade policy. What are relevant points if we discuss the trade policy of Europe[1]?

Before we discuss some crucially points of the trade policy, I want to mention two recent dates which highlight the urgency for the left and progressive movements in the EU to tackle the trade policy pursued by the Member states of the EU and their primary agent, the European Commission.

A New Race for Africa and the re-emergence of the “triade” of the 1980s

On the 12th September 2018 the President of the European Commission Juncker gave his “State of the Union” Speech. This disappointing-status-quo speech had only one new agenda point to mention for the future work of the European Commission’s work: The EU should become an international hard-power, not any longer relying on its supposedly soft-power assets trade, diplomatic skills and culture. Since Brexit the EU has started with an unprecedented military upgrading of its assets. Contrary to its legal foundations (Art. 41(2) of the Lisbon treaty) the EU is spending huge amounts of money for enhanced military capabilities of its member states. The day after the speech a disappointed Juncker said at the weekly meeting of the Director Generals of the different departments of the Commission that the media would not have properly understood his speech and would not have taken up the most important word of his speech: Africa. According to Juncker the media would not have understood that the EU Commission would prepare a totally new Africa policy of the EU, ranging from financial cooperation, enhanced investment instruments to military cooperation. From a left perspective this is a clear threat of European imperialism towards Africa, and African and European actors must do all to stop this full-spectrum-dominance offensive.

The triade wants to kick-away-the-ladder for developing nations (Chang Ha-joon)

The second important date is the 26th September 2018. At that date the trade ministers of the USA, Japan and the trade Commissioner of the EU published a common “statement”. This short paper is important in different perspectives. First of all, we find here re-united the so-called triade. Basically, the triade was the central committee of the international fordistic capitalism in its heydays until the end of the 1980s. Since then we haven’t heard the triade voice too often. So why have these old veterans of capitalistic domination re-united? What is the aim of this “reunion tour”? The paper was written with one common enemy in mind: China. China is not mentioned at all but even a short scan of the text reveals this not too much hidden agenda. The triade has a common enemy: the state led economy. Three aspects of this alternative economic model are the deadly enemies of the triade:

1.       Forced technological transfer, also know as stealing intellectual property

2.       Subsidies to decaying industries

3.       State owned enterprises (SOEs)

Although China is the main enemy of the triade, but the whole third world and all emerging markets are also victims of this policy. All industrialised economies have been built up by stealing technologies, having state owned enterprises and subsidising large parts of its economies. Making these policies unavailable today for catching-up countries is nothing else then forbidding these nations to develop their productive forces. In short: it would be the end of all developing processes.

The triade disarm our societies in the fight against climate change

But not only the third would suffer, also the first world. The first world countries, the old West, command successful more or less post-fordistic and fossilistic production forces. These are incompatible with the challenges the humanity must face as a result of the environmental destruction pursed by these industrialised nations. We therefore need an urgent transformation of the whole economic system of the Western economies. These western economies are nothing else than the above mentioned triade countries. If the elites of the triade are trying to abolish technological diffusion, forbid SOEs and abolish subsidies, then they take away the most necessary means for the socio-economic-ecological transformation of the metabolism of the post-fordistic societies. We thus must acknowledge that these policies of the triade are a threat to the whole of humanity. The European progressive forces therefore are called to stand up against the trade policies of their respective governments and the European Commission, as these policy choice of the triade would be implemented via trade policies, be it with the help of bi-, pluri- or multinational trade agreements like TiSA, TIPP, CETA or a reform of the WTO.

Regulatory Cooperation

Of the many important and largely negative aspects of free trade agreements is the so-called “Regulatory Cooperation”. To explain this term, we first have to understand the trade agreements of the 21st century are about everything, but not trade. Well, ok, that’s overstated and trade in goods are indeed part of the trade agreements, but surely only as a very small part. The largest part is about regulation of the economies and the question who sets the norms of products for both, goods and services. The big issue today for capitalists are value chains which span the whole world. Goods get produced in gigantic networks of dispersed single production centres, controlled by headquarters most of the time centred on the triade countries. The norms for the production are largely still agreed upon by the parliaments of the different nations of the host countries, and this is a huge problem for the production and the selling of the products. A homogenous norms setting would make the life much easier for the capitalists. To achieve this, step by step the modern trade agreements introduce regulatory cooperation mechanisms. There is some truth in the words when you say that these regulatory cooperation mechanisms are part of a larger slowly creeping coup d’etat of rebuilding the constitutional set up of the different nations of the world. Why using these strong words: because international law breaks national law. Currently one of the most advanced of these mechanisms would be the one being established by TTIP, if it would finally be agreed upon. To describe the regulatory cooperation with an easy picture, we must imagine this mechanism as “a parliament for the capitalists”. The idea is that working groups for different policy areas would exist, from industrial goods, financial industries to agriculture and beyond. In these working groups the interested civil society would be present. In theory basically, whoever can establish the claim that she of he is a relevant player in this field and being affected by regulations of products in this policy field could participate. So theoretically consumer protection organisations and trade unions would obviously be part of these groups. In reality they would not have the means to take part. Who would thus be part of the working processes? The legal firms as organic intellectuals of the international capital would sit together and would propose new regulations for good and services. In the 21st century everything is a service, from health “service” to producing a car, therefore this regulation would have deepest impact on our states themselves. Therefore, the new generation of trade agreements is called “deep integration agreements”. Back to the regulatory cooperation: only after the working groups would have dealt internally with proposed regulations, and only after the diplomats of the European and US-American transnational capital factions would have found an agreement, the House of Representatives and the European Parliament (the latter via the Commission) would receive this text. And imagine the room to manoeuvre for the brave Members of the European Parliament when they receive a text on which, in big letters it is printed: already approved by the European car industry. We can conclude that the more regulatory cooperation agreements exist in the world, the denser the net of international post-democratic institutions get which is called neoliberal, or “new constitutionalism”. Therefore it is necessary that the European progressive forces to stand up against the recent new trade agreement plans of the European Commission and the hegemonic ministries of our respective home countries.

[1] If we speak of Europe, we speak of the European Union which department on trade policy is the most important actor in trade policy in Europe.