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Geopolitics & human rights

Bilateral free trade and investment agreements are not only economic instruments. They are tools to advance corporate and state geopolitical and “security” interests. Pro-free market journalist Thomas Friedman wrote: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist — McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, AirForce and Marine Corps.”

Neoliberal globalization and war are two sides of the same coin. Throughout many parts of the world there has been little “hidden” about the links between corporate interests, globalization, and militarization. Under the guise of the war on terror, the war on drugs and “humanitarian” missions, U.S. military forces continue to back U.S. corporate and geopolitical interests from Iraq to Colombia, from Honduras to the Philippines. We can see it in the invasion and occupation of Iraq and how the US Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded “reconstruction” contracts to corporate backers of the Bush Administration. We see it in plans for a U.S. free trade agreement with the Middle East by 2013, based on imposing a network of bilateral FTAs on individual Middle Eastern governments. We can see it in the renewed U.S. military presence in South East Asia, especially in their joint exercises with the Philippine military alongside a continued wave of killings of hundreds of activists linked to movements resisting imperialism. Their mission is to make the world safe for capitalism and the U.S. empire and to crush communities and economies organized around different values and principles. Free trade and free market policies are frequently accompanied by repression of dissent.

Meanwhile human rights is invoked cynically by governments to stave off criticism of FTA negotiations with countries whose human rights record is widely denounced as appalling. Canada, for example, claims that its controversial FTA with Colombia will help strengthen its social foundations “and contribute to a domestic environment where individual rights and the rule of law are respected”. Opponents argue that this deal will benefit Canadian mining and agribusiness TNCs, at the expense of the majority of Colombians who live with daily killings of trade unionists and other activists by paramilitaries linked to the state, while adding legitimacy to the pro-US, neoliberal Uribe regime (see Canada-Colombia section).

While US economic, trade and foreign policy invokes the “war on drugs” in relation to Central America and the Andean countries, Washington has "rewarded" its allies in the "war on terror" (e.g. Australia and Thailand) by negotiating FTAs with them while trumpeting its FTA with Morocco as proof of its support for “tolerant and open” Muslim societies. And it has demanded that the governments of Gulf countries scrap their boycotts of Israeli goods as part of FTA negotiations. Other governments also explicitly link their international trade and economic policy with security and geopolitical interests. For example, the EU-Syria agreement has a special provision committing Damascus to the pursuit of a “verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological and chemical, and their delivery systems”.

Besides the obvious ways in which US geopolitical concerns are embedded in Washington’s pursuit of bilateral trade and investment deals, other countries are also pursuing bilateral free trade and investment agreements to further geopolitical goals. Increasingly, we can see access to energy resources (eg. oil, gas, uranium, agrofuels and water) as a factor in determining the priorities of signing bilateral FTAs for countries such as China and Japan (see Energy & environment).

last update: May 2012


The Pretext for a North American Homeland Security Perimeter
A North American Homeland Security perimeter goes well beyond keeping people safe from any perceived threats. It is a means to secure trade, resources, as well as corporate interests and is a pretext for control over the continent. Ultimately, the U.S. wants the final say on who is allowed to enter and who is allowed to leave.
Human rights impact assessments: public consultation
Olivier De Schutter invites States, United Nations departments and agencies, national human rights institutions, civil society and other relevant stakeholders to participate in the public consultation on the draft “Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessments of Trade and Investment Agreements.” The document seeks to set out key principles that should guide human rights impact assessments for trade and investment agreements between States.
U.S.-Canada Perimeter Security and an Integrated North American Command
While few details have emerged surrounding talks between the U.S. and Canada on a North American security perimeter, there is little doubt that deeper military integration between both countries will play an important part of any such deal. Plans for a common security perimeter have renewed calls to expand the NORAD bilateral air defence model to include ground and naval forces. There are also efforts to increase security cooperation in the Arctic and further integrate military command structures.
The Militarization of the US-Canada Border
While there are many questions surrounding the proposed Canada-U.S. trade and security perimeter agreement, the overall objectives are to secure the external and internal borders of both countries. The plan is a continuation and expansion of the Security and Prosperity Partnership agenda. In a Fortress North America, the U.S. seeks to push out its security perimeter whereby the northern border would act as another layer of security. It would be open to trade, as well as trusted travellers and labour mobility. The move towards a North American security perimeter is nothing more than a pretext for U.S. control over the continent.
EU turns blind eye to Palestinian citizens in Israel
The rights of the Palestinian minority in Israel are not even mentioned in the "association agreement" between the EU and Israel
Canada-U.S. Deep Integration: Establishing the Bi-National "Security Perimeter"
Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness’ – sets forth how the United States and Canada will manage our shared homeland and economic security
Is ‘another Egypt’ brewing in Mexico?
People in Chihuahua who were picked up under guidelines of the Merida Initiative on three-year-old warrants were charged not with drugs but with organizing anti-NAFTA protests!
The EU and Israel - Or how Brussels learned to love the occupation
Under the leadership of Tony Blair and Catherine Ashton, the EU has increased its connection to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, says David Cronin
Deepening Canada-US security and military ties‏
Recent Canada-U.S. bilateral talks further deepened security and military ties.
Towards a North American Security Perimeter
There are numerous reports that Canada and the U.S. are secretly negotiating a security and trade deal which could be signed as early as January 2011. The proposed agreement would establish a security perimeter as a means to better secure North America and stimulate trade.