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EU-US FTA: "Free trade agreement must immediately stop"

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Nachdenklich: Detlef Wetzel. Foto: imago/Hannelore Förster

Frankfurter Rundschau | 04 March 2014


"Free trade agreement immediately stop"

IG Metall leader Detlef Wetzel feared disadvantages for workers and consumers, if the EU and the U.S. to create a free trade zone.

It is the common project of the European Union and the United States: a common free trade area, a common economic space is to be created. The front of the opponent will always wider. Now also the largest union in the world wishes to speak. IG Metall leader Detlef Wetzel explains in an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau, why he calls for an immediate halt of the negotiations.

Mr. Wetzel, the negotiations on a trans-Atlantic Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the U.S. have been underway for several months. Why IG Metall now reports to word?

The exact content will be negotiated by a small group in the back room. Therefore, we want that this issue finally getting the attention in a broad public, it deserves. The discussion is not really arrived in the parties nor the trade unions or employers. Secondly, we believe the agreement is dangerous: It has no discernible benefit, but would do much damage. The negotiations must be stopped.

Represent workers in an industry that depends on exports. However, according to forecasts expected to benefit from the free trade agreement currently export-oriented companies. The Bertelsmann Foundation comes in a much-cited study concludes: The Agreement creates in Germany 160,000 new jobs, 85,000 of them in manufacturing.

Such forecasts are still reading tea. No man can expect out of the exact actions planned growth figures for decades. Especially at the Bertelsmann study unseriöserweise only increases were calculated, possible negative effects not.

In addition, the free trade earlier enormous growth effects were imputed - he has kept the promises never. But even if the predictions were correct - the increase would be ridiculously low. In Germany, five million people are employed in the manufacturing sector. Inasmuch as the weather plays a larger role for the employment effect than the free trade agreement.

At least one additional economic growth of 0.5 percent is predicted for the entire EU.

That is it: 0.5 percent growth in 10 years, that is 0.05 percent per year. I’m saying: The forecasts are highly uncertain, the predicted effects of microscopic - and above all, they would not equal the expense expensive.

What do you mean?

For example, plans to give investors broad rights.

These rights are currently excluded from the negotiations ...

But ... they are so not off the table. And they are threatening. The terms provide foreign investors the right to complain against government decisions that affect the profitability of their investments. So there is the case of a French company, which will target raising the minimum wage in Egypt. In Germany, the Swedish company Vattenfall suing the nuclear phase. Getting the right investors, they must be compensated by the taxpayer. This is expensive - and undermines democracy and sovereignty.

But public policy can make an investment actually unprofitable ...

Of course, but that’s their right. To illustrate it in a plastic Example: The abolition of apartheid in South Africa has certainly become more expensive investments because exploitation as before was no longer possible. It would be absurd to refrain from such political decisions. Can investors protection agreement you enter into with countries with underdeveloped legal systems. So donors can be protected against expropriation without compensation. Even the huge investment volumes between the EU and the U.S. show: Obviously, investments in these regions are well protected against arbitrary expropriation. There is therefore absolutely no need for action.

Would you be satisfied if the rights of investors continue to remain excluded?

No. Because we feel that the objective of the negotiations is a very deliberate. It seems overall to be to simplify procedures and lower product standards just to the companies to save costs. Officially, in the negotiations not to decrease, but the alignment of different standards in Europe and the United States. Therefore, one could still fight to ensure that in future the rules that prescribe the strictest standards?

It would be nice if that would work. If such a contract is presented, we would check our negative attitude again. But if only rights for consumers and workers are lowered, says IG Metall No. But it it runs but also: It’s all about the lowering of mechanisms to protect consumers and workers.

Why would affect workers? Your rights are not part of the negotiations.

The pressure would build up indirectly. Because liberalization always brings a tightening of competition with them. The competition is getting tougher, in this case, the competition between Europe and the U.S., where workers’ rights are much weaker and the unions are fighting partly solid from politics. And there is then very the question of whether, for example, the German rules for participation are not attacked in a free trade zone.

The TTIP, it says, is still necessary in order to strengthen Europe and the U.S. against the growing power of emerging markets ...

This supports my fears: In the future EU-US zone costs and standards should be lowered to a level that can compete with the Chinese. That can not nobody want. We are therefore for an immediate termination of the negotiations. First, the entire process must be made ​​transparent and the consequences must be estimated. Against the reduction of tariffs, we have nothing, the yes you can negotiate separately and decide - if a State is of the opinion that he could do without the revenue.

They fear a race to the bottom. In fact, however, it seems already to give this race, but within the EU. There, workers’ rights and wages are massive fall in the wake of the crisis under pressure, especially in southern Europe. Planned are more "pacts for competitiveness" between the EU and its Member States. Go from here not the much stronger pressure on the workers?

That’s right. We are opposed to this policy within the EU and against the liberalization negotiations of EU and USA. We see here an opportunity to drive further to a debate on social priorities: Is cost cutting really everything? Do we want - to reduce just about cost - abandon safe products, environmental protection, democratic processes, and social services? A few may benefit at the expense of many, neither in Europe nor in the TTIP.

Interview: Stephan Kaufmann

 source: Frankfurter Rundschau