Yesterday, SOLIDAR member Arbeiterwohlfahrt (AWO) from Germany held a big conference on TTIP, CETA and TiSA and the impact of those trade agreements on the Social Services in Europe and especially in Austria and Germany.
After an initial statement by Wolfgang Stadler, director of AWO, German state secretary, responsible for trade relations, held a speech speaking in favour of TTIP. Wolfgang Stadler stated the concerns by welfare organisations in regard of TTIP and other trade agreements. The public services sector needs to be protected and must not be in the scope of market liberalisation. He underlined as well that the German welfare organisations strongly oppose the plans for regulatory cooperation, where social, environmental, health and consumer standards could be seen as trade barriers. Additionally he criticised the missing transparency during the negotiations and the planned Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement. The benefits of a trade agreement do not compensate the risks such a trade agreement bears and that is why AWO currently rejects TTIP and demands a re-negotiation of CETA with the new Canadian government of Justin Trudeau.
State Secretary Machnig, who spoke for the German government defended the trade agreement and underlined that trade is the core to wealth and growth.
After the initial speeches there was a podium discussion with MEP Bernd Lange, S&D, MEP Ska Keller, from the Greens, Matthias Machnig, Erich Fenninger, director of SOLIDAR member Volkshilfe Austria and Thomas Beyer, vice president of AWO. The discussion that was moderated by the well-known journalist Petra Pinzler was very emotional. While the representants of AWO and Volkshilfe underlined the risks of TTIP, with the backing of Ska Keller, who also criticised the missing transparency, Matthias Machnig and Bernd Lange defeated the importance of trade agreements. Bernd Lange also criticised parts of the negotiations and stated that the European Parliament has to agree to TTIP as well and thererfore wants to further negotiate an agreement with whom everyone can live. There was a common commitment that the social sector needs to stay secured and can’t be the target of profit-oriented companies, as social services are not a “commidity” you can order but essential services for people in need – and those should not be in the scope of profit orientation.
The concluding statement was held by SOLIDAR secretary Conny Reuter calling for European alliances to give a more European dimension on social services delivery model in Germany and Austria. Summarising the criticisms of the trade agreements, he emphasised that they need to be taken serious and that they had already an impact on transparency. He welcomed that Commissioner Malmström has allowed progress not only on that issue and her openness by stating that there “will be winners and losers” at the end of the TTIP-negotiations and that there is a need to take care of the “losers”. There is not a confrontation between the US and Europe, but a confrontation with those forces in Europe who want to use TTIP for enforcement of a more liberal trade policy not taking into account the social and labour standards and undermining even positions agreed like in the public procurement directive from 2014. The move from social economy to a social business terminology is more than wording, because social business cannot call for a publically financed sector like welfare in Germany and Austria, nor to be exempted from the only market mantra.
The debate is far from closed. SOLIDAR member organisation AWO and Volkshilfe just contributed to more Aufklärung and civic engagement on the social dimension of Trade policies and TTIP in general.
The event on TTIP was visitied by more than 120 people and showed that there still needs to be further discussion on this topic.
Please also see the SOLIDAR publication ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): flaws and fallacies uncovered’ with an introduction by Robert Kuttner, the American Prospect and Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, former Prime Minister from Denmark.