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U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a joint press conference in Berlin on Thursday. (Photo: Reuters)

Angela Merkel Sounds Death Knell for TTIP—But Don't Thank Donald Trump

'The best way to defeat [Trump] is to to stop these trade deals and build a democratic economy that works for everyone'

Deirdre Fulton

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday at a joint press conference with U.S. President Barack Obama that negotiations over the corporate-friendly TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and the United States "will not be concluded now" that Donald Trump has been elected to succeed Obama.

It is a victory for the millions of people on both continents who voiced opposition to the massive deal. But social justice campaigners across Europe refuse to give the credit to Trump, saying that thanks to public outcry, the TTIP was "already dead" long before November 8.

Indeed, a coalition of European civil society groups and trade unions just this week warned that Trump merely exploited economic unease in order to win the presidential election, and that "[d]espite his rhetoric, Trump fully believes in deregulation, privatization, and putting profit before people." 

"Trade deals like TTIP and [the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada] have given oxygen to Trump," read an open letter signed by groups including Global Justice Now and various chapters of the anti-neoliberalist Attac network. "The best way to defeat him is to remove that oxygen—to stop these trade deals and build a democratic economy that works for everyone."

Such deals, the campaigners said, only fuel the inequality that's led to the rise of Trump in the U.S. and far-right populist groups in Europe—and the "politics of racism and hatred" that they represent.

Furthermore, argued economist Thomas Piketty in a piece published Wednesday at the Guardian: "The tragedy is that Trump's program will only strengthen the trend towards inequality."

For example, Piketty wrote, Trump "intends to abolish the health insurance laboriously granted to low-paid workers under Obama and to set the country on a headlong course into fiscal dumping, with a reduction from 35 percent to 15 percent in the rate of federal tax on corporation profits, whereas to date the United States had resisted this trend, already witnessed in Europe."

In turn, he said:

The main lesson for Europe and the world is clear: as a matter of urgency, globalization must be fundamentally re-oriented. The main challenges of our times are the rise in inequality and global warming. We must therefore implement international treaties enabling us to respond to these challenges and to promote a model for fair and sustainable development.

[...] From this point of view, CETA, the E.U.-Canada free trade deal, should be rejected. It is a treaty which belongs to another age. This strictly commercial treaty contains absolutely no restrictive measures concerning fiscal or climate issues. It does, however, contain a considerable reference to the "protection of investors." This enables multinationals to sue states under private arbitration courts, bypassing the public tribunals available to one and all.

[...] It is time to change the political discourse on globalization: trade is a good thing, but fair and sustainable development also demands public services, infrastructure, health and education systems. In turn, these themselves demand fair taxation systems. If we fail to deliver these, Trumpism will prevail.

Social justice groups agree, warning that politicians who "are now more fearful of opposing deals like CETA" are making a mistake.

"This is exactly the wrong lesson to pull from Trump's election," read Wednesday's open letter. "To defeat the politics of racism and hatred represented by Trump and the far right in Europe, we call on politicians to support economic policies which will benefit the majority of people, which eradicate poverty, which create decent jobs, good quality public services, and which halt climate change. The first step they must take is to vote to stop CETA in the coming weeks."

Trump's election also seemed to put a nail in the coffin for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), though advocacy groups similarly argued over the weekend that grassroots efforts were instrumental in the deal's defeat.

"Donald Trump didn't kill the TPP," said Evan Greer, campaign director for digital rights group Fight for the Future. "We did."

Added Arthur Stamoulis, executive director at Citizens Trade Campaign: "Trump's vision of internationalism is not one of human rights, worker rights, sustainability, and improving standards of living. The President-elect is a man who, among other things, thinks that workers are overpaid, is hostile to unions, denies climate science, and embraces authoritarian regimes."

"We've all got a lot of work to do," Stamoulis said.

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