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Campaign group Global Justice Now has warned there are just months to stop 'TTIP on steroids' as the latest round of trade talks between the United States and United Kingdom governments begins in London.
While any trade deal resulting from the talks would not come into effect until after Brexit, the campaigners warn that the new Trade Bill, tabled last week, will give the UK government sweeping powers to agree an eventual deal with the Trump administration without MPs having the power to stop it. They fear the UK's weaker bargaining position after Brexit will lead to an even worse deal on crucial issues like food standards, private access to public services, and corporate courts than that offered by TTIP, the EU-US trade deal that was scuppered last year after mass opposition across Europe. (1)
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said:
"A trade deal with Trump will see Britain getting the worst possible deal - it has a poor negotiating hand and we have, in Liam Fox, a Trade Secretary who agrees with Trump on deregulation of food and public services. So we're looking at TTIP on steroids here.
"What's worse is that MPs currently have no ability or right to scrutinise what Liam Fox is up to. They don't even have the right to know when or where trade meetings are happening. This is a long way from 'taking back control'. Fortunately MPs have a few months now to amend the Trade Bill and give themselves full democratic power over trade policy. If they fail to do this, we will see our rights, standards and protections increasingly traded away with no transparency or accountability."
Last week US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross made clear that a quick trade deal with the Trump administration would require the UK to give up regulatory standards on things like chlorinated chicken and GM foods. At the G8 in June, Trump told May he wanted to do a "very big, very powerful" trade deal with the UK "very very quickly". (2)
Trade secretary Liam Fox was criticised last week for tabling his Trade Bill before Parliament the morning after the closure of a public consultation on its contents. He was accused of 'making a mockery of democracy' after more than 60,000 people submitted objections to the trade white paper, and multiple organisations and academics made detailed submissions, only to find that the bill was rushed out the following morning. Parliamentary managers are due to announce the date of the second reading of the bill later today. (3)
More than 100 MPs from all opposition parties, as well as the DUP, have signed EDM 128 calling for a range of measures to subject trade deals after Brexit to proper parliamentary scrutiny. It is the third most popular motion out of over 500 in the session. Global Justice Now is a member of the Trade Justice Movement, which will be launching its Trade Democracy campaign in Parliament on Tuesday 21 November. (4)
1. The talks were announced by US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross last week, see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41888823.
See 'Trading with Trump': https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/2017/apr/20/trading-trump-%E2%80%93-what-we-can-expect-uk-us-trade-deal
2. See https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/nov/06/trump-ross-says-uk-us-trade-deal-eu-brexit-chlorinated-chicken and https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/08/donald-trump-expects-trade-deal-uk-completed-quickly/
3. See Trade Bill 2017-19, https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/trade.html and 'Liam Fox's Trade Bill makes a mockery of democracy', https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/2017/nov/7/liam-foxs-trade-bill-makes-mockery-democracy
4. Early Day Motion 128 calls for:
Global Justice Now is a democratic social justice organisation working as part of a global movement to challenge the powerful and create a more just and equal world. We mobilise people in the UK for change, and act in solidarity with those fighting injustice, particularly in the global south.020 7820 4900
"House Republicans are trying to slash lifelines for middle-class families on behalf of rich special interests," said a White House spokesperson.
The White House on Saturday condemned a newly introduced Republican bill that would repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, a law that includes a number of changes aimed at lowering costs for Medicare recipients.
Unveiled Thursday by freshman Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), the bill has 20 original co-sponsors and is endorsed by several right-wing groups, including the Koch-funded organization Americans for Prosperity.
The Biden White House argued that rolling back the Inflation Reduction Act, which also contains major climate investments, would represent "one of the biggest Medicare benefit cuts in American history" as well as a "handout to Big Pharma." According to Politico, which first reported the White House's response to the GOP bill, the administration is planning to release "state-by-state data indicating how this would affect constituents in different areas."
"House Republicans are trying to slash lifelines for middle-class families on behalf of rich special interests," White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement. "Who on earth thinks that welfare for Big Pharma is worth selling out over a million seniors in their home state?”
The Inflation Reduction Act authorized a $35-per-month cap on insulin copayments for Medicare recipients, as well as an annual $2,000 total limit on out-of-pocket drug costs.
The bill will also, among other long-overdue changes, allow Medicare to begin negotiating the prices of a subset of the most expensive prescription drugs directly with pharmaceutical companies, which fiercely opposed the law and are working with Republicans to sabotage it. The newly negotiated prices are set to take effect in 2026.
Ogles, whose two-page bill would eliminate the above reforms, repeatedly attacked Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs and protections during his 2022 campaign for the U.S. House.
\u201cNEW @Campbell4TN ad in TN-5: \u201cExtreme Andy Ogles in his own words \u2014 a SUPERCUT\u201d\n\nWatch @AndyOgles back a no exceptions abortion ban, cutting Medicare & Medicaid, eliminating Dept of Ed, impeaching Biden, deny the election was legit, etc\u2026 do better, TN-5.\nhttps://t.co/YhCRGXIPsU\u201d— The Tennessee Holler (@The Tennessee Holler) 1667748662
The White House's critique of Ogles' bill comes as Biden is facing pressure from advocates and physicians to cancel a Medicare privatization scheme that his administration inherited from its right-wing predecessor and rebranded.
It also comes as the White House is locked in a standoff with House Republicans over the debt ceiling. Republican lawmakers have pushed for deeply unpopular cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and other critical federal programs as a necessary condition for any deal to raise the country's borrowing limit and avert a catastrophic default.
"In less than a month, MAGA extremists have threatened to drive the economy into a recession by defaulting on our debt, promised to bring up a bill to impose a 30% national sales tax, and now have introduced legislation to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act," Patrick Gaspard, president and CEO of the Democratic Party-aligned Center for American Progress said in a statement. "This will cut taxes for corporations who earn billions in profit while empowering Big Pharma and Big Oil to continue ripping off the American people."
"It is vital that all Americans understand what is at risk if MAGA extremists succeed in passing their latest dangerous idea: millions of lost jobs, millions more without health insurance, and higher costs for lifesaving insulin, utilities, and more," Gaspard added.
One election expert called the decision an "electoral coup."
Guatemala's Supreme Electoral Tribunal ruled earlier this week that a leftist presidential ticket headed by Indigenous human rights defender Thelma Cabrera should be barred from the June ballot, prompting fury and vows of mass protests from Cabrera's supporters.
Thursday's ruling—which Cabrera's young political party, the Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples (MLP), is vowing to appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice—stems from Guatemala electoral authorities' refusal to certify the candidacy of Cabrera's running mate, former human rights ombudsman Jordán Rodas.
Reporting indicates that election officials have justified stonewalling Rodas—a longtime target of Guatemala's right-wing political establishment—by citing supposed "anomalies during the collection of compensation" upon his departure from the ombudsman post last year.
But Cabrera and Rodas contend that the electoral tribunal's decision is a politically motivated attempt to keep a left-wing party—whose base is largely rural—off the ballot, which is set to include the daughter of Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, the former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator who was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2013.
Montt's victims were largely Indigenous peasants.
Last month, the same electoral body that deemed Cabrera and Rodas disqualified from the June ballot ruled that Zury Ríos can participate, despite a constitutional provision barring the relatives of coup leaders from serving as Guatemala's president. Ríos was blocked from the 2019 presidential ballot on those grounds.
That year, as Nick Burns of Americas Quarterly recently reported, Cabrera "gave the Guatemalan political establishment a shock" by winning 10% of the vote in the presidential election.
"It was the most successful presidential run by an indigenous person in Guatemala’s modern history—the only other was by Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú in 2007, who won 3% of the vote," Burns noted. "Cabrera’s biography is striking. She grew up in a Maya Mam family of poor laborers on a coffee plantation on Guatemala's Pacific coast and was married at 15. She described in a book how she and her sister Vilma went to school through the sixth grade because their mother—who could not read or write—saw education as crucial."
Cabrera's supporters have vowed to "paralyze the country" with large-scale demonstrations if the electoral body's decision isn't reversed.
"If they do not do it, we are going to take over the international airport, the three ports of the country, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and all state institutions," said one MLP supporter. "We are Indigenous, we are Maya, and we can be out here for a month!"
\u201c#EUElecciones2023 Manifestantes amenazan con tomar el Aeropuerto Internacional La Aurora, los tres puertos del pa\u00eds y el TSE si no se inscribe al binomio presidencial del MLP | V\u00eda @noel_solis \n\n\ud83d\uddf3\ufe0f\ud83c\uddec\ud83c\uddf9 #Elecciones2023 #EleccionesGT #GUATEVOTA2023\u201d— Emisoras Unidas (@Emisoras Unidas) 1675357690
Daniel Zovatto, a political scientist and expert in Latin American elections, said the tribunal's ruling against the MLP presidential ticket amounts to an "electoral coup" that "vitiates the integrity and credibility" of the upcoming contest.
Rodas, a human rights champion, lamented in response to the decision that "democracy in Guatemala has taken another step back."
"They are afraid of the people and their sovereign decisions," he said.