By Gonzalo Fernández Ortiz de Zárate
In this sense, these treaties aim to advance in the creation of a world market without tariff and non-tariff barriers, in which transnational companies have a free hand to secure their investments, markets and profits. To do this, they influence the transformation of the current political and legal framework, favoring, on the one hand, downward convergence in environmental, labor, social regulation, etc., and on the other, privatizing justice through dispute resolution systems. between States and corporations, which give rise to an architecture of impunity in favor of the latter.
Therefore, CETA, as part of this wave of treaties, poses a serious danger not only to the peoples of Europe and Canada, but also to all their state and local public institutions, which would be even more at the expense of the interests of large companies from both regions, and even those other corporations (US, Chinese, etc.) with subsidiaries in these territories.
What impacts would they have on European peasant agriculture?
Although agriculture is not a chapter of special macroeconomic relevance in CETA, it is still one of the most strategic sectors that has generated the most controversies, since it addresses such important aspects as culture, common goods, the ecological model. , food, consumption, health, climate change, etc. It is therefore a question of special political significance.
Starting from this premise, there have been multiple studies that try to foresee the possible impacts of both agreements, coinciding in some aspects. Thus, some macroeconomic profile reports commissioned by European institutions predict: tiny increases in agricultural production both in North America and Europe; a reduction in the contribution of agriculture to GDP on both sides of the Atlantic; a decrease in prices; and an increase in global trade, which would benefit North American producers to a greater extent. However, these gains derived from a greater commercial exchange would not be equitably distributed, but would instead be concentrated in certain items of special projection. In this way, the greatest gains could materialize in Europe in the sectors that currently dominate exports (especially wines and cheeses). In turn, the North American sectors that would benefit the most would be the agro-industrialized sectors based on large farms (beef, pork, dairy products, etc.), if European protection standards were lowered. In any case, it seems that agriculture would lose specific weight, and that benefits would be concentrated in a few sectors and countries, always depending on the final text in terms of tariff and non-tariff reductions.
But in addition, other studies that go beyond the macroeconomic point to a series of dire consequences for agriculture and food in Europe, the result of the combination of downward regulatory convergence, arbitration tribunals and trade liberalization through tariff reduction and quota expansion. In this sense, we highlight the possibility of:
- Disable the precautionary principle: Europe still maintains a more demanding protection system, which covers each and every one of the phases of the production chain, not as in the US and Canada, where only the final product is analyzed. Furthermore, it is the manufacturer who must guarantee the health and safety of its ex ante product, so if it does not offer guarantees, its commercialization is avoided by applying the precautionary principle until it is obtained. If this strong principle were to become more flexible as a result of regulatory convergence, it would blow up the European system of health protection and control of the production process.
- Lowering protection on animal welfare, dangerous substances and healthIn the same logic, not only the system but also specific areas of protection would be at risk due to pressure from large North American corporations, which prefer voluntary codes of conduct to mandatory structures and standards. In this way, emphasis is being placed on reducing the protection of transgenic foods, the safety regulations on pesticides and the prohibitions on hormones, antibiotics and washing of pathogens in meat production.
- End most appellations of origin: there are different conceptions about protected designations of origin (PDO) on either side of the Atlantic. While in Europe these are products of a specific geographical origin, in the USA they are understood as a subset of the trademark system. If this dispute between territory and brand does not focus on geography, the vast majority of European PDOs would not be recognized in the agreements and their products would lose specificity, with serious consequences on local and small production.
- Destroy peasant economies: Everything pointed out so far, even despite the pro-agribusiness bias of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), shows a different European production model from that of the US and Canada, which is also transferred to the size of the farms, for example 13 times larger in the United States (10.6 Ha. in Europe). In this sense, it seems quite probable that in a context of openness, deregulation and falling prices, the model of large farms based on an agro-export model that uses pesticides would be more competitive than family farming. This would boost concentration in production, strengthening a process like the one that Canada suffered when it signed the agreement with Mexico and the United States (NAFTA), where more than 160,000 family farms have been lost between 1970 and 2011.
- Amputate public capacities in defense of food sovereignty: State and territorial institutions that, according to a popular mandate, want to promote food sovereignty by exercising the right to decide on food, supporting local production and the agroecological model, could be brought before the arbitration courts. Thus, if it were understood that any rule or public policy harmed corporate interests based on the contents of the CETA, any company could take action against said legitimate proposals, since today the lex mercatoria is the supreme rule of international law.
Ultimately, CETA is a direct attack against peasant economies and local and agroecological models of production, even cutting off institutional capacities to propose alternatives in this regard. Furthermore, it could have strong implications in the destruction of the European protection system, affecting the health of all citizens.
Therefore, it is essential to value the role that the European peasant movement is developing in the rejection of CETA, in coordination with other social and institutional agents. We all have a lot at stake (not just the peasantry), and pressure must be maintained to prevent their signing both at the regional level and in each Member State. For democracy, for the peasantry and for life, NO to CETA.
Gonzalo Fernández Ortiz de Zárate He is coordinator of Paz con Dignidad - Euskadi and researcher at the Observatory of Multinationals in Latin America (OMAL).
Observatory of Miltinationals in Latin America (OMAL)