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08 February 2017
Trump: Europe's opportunity for a new start in trade policy!
The threats of the new US President Donald Trump when it comes to trade policy are dangerous. The benefits of new protectionism on your own economy are short-term, and will lead to counter-measures by trading partners. In the end all parties will lose. Mexico, Canada and the US Pacific partners must now decide how to react to Trumps's new policy. This is a big opportunity for Europe. Here, just as in the USA, globalisation together with accelerated technological change has led to deep social divisions in society.
Civil society groups, trade unions, churches and many companies are rightly dissatisfied with the existing rules on world trade. Although they have opened markets, social and ecological rules have not been globalised. This is also the reason why there is no progress in the World Trade Organisation. More and more people do not want to accept deeper economic globalisation that undermines human rights and does not protect our planet. The strong public protests against TTIP, CETA & Co. have made the rapid deepening of this type of economic globalisation impossible. Now in the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau the social-democratic economists Sebastian Dullien and Jakob von Weizsäcker argue that critics should rethink their resistance. We are told we now must agree to these new trade treaties to save multilateral trading system in the face of Trump’s ‘America First’ policies.
However, TTIP, CETA & Co. follow the same logic that has led to such divisiveness. The markets for services, investments and goods are being opened up without simultaneously setting strong social and ecological standards. Market openings are enforceable before special courts for large companies, while human rights violations and ecological disasters by investors remain unpunished. To agree to this bad deal would be an unforgivable mistake and a missed opportunity. For now, there is the possibility for Europe to negotiate trade treaties with allies that are disappointed by Trump, which actually link up market openings with strong social and ecological rules.
It is only in this way that we can counter the spread of Trump’s dangerous trade policies, without further deepening the divisions in our societies, or strengthening the hand of European populists. For truly European trade agreements must be based on values such as freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. Now is the hour for Europe to take the lead and push through a trade policy that is based on the principle of fair trade, the only truly free trade.