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France Against TTIP


Doubts rise over TTIP as France threatens to block EU-US deal

Doubts about the controversial EU-US trade pact are mounting after the French president threatened to block the deal. 
François Hollande said on Tuesday he would reject the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership “at this stage” because France was opposed to unregulated free trade.
Earlier, France’s lead trade negotiator had warned that a halt in TTIP talks “is the most probable option”. Matthias Fekl, the minister responsible for representing France in TTIP talks, blamed Washington for the impasse. He said Europe had offered a lot but had received little in return. He added: “There cannot be an agreement without France and much less against France.”
All 28 EU member states and the European parliament will have to ratify TTIPbefore it comes into force. But that day seems further away than ever, with talks bogged down after 13 rounds of negotiations spread over nearly three years.
The gulf between the two sides was highlighted by a massive leak of documents on Monday, first reported by the Guardian, which revealed “irreconcilable” differences on consumer protection and animal welfare standards. The publication of 248 pages of negotiating texts and internal positions, obtained by Greenpeace and seen by the Guardian, showed that the two sides remain far apart on how to align regulations on environment and consumer protection. Greenpeace said the leak demonstrated that the EU and the US were in a race to the bottom on health and environmental standards, but negotiators on both sides rejected these claims.
The European commission, which leads negotiations on behalf of the EU, dismissed the “alarmist headlines” as “a storm in a teacup”.
But Tuesday’s comments from the heart of the French government reveal how difficult TTIP negotiations have become. 
France has always had the biggest doubts about TTIP. In 2013 the French government secured an exemption for its film industry from TTIP talks to try to shelter French-language productions from Hollywood dominance. 
Hollande, who is beset by dire poll ratings, indicated on Tuesday that the government has other concerns about TTIP. Speaking at a conference on the history of the left, Hollande said he would never accept “the undermining of the essential principles of our agriculture, our culture, of mutual access to public markets”. 
Fekl told French radio that the agreement on the table is “a bad deal”. “Europe is offering a lot and we are getting very little in return. That is unacceptable,” he said.
The director of Greenpeace EU, Jorgo Riss, said the French president’s concern was “unsurprising given that the commission is clearly not following the mandate it was given by EU countries to protect European environmental and health standards”.
The question marks over TTIP are a setback for the British prime minister, David Cameron, who last year vowed to put “rocket boosters” under the talks as he described TTIP as “a deal we want”. But Barack Obama has made it clear that the UK would not get any special treatment if it left the EU and tried to negotiate a separate trade deal. On a visit to London last month, the US president said the UK would be at “the back of the queue” in any post-Brexit trade talks.
The most recent round of TTIP negotiations took place last week, where EU and US officials reiterated that they hoped to reach a deal in the second half of 2016, before Barack Obama leaves the White House next January.
Talks began in July 2013, but rapidly became bogged down amid widespread public concern on both sides of the Atlantic. Reducing tariffs is only a small element of the trade pact. The most contentious issues centre on aligning consumer and environmental standards and opening up markets to transatlantic rivals.

France to Dump Russia Sanctions: Real Germans Never Really Heeded Them

03.05.2016 Author: Phil Butler

France is tired of the suffering caused by needless, baseless sanctions imposed on Russia. So, French parliamentarians have just approved a resolution not to renew sanctions on Russia. Meanwhile, A number of EU states, including Greece, will support the removal of the anti-Russian sanctions at a June EU summit. And as for Germany, some experts suggest the Germans simply ignored the sanctions all along. Here’s a latest look at the idiocy of economic suicide the so-called “west” heaped on Europe.

The background of these ludicrous sanctions originated from the decline in Russia-West relations that came about with the early 2014 Crimean referendum to join Russia and the Ukrainian military offensive against pro-independence militia in the eastern region of Donbas. Western media and policy think tanks characterized the Crimea affair as an “invasion” of the peninsula by Russia, while citizens in and around Simferopol welcomed rejoining Russia. Geo-political strategy aside, US led sanctions hurt everyone involved, except the US. Now most EU counties question in principle the wisdom of economic warfare’s collateral damage. But for Germans, the working class, family guided middle class in the heartland of Europe, waiting on government and politicians is inefficient, a waste of time. Chancellor Merkel and the rest of the German Bundestag can rant and rave, they can wax as profoundly as they wish. But the down to Earth people, and the companies they lead, theirs is the business that has powered Germany for generations. They have made their own decisions already, case in point, a family owned company known as VEKA AG.

News that VEKA is partnering with a Kerch production enterprise known as “LINE-SK” in opening a new “Center for Window Technologies” speaks volumes about who is really powerful in Germany. While the French and many other European nations seem fed up with losing wages, revenue and growth in order to rescue NATO and the American alliance, German industrialist wave a casual hand at Merkel and the political talkers. For those unfamiliar, VEKA AG of Germany is the world’s largest window and door companies in the world. It’s a family firm started by the quintessential German, a visionary named Heinrich Laumann, a businessman and strategist beyond reproach. At least German reproach, that is. Laumann, is an 80-something industrialist who literally built VEKA with his bare hands. For Merkel or anyone in the “cheap talk” business of government to even question him, is tantamount to deconstructing what it is to be German. And this is strikes at the core of this ghastly sanctions regime.

Honored almost continually through his career, Laumann is one of those figures out of an iconic film. It was his 70 hour work week ethics that made VEKA giant, and he was the first Western fabricator to open a production site in Moscow back in 1999. VEKA VEKA România S.R.L. (Bukarest), VEKA México (Monterrey) and VEKA do Brasil, VEKA everywhere, the man is emblematic of what made Germany a great nation industrial nation in the first place. I half envision Merkel or some minister calling Laumann to protest the circumvention of political sanctions. The imagery of him matter-of-factly dismissing her for his “business” is pleasant for me. This is especially pleasant given how so many have suffered. And unfortunately, most other countries do not have his “working class” ecosystem in place. Just as powerfully as a Luxembourg banker is, so too are the key industrialists in the German republic.

However, powerful or even just traditional business leadership may be, the opposition is not without its levers. The US backed chaos we see in Ukraine for instance, is supported by some of the wealthiest and most influential oligarchs in the West. And those behind the Euromaidan were not happy with German conglomerates breech these sanctions. A 2015 report via Euromaidan Press frames Siemens as “in violation” of the sanctions for the company’s part in supplying vital equipment for the Crimea energy corridor. The vehemence of Siemens and even VEKA to continue business-as-usual is attributable not only to the core principles of working class German empowerment, but also the position of Germany at the top of the EU food chain. This can be seen in Greece’s positioning on the issue of sanctions too.

This Sputnik article, if you read between the lines, lets us know how the sanctions game by the US has been played. Greece, under the gun over debt issues, cannot well afford a veto of the new EU sanctions accord. So, in the strongest terms they can, the Greeks have announced their disapproval of sanctions that have cost them dearly. Short version, the IMF and World Bank hold heavy sway on Greece still. A veto would compromise the current leadership, and the people of the country will not stand for much more. However feeble Greece’s effort to get rid of sanctions may be, the greater EU displeasure tells me this “anti-Russia” game may well be coming to a close. Already we see Muscovites determined to visit Greece in record numbers. And the rest of Europe remembers Russian tourist money well.

Finally, the former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi is calling for the lifting sanctions. He says lifting the sanctions can have a greater political effect than keeping them. Just recently, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo called for the restoration of the strategic partnership between Russia and the European Union. Austrian President Heinz Fischer has spoken in favor of lifting the EU’s sanctions from Russia. The trend toward dumping sanctions is swayed, even Finland is leaning toward favoring its old trading partner where NATO expansion is concerned. Old Cold War strategies, they simply do not bode well for progress and a Europe that needs fresh ideas. My point in spotlighting German industrialist, Heinrich Laumann is, it seems Germany knew all along how ridiculous these sanctions were. I mean the “real” Germany, not the one Barack Obama and Cameron tug at.

Obama is headed to the lecture circuit and presidential library building come November. Cameron is one foot in the political grave, and the other on a corruption banana peel in the UK. Merkel has ruined her credibility, and has made deals with the Turkish blackmailers. Hollande of France, though comic for the French people, is the only leader in the mix with any buoyancy. “Sanction Russia” was and is a joke. The US circumvented these sanctions almost throughout the course, as evidenced by allowing the delivery of Russian rocket engines, energy deals, and a wide range of other investments. For many powerful entities, hurting the Russian or European citizen led to huge profits, or just business as usual. And this is just not my opinion. A recent poll conducted by the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce (ANK) has found that 80 percent of companies that have trade links with Russia believe that economic sanctions are not having their desired effect. German investment in the new Russian Railways “Silk Road” effort is well publicized. Italian investors are hot to put money into Russian wines. And I guess you get the point already.

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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