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article imageOp-Ed: Ukraine and the TTIP

By Ken Hanly     Mar 27, 2014 in Politics
Kiev - The Ukraine crisis should be seen in the context of a continued expansion of the EU as former Soviet satellite countries join the EU and NATO as well. However the process is also an extension of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership (TTIP).
The relation between the Ukraine crisis and the broader U.S.-EU "free trade" deal the TTIP is clearly drawn in this article by Ford executive Stephen Odell: This crisis and future U.S. policy toward the region should be viewed through the lens that transatlantic interests are best served by a Ukraine that looks toward Europe and the United States for inspiration and becomes a stable and prosperous country on the border of the European Union and NATO. Tragically, Putin’s Russia will never see Ukraine in this light, but that should not deter transatlantic policy.
Russia is regarded as an "unreformed" block to the expansion of a free and stable Europe. Translated, this means a Europe with conditions ideal for capital throughout Europe and North America. NAFTA has already created these conditions for the most part on the North American continent. Now capital centered in Europe and North America will have a larger playing field, except that Russia is a fly in the ointment in the expansion of the EU east: "A decade ago there was a belief that, after a century of conflict, Europe was “free, whole and at peace” following historical expansions of NATO and the European Union to Central and Eastern Europe. If this belief was not shattered in 2008 during the Georgian-Russian conflict, now it has been completely shattered by the crisis in Ukraine."
Support for TTIP varies from one European country to another. German capital is a big fan of the move seeing it as a means of improving exports and opening the U.S. to investment on favorable terms no doubt. Odell describes what he believes are the great benefits of the TTIP: Given that Europe and the US represent roughly half of the world’s output, the proposed creation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would have significant benefits for businesses and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Many articles sing the praises of the TTIP. Here is one that explicitly mention a "Western" connection no doubt to be contrasted with those huge eastern powers such as China, India, and Russia who have not yet adopted all the neoliberal reforms of "Western" capital: The TTIP is a timely political, economic and cultural partnership that – if negotiated well — should boost world economic development, strengthen the natural partnership of the West and create an international level playing field for fair competition.
It may also strengthen the bonds within European Union countries. It is a historic step in the making, which could tremendously benefit both sides of the Atlantic.
As with most so-called free trade deals, much of the detail is concerned with issues such as Intellectual property rights that ensure corporations have protection for their monopoly rights for patents and copyright items. Indeed, free trade deals are a means to ensure that national legislatures do not interfere with corporate rights and always involve dispute resolution mechanisms that skirt national laws or could even conflict with them. Pia Eberhart of the Corporate Europe Observatory notes: “The proposed investor rights in the transatlantic trade deal show what it is really about: It’s a power grab from corporations to rein in democracy and handcuff governments that seek to regulate in the public interest. It’s only a matter of time before European citizens start paying the price in higher taxes and diminished social protection.”
The TTIP is a transnational institution that does not require a government corresponding to the area covered. It does require protection for the capital involved a role played not just by the U.S. and other national forces on occasion but also NATO. However, there are also transnational financial institutions involved in ensuring the proper behavior of the countries involved and making loans depend upon reforms and austerity programs. This is the role of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, although other institutions may be involved such as with the Troika.
Ukraine already experienced these reforms supervised by these institutions under earlier governments. It will now require billions again. Often the funds simply go to pay off creditors rather than development of the debtor country. As this Globalresearch article points out the results of neoliberal reforms can be devastating no doubt part of the necessary shock therapy: "...in 1993 Viktor Yushchenko, who subsequently became president in the 2004 elections, was appointed head of the newly formed National Bank of Ukraine and he was hailed as a daring reformer. But, in fact, he was among the main architects of the IMF’s deadly economic medicine. In fact, the IMF was the architect; he was their man in Kiev and he worked hand-in-glove to implement this historic agreement, which was actually signed in Madrid in 1994.
Now, that 1994 agreement was absolutely devastating because it led to a dramatic plunge in real wages. The price of bread increased overnight by 300 percent, electricity prices went up by 600 percent and public transportation and namely fuel prices, essentially, went up by 900 percent and there you had the tumbling of the standard of living."
The trade liberalization actually resulted in US grain surpluses and food aid being dumped on the Ukrainian domestic market.This undercut Ukrainian grain producers who were facing costs of transportation and energy that went up 900 per cent. However, none of this hurt the Ukrainian oligarchs much, the same oligarchs who now have invested in the west and support the new Ukrainian government. They will not be on Obama's travel ban nor will they have their assets frozen. They are working for the new and brighter future of the Ukraine in an expanded Europe and part of the TTIP.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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