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Introducing the Global Power Project

Introducing the Global Power Project

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally Posted at: Occupy.com

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We live in an interdependent world, where nations are increasingly eclipsed in size and wealth by the major banks and transnational corporations which have come to dominate the global economy.

Royal Dutch Shell has more money than all but the top 22 countries on earth. Supra-national and international institutions like the European Central Bank and IMF punish the populations of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland into poverty and conditions of exploitation. Banks and corporations make record profits while poverty soars, debts increase and hunger spreads. Half the world’s population lives on less than $3 per day, over 1 billion people live in slums, and a global land grab coupled with a six-year-long global food crisis is pushing populations off their land and into deeper poverty and extreme hunger.

Western governments impose “austerity” at home while waging wars and supporting dictatorships abroad. Across the Arab world populations have been in revolt, labor unrest in South Africa reveals the persistence of economic apartheid, and popular resistance has exploded across southern Europe, while student uprisings have shaken Britain, Chile, Quebec and Mexico.

Indigenous peoples in the western hemisphere are mobilizing and resisting the destruction of the natural world, from Ecuador, Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico to Canada. The Occupy Movement emerged as a reaction to the rapacious system of global power that has impoverished the world, devastated the environment, waged wars and, in the past few decades, emerged as a highly integrated global class of oligarchs.

It is within this context that Occupy.com is beginning a research project to examine the networks of global power and how they operate, providing a resource to activists and others who wish to engage in opposition to the global power structures as they currently exist. This initiative is the Global Power Project.

The aim of the Global Power Project is to map the connections between the world’s dominant institutions of power, by examining the relationships and points of cross-over among the individuals who direct these institutions. The institutions that will be examined include the major banks, central banks, oil companies, mining corporations, media conglomerates, major think tanks, foundations, university boards and other international organizations.

The aim is to expose not only the revolving door between government and private institutions, but to name names and directly call out the global elite based on their affiliations and networks of influence.

The first installment of the Global Power Project will examine six major American banks: JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. Executives, board members and major advisers to these institutions will be studied, with information drawn from their official CVs, biographies, published interviews or financial publications, and collected into a detailed appendix outlining the individuals’ past and present affiliations with other dominant institutions of power.

This includes examining the links between those who manage the big six banks and government agencies, universities, think tanks, foundations, international organizations, the media, multinational corporations and other organizations. From the data collected, we will be able to draw conclusions about the networks of influence and the shared leadership positions that enable these banks and bankers to wield significant influence over other institutions.

This is not a study of economic dependence or the investments made by banks. It is a study of the social organization, interaction and integration of national and global elites. Instead of viewing institutions as separate entities, and often in opposition to one another as it is commonly suggested, the Global Power Project will seek to document the increasingly globalized connections that bind the financial and political elite, and to expose this highly integrated network of individuals spread across an array of institutions both national and global.

The Global Power Project does not adhere to a particular ideological view, philosophy or dogma. Rather, it focuses on the facts: by examining the connections, affiliations and cross-memberships through which elites govern our dominant social, economic and political institutions. From this research we hope to offer a clearer understanding of the current networks and structures of global power, which can serve as an invaluable resource for those seeking to study, understand, expose or challenge those existing structures.

The initial, forthcoming installment in the Global Power Project will focus on the major Wall Street banks, studying their executive leadership, members of the boards of directors, international advisory boards and other key officials operating within those institutions.

Keep a lookout and spread the word. The mapping of networks of global power is about to begin.

The “Real” Recovery: Welcome to the Network of Global Corporate Control

The “Real” Recovery: Welcome to the Network of Global Corporate Control

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

The following is the second of a three-part series exclusive for Occupy.com

Part 1: Meet the Global Corporate Supra-Government

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How have your personal finances been since the global economic crisis began in 2008? Are you in debt? Unemployed? Struggling? Are you below the poverty line? Has your standard of living stagnated – or declined? Turns out, it doesn’t matter how the population is doing, because, we are told, we are in an “economic recovery,” or haven’t you heard?

Why is this a “recovery”? It’s simple: because global banks and corporations are making record profits, obviously everything is “back on track.”

Despite international turmoil in financial markets, a collapsing Europe, natural disaster in Japan, and increased food and fuel prices spurring social unrest and poverty, global corporations had a wonderful year in 2011.

The Global 500 posted record revenues for 2011 at $29.5 trillion, up 13.2% from 2010. Eight of the top 10 conglomerates were in the energy sector, receiving “an extra boost… as average oil prices reached their highest inflation-adjusted level since the 1860s.” The oil industry alone generated $5 trillion in sales, roughly 17% of the total sales of the Global 500.

Commercial banks emerged as the second largest industry on the Global 500, “thanks largely to lending in new markets,” such as Latin America, certain parts of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The auto industry was the third largest industry on the Global 500, taking in a total of $2.4 trillion in sales, up 14.6% from 2010.

In 2011, as bank profits in the United States and Europe were increasing, the very same banks recording billions in quarterly profits were announcing cuts to thousands of jobs. In April of 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that three of Europe’s largest banks, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Banco Santander, had reported major profits for the first quarter, “even during a financial crisis.”

As the banks in Europe were worried about their ability to continue reporting profits, they employed a new method to ensure continued plundering: buying back their bonds (government debts) at cheap rates. Thus, not only are they able to increase quarterly profits, but they are able to ensure that the crisis continues and deepens by perpetuating the problems that created it (and profiting along the way).

Major banks like Société Générale, Commerzbank AG, Banco Santander and others have opted for choosing short-term profits at the expense of long-term stability. Reports over the summer of 2012 suggested that global corporate profits were lagging due to the economic crisis in Europe. But not to worry, they’re still doing much better than you ever will.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, corporations began implementing massive layoffs to keep their profits up; interest rates remained low, which kept the costs of borrowing very low and, as the Financial Times reported in early 2012, “U.S. corporate profits are higher, as a share of gross domestic product, than at any time since 1950.”

According to a 2011 study from Northeastern University, since the Second World War, “there’s never been a worse recovery for jobs and worker pay,” and at the same time, “never a better one for corporate profits.” The economic “recovery” was said to have begun in June of 2009, but how is “recovery” defined? After all, people are still struggling, more than ever in recent history; unemployment is high, job losses soar, poverty spreads and insecurity reigns supreme.

So why, then, has it been said that the United States entered a “recovery”? Well, as the study pointed out, since June of 2009, 88% of all U.S. growth went to corporate profits, while wages and salaries represented 1% of growth. Compared to previous economic crises, the situation is much worse than ever before.

At the end of the recession in the early 1990s, 50% of U.S. growth went to worker pay, while corporate profits had actually declined by 1%. Following the dot-com bust in 2001, worker pay and jobs accounted for 15% of U.S. growth, while 53% of growth was accounted for by corporate profits.

In the recoveries of the 1973-75 and 1981-82 recessions, worker pay and jobs accounted for 30% of U.S. growth. In the midst of the current “recovery,” where 88% of growth is in corporate profits and 1% is in worker pay, employees have been roughly 6% more productive, working longer hours. As the study noted: “The only major beneficiaries of the recovery have been corporate profits and the stock market and its shareholders.”

Corporate profits in 2010 were 17% higher than in 2009, and when financial firms are included, the rate goes even higher. An analyst with Citigroup explained that roughly 90% of the growth in corporate profits “has come from cost-cutting,” largely facilitated by layoffs and hoarding cash.

As the Department of Commerce reported, corporate profits accounted for 14% of the national income over 2010, “the highest proportion ever recorded,” while the share of national income from smaller businesses fell to a 17-year low.

As profits soared, not only at multinational corporations, but at the major banks which caused the crisis in the first place, they continued to undertake massive layoffs. The Northeastern University report on corporate profits also noted that one of the main causes of the crisis in the first place was the relationship between increased corporate profits and decreased worker wages and benefits. Thus, without a hint of irony, the same things that created the crisis are exacerbated and made worse after the crisis: and this is what is called a “recovery.”

The Commerce Department revised its reporting of corporate profits from 2008, 2009, and 2010, noting that they were actually $343 billion higher than they had originally estimated. Over the same three-year period, personal income of American families was $265 billion lower than had been previously estimated. In late 2012, worker wages (as a total of U.S. GDP) reached an all-time low, while corporate profits reached an all-time high.

In fact, late 2012 saw corporate profits increase by 18.6% from the previous year, what Forbes reported was “the largest after-tax profit quarter in the nation’s history.” American worker wages, as a percentage of national GDP, had been – until 1975 – almost always at least half of U.S. GDP, and as recently as 2001, accounted for 49% of GDP. In 2012, they hit an “all-time low” at 43.5% of GDP. Further, CEO pay has also been rising 27 times faster than worker pay since 1978.

Of course, it’s not merely corporations raking in record profits, as the banks are not to be left behind. In the United States, second quarter profits for big banks in 2012 were at $34.5 billion, an increase of nearly $6 billion from the same time the previous year. Banks were making profits not seen since 2007, just before the financial crisis struck. Part of the reason for increased bank profits had to do with dramatic cuts in jobs and sales of assets.

In 2007, financial institutions in the United States employed over 2.2 million full-time employees, and in 2012 there were 100,000 fewer employees and 14% fewer banks. With help from the Federal Reserve, which provided immense funds for the financial industry (called “quantitative easing”) while maintaining very low interest rates, banks have been able to take in more profits from mortgages as the Fed continues to purchase bad mortgages from the big banks.

This is, of course, merely doing the same thing that created the financial crisis in the first place, but calling it a “solution.” Not to mention that the bill gets handed to the population.

In December of 2012, bank profits increased by 9.4% from the previous quarter, “the best quarterly performance in six years,” according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Banks thus had a combined profit of $37.6 billion in the third quarter of 2012, the highest total profit since the $38 billion profit recorded in the third quarter of 2006, during the height of the housing bubble.

Welcome to the “economic recovery,” where the big banks and corporations that created the global economic crisis – with the servile participation of our elected governments – are doing better than ever before, making record profits while poverty hits record levels. This is what we call “democracy.”

Perhaps it is time people begin to redefine the words “recovery” and “democracy,” unless we want to see more of the same.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance across a wide spectrum of social, political, economic, and historical spheres. He has been published in AlterNet, CounterPunch, Occupy.com, Truth-Out, RoarMag, and a number of other alternative media groups, and regularly does radio, Internet, and television interviews with both alternative and mainstream news outlets. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project and has a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Welcome to the Network of Global Corporate Control

Welcome to the Network of Global Corporate Control

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

The following is the first of a three-part series exclusive for Occupy.com

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Part 1: Meet the Global Corporate “Supra-Government”

We live in a corporate culture, where most of us have worked or currently work for corporations, we spend our money at corporate venues, on corporate products, watch corporately-owned television shows and movies, listen to corporate-sponsored music; our modes of transportation, communication and recreation are corporately influenced or produced; our sports stadiums and movie theaters are named after car companies and global banks; our food is genetically altered by multinational conglomerates, our drinking water is brought to us by Coca-Cola, our news is brought to us by Pfizer, and our political leaders are brought to us by Exxon, Shell, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase.

In this global corporate culture it is often difficult to take a step back and look at transnational corporations, beyond what they represent in our culture, and see that they are, in fact, totalitarian institutions with power being exercised from the top down, with no democratic accountability, legally bound to be interested only – and exclusively – in maximizing quarterly short-term profits, often to the detriment of the environment, labor, human rights, democracy, peace and the population as a whole.

In this first of a three-part series on the reaches of global corporate power, we’ll look specifically at the size and network influence of the world’s largest corporations. This is especially important given that the world’s population faces increasing challenges with over 1 billion people living in slums, billions more living in poverty, hunger and increasing starvation; with unemployment increasing, austerity and “adjustment” programs demanding that even those in the once-industrialized West dramatically reduce their living standards; as the environment is plundered and pillaged, and as governments give corporations more state welfare and subsidies while cutting welfare and social services for the poor.

Corporate culture creates, over time, a totalitarian culture as this dominant institution seeks to remake society in its own image – where people are punished and impoverished as corporations are supported, rewarded and empowered.

The network of global corporate control, in numbers

In the year 2000, of the world’s 100 largest economies, 51 were corporations, while only 49 were countries, based upon national GDP (gross domestic product) and corporate sales. Of the top 200 corporations in 2000, the United States had the largest share with 82, followed by Japan at 41, Germany at 20, and France at 17.

Of the world’s 100 largest economic entities in 2010, 42% were corporations; when looking at the top 150 economic entities, 58% were corporations. The largest corporation in 2010 was Wal-Mart, the 25th largest economic entity on earth, surpassed only by the 24 largest countries in the world, but with greater revenues than the GDP of 171 countries, placing it higher on the list than Norway and Iran.

Following Wal-Mart, the largest corporations in the world were: Royal Dutch Shell (larger than Austria, Argentina and South Africa), Exxon Mobil (larger than Thailand and Denmark), BP (larger than Greece, UAE, Venezuela and Colombia), followed by several other energy and automotive conglomerates.

In 2012, Fortune published its annual Global 500 list of the top 500 corporations in the world in 2011. The top 10 corporations in the world, as determined by total revenue, are: Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart Stores, BP, Sinopec Group, China National Petroleum, State Grid, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Toyota Motor.

Among some of the other top 100 are: Total (11), Gazprom (15), E.ON (16), ENI (17), ING Group (18), GM (19), General Electric (22), AXA (25), BNP Paribas (30), GDF Suez (33), Banco Santander (44), Bank of America (46), JP Morgan Chase (51), HSBC Holdings (53), Apple (55), IBM (57), Citigroup (60), Société Générale (67), Nestlé (71), Wells Fargo (80), Archer Daniels Midland (92), and Bank of China (93).

The 10 largest corporations in Canada include: Manulife Financial, Suncor Energy, Royal Bank of Canada, Power Corporation of Canada, George Weston, Magna International, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Onex, and Husky Energy.

The 10 largest corporations in Britain are: BP, HSBC Holdings, Tesco, Vodafone, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Aviva, Rio Tinto Group, and Prudential.

The 10 largest conglomerates in France are: Total, AXA, BNP Paribas, GDF Suez, Carrefour, Crédit Agricole, Société Générale, Électricité de France, Peugeot, and Groupe BPCE.

The 10 largest conglomerates in Germany are: Volkswagen, E. ON, Daimler, Allianz, Siemens, BASF, BMW, Metro, Munich Re Group, and Deutsche Telekom.

The 10 largest conglomerates in the United States are: Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart Stores, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, General Motors, General Electric, Berkshire Hathaway, Fannie Mae, Ford Motor, and Hewlett-Packard.

In October of 2011, a scientific study about the global financial system was released, the first of its kind, undertaken by three complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. The conclusion of the study revealed what many theorists and observers have noted for years:

“An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.” As one of the researchers stated, “Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it’s conspiracy theories or free-market… Our analysis is reality-based.” Using a database which listed 37 million companies and investors worldwide, the researchers studied all 43,060 trans-national corporations (TNCs), including the share ownerships linking them.

The mapping of “power” was done through the construction of a model showing which companies controlled other companies through shareholdings. The web of ownership revealed a core of 1,318 companies with ties to two or more other companies. This “core” was found to own roughly 80% of global revenues for the entire set of 43,000 TNCs.

And then came what the researchers referred to as the “super-entity” of 147 tightly-knit companies, which all own each other, and collectively own 40% of the total wealth in the entire network. One of the researchers noted, “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network.”

This network poses a huge risk to the global economy, noted the researchers: “If one [company] suffers distress… this propagates.” The study was undertaken with a data set established prior to the economic crisis, thus, as the financial crisis forced some banks to fail (such as Lehman Brothers) and others to merge (such as Merrill Lynch and Bank of America), the “super-entity” would now be even more connected, concentrated, and thus, dangerous for the economy.

The top 50 companies on the list of the “super-entity” included (as of 2007): Barclays Plc (1), Capital Group Companies Inc (2), FMR Corporation (3), AXA (4), State Street Corporation (5), JP Morgan Chase & Co. (6), UBS AG (9), Merrill Lynch & Co Inc (10), Deutsche Bank (12), Credit Suisse Group (14), Bank of New York Mellon Corp (16), Goldman Sachs Group (18), Morgan Stanley (21), Société Générale (24), Bank of America Corporation (25), Lloyds TSB Group (26), Lehman Brothers Holdings (34), Sun Life Financial (35), ING Groep (41), BNP Paribas (46), and several others.

In December of 2011, Roger Altman, the former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under the Clinton administration, wrote an article for the Financial Times in which he explained that financial markets were “acting like a global supra-government,” noting:

“They oust entrenched regimes where normal political processes could not do so. They force austerity, banking bail-outs and other major policy changes. Their influence dwarfs multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. Indeed, leaving aside unusable nuclear weapons, they have become the most powerful force on earth.”

Altman continued, explaining that when the power of this “global supra-government” is flexed, “the immediate impact on society can be painful – wider unemployment, for example, frequently results and governments fail.” But of course, being a former top Treasury Department official, he went on to praise the “global supra-government,” writing that, “the longer-term effects can be often transformative and positive.”

Ominously, Altman concluded: “Whether this power is healthy or not is beside the point. It is permanent,” and “there is no stopping the new policing role of the financial markets.”

So, this small network of dominant global companies and banks, many of which are larger than most countries on earth, with no democratic accountability, are also acting independently as a type of “global supra-government” forcing even our dysfunctional and façade-like “democratic” governments to collapse if they do not do as “financial markets” say – such as the recent cases of democratically-elected governments in Greece and Italy whose officials were forced out and replaced with unelected bankers.

In any other situation that’s called a coup d’état. But as Altman’s view reflected, powerful government officials will not oppose this network, whether or not the power is good for human lives and human communities – which is, in Altman’s words, “beside the point.” After all, in his view, “it is permanent.”

Unless, of course, the people of the world decide to have a say in the matter.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance across a wide spectrum of social, political, economic, and historical spheres. He has been published in AlterNet, CounterPunch, Occupy.com, Truth-Out, RoarMag, and a number of other alternative media groups, and regularly does radio, Internet, and television interviews with both alternative and mainstream news outlets. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project and has a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Corporate Culture and Global Empire: Food Crisis, Land Grabs, Poverty, Slums, Environmental Devastation and Resistance

Corporate Culture and Global Empire: Food Crisis, Land Grabs, Poverty, Slums, Environmental Devastation and Resistance

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

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Corporate power is immense. The world’s largest corporation is Royal Dutch Shell, surpassed in wealth only by the 24 largest countries on earth. Of the 150 largest economic entities in the world, 58% are corporations. Corporations are institutionally totalitarian, the result of power’s resistance to the democratic revolution, which was begrudgingly accepted in the political sphere, but denied the economic sphere, and thus was denied a truly democratic society. They are driven by a religion called “short-term profits.” Corporate society – a state-capitalist society – flourished in the United States, and managed the transition of American society in the early 20th century, just as Fascists and Communists were managing transitions across Europe. With each World War, American society – its political and economic power – grew in global influence, and with the end of World War II, that corporate society was exported globally.

This is empire. The American military, intelligence agencies, and national security apparatus operate with the intention of serving U.S. – and now increasingly global – state and corporate interests. Wars, coups, destabilization campaigns, support for dictators, tyrants, genocides and oppression are the products of Western interaction with the rest of the world.

In the same sense that “God made man in his own image,” corporations remade society in their own interest; and with equal arrogance. Corporations and banks created or took over think tanks, foundations, educational institutions, media, public relations, advertising, and other sectors of society. Through their control of other institutions, they extend their ideologies of power – and the variances between them – to the population, to other elites, the ‘educated’ class, middle class, the poor and working class. So long as the ideas expressed support power, it’s ‘acceptable.’ It can extend critiques, but institutional analysis is not permitted. Ideas which oppose institutional power are ‘ideological’, ‘idealist’, ‘utopian’, and ultimately, unacceptable.

Corporate culture dominates our society in the West. Being inherently totalitarian institutions, the culture – and its institutions – become increasingly totalitarian. This is the response by private economic power to undo the achievements in human history which came through increased democracy in the political sphere. Corporations and banks seek to control and consume all things, to dominate without end.

The only reason corporations were and are able to be the defining cultural institution of the 20th and now 21st century, is because of their economic power. This is derived from exploitation: of resources, the environment, labour, and consumers. It is enforced with repression: the job of the state in the state-capitalist society, along with massive subsidies and protectionist measures for corporate and financial interests. As corporate power extended around the world, the rapid destruction of the environment and resources accelerated, and Western powers ‘outsourced’ the environmental devastation our consumer societies ‘require’ to the so-called Third World. We consume, and they suffer; a marriage of inconvenience that we call “civilization.” Corporations and our state keep the rest of the world in a state of poverty and repression, eternally attempting to block the inevitable global revolution to create a human society that acts… humanely. We were busy buying things. Couldn’t be bothered.

Now what our societies have done to the people on whose land we now live, or everyone else in the world, is being done internally, to us. Everything is up for sale! Corporations make record profits, hoard billions and trillions in cash reserves, NOT being invested, but likely waiting until your standard of living is significantly reduced so that your labour and resources are cheaper, and thus, ultimately more profitable. This is called ‘austerity’ and ‘structural reform,’ political euphemisms for impoverishment and exploitation.

Corporations, banks and states have in recent years caused a massive global food crisis, driving food costs to record highs almost every subsequent year from 2007 onward. With billions of people in the world living on less than $2 per day, the majority of humanity spends most of their income on food. Price increases in food, caused primarily by financial speculation (big players include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Barclays), push tens of millions more people into poverty and hunger. Roughly one billion – 1/7th of the world’s population – live in slums. And they are growing rapidly. Massive urban slums were developed out of the imperialism Western states and corporations imposed upon the rest of the world, pushing people off the land and into the cities, whether induced by poverty or coerced by bombs and guns. All billed to the imperial Western state sponsors of terrorism. We supported (and support) ruthless and tiny elites in the countries we dominate[d] around the world, and now we are just beginning to realize the ruthless and tiny elite which rules over our own domestic lives. Their social function is that of a parasite: to suck the life blood out of all global society.

Food price increases have helped spur a massive global land grab, with Western (as well as Gulf and Asian powers) grabbing vast tracts of land – and water – around the world, for pennies on the dollar. This grab is most extensive in Africa, where in the past several years, mostly Western investors have grabbed land which amounts to an area roughly the size of Western Europe. The land not only contains extensive resource wealth, most importantly water (the Nile is up for sale!), but it is home to hundreds of millions of people, and globally, there are 2.5 billion poor people engaged in small-scale farming. This is primarily done through communal land ownership, something which Western society – with its ‘divine right’ of private property – does not understand. Thus, in international, state, and corporate law – which we designed – we deem communally owned and used land to be legally owned by the state. Our ‘investors’ – banks, hedge funds, pension funds, corporations and states – strike deals with corrupt states across the world to give us 40-100 year contracts for vast tracts of land, paying little or sometimes no rent. Then the “empty land” – as we call it – is cleared (of it’s “emptiness”, no doubt), evicting peoples who have been there for generations and beyond, who depend upon the land and the food it produces for their very lives. These people are being driven to cities, and ultimately, slums.

This is what we call “productive” use of land. So naturally, we then destroy it, eviscerate its environment, poison and pollute, extract, exploit, plunder and profit. Or we simply hold onto the land, not using it at all, just waiting until it goes up in profit. Even major American universities like Harvard are getting involved in the massive land grabs across Africa and elsewhere. This is the largest land grab in history since the late 19th century ‘Scramble for Africa’ where Europeans colonized almost the entire continent. When we do use the land for ‘productive use’, we say it will “help the climate” and “reduce hunger.” How? Because we will produce food and biofuels. And in doing so, we will use massive amounts of chemicals, pesticides, genetically modified organisms, deforestation, biodiversity destruction, highly mechanized and heavy fuel-use farming techniques. The food we produce – which is not much, we have more interest in things like biofuels, lumber, minerals, oil, cash-crops, etc. – is then exported to our countries, and away from the poor ones where hunger and poverty are so prevalent. They lose their land, gain more poverty, with the added bonus of extensive food insecurity, hunger, starvation, slum growth, increased mortality rates, disease, and violence. Poverty is violence.

This is how Western states, banks, corporations and international organizations address the issue of “hunger”: by creating more of it. And in a deeply disturbing irony, we call this moving towards “sustainability.” Little did we know that power interests have a different definition of “sustainability” than most people: they simply combined the words sustained and profitability, and called it “sustainability.” And coincidentally, that word already has a meaning to most people, so we simply misinterpreted the meaning. But there are people who take that concept seriously, those who experience the major costs of an unsustainable society.

We are witnessing a massive global resistance to these processes, largely driven by indigenous peoples – in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and now in North America. In Canada, the ‘Idle No More‘ movement began with four indigenous women in Saskatchewan deciding to meet up and discuss their concerns about Steven Harper’s “budget bill,” which, among other things, had reduced the amount of Canada’s protected rivers, lakes, and streams from roughly 2.5 million (as of Dec. 4, 2012) to somewhere around 62 (as of Dec. 5, 2012). Now a large, expanding, and increasingly international social movement led by indigenous peoples is taking place. Less than two months ago, it began with four women having a discussion.

Canada’s Indigenous peoples are showing Canadians – and others around the world – how to stand up against power. And they’ve had practice. For over 500 years, our societies have been oppressing and often eradicating indigenous populations at ‘home’ and abroad. Indigenous peoples, like other oppressed peoples, are at the front lines of the most oppressive nature of our society: they experience and have experienced exploitation, environmental devastation, domination and decimation. With the world’s Indigenous peoples speaking – not only in Canada, but across Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere – it is time that we in the West begin to listen. It is always important to listen to those who are most oppressed; the histories of our ‘victims’ are rarely written or known, at least not to us. Victims remember. And it matters that we begin to listen.

How can we expect to change – or know what and how to change – our societies if we do not listen and learn from those who have experienced the worst of our society? Indigenous people are now giving us a lesson in democratic struggle. If we continue on our current path, Indigenous communities will be completely wiped out; the powers that rule our society will have completed a 500-year genocide.

So we have to ask ourselves the question: should we now listen to, learn from, and join with these people in common struggle for justice and the idea of a humane society, or… are we still too busy buying things?

Perhaps it is time we all should be ‘Idle No More’.

The above was a short summary of roughly three separate chapters currently being researched and written as part of The People’s Book Project. To help the Project continue, please consider spreading the word, sharing articles, or donating.

The Great Corporate Colony: Welcome to Canada Inc., A Subsidiary of the American Empire & Co.

The Great Corporate Colony: Welcome to Canada Inc., A Subsidiary of the American Empire & Co.

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird (left), Prime Minister Stephen Harper (centre), and Chinese Premier Web Jiabo (right). Photo from the Globe and Mail.

Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird (left), Prime Minister Stephen Harper (centre), and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (right). Photo from the Globe and Mail.

 

The following is a sample from the first volume of The People’s Book Project, a crowd-funded initiative to produce a series of books studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance. Please consider donating to help the Project come to fruition.

As one of the most resource-rich countries on earth, and the largest single trading partner with the United States, Canada is strategically positioned to influence the changing nature of global power structures. Do we support – and siphon our resources for the benefit of – the American Empire, co-operating in the wholesale plundering of the world, the oppression and impoverishment of peoples, destruction of global ecology, all for the benefit of an increasingly small class of global corporations and banks… Or, do we become independent and free? Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper once said, “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it.” With multiple “free trade” agreements under way, expanded corporate rights, expropriation of vast amounts of natural resources, Canada is becoming one of the world’s foremost corporate colonies, unrecognizable from what Canadians once imagined our nation to be.

The Plundering Potential of Resource Wealth

Canada is the second largest country by landmass in the world, after Russia, and with roughly 10% of the population of the United States, it is also one of the most resource rich countries on the entire planet. Looking at a list of the ten most resource-rich nations on earth (determined not by the multitude, but rather the ‘market value’ of the resources they contain) is rather revealing. At number ten, and in descending order is: Venezuela, Iraq, Australia, Brazil, China, Iran, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Russia. Canada has one of the largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia and Iran (though these are largely located in the difficult-to-extract Alberta tar sands), as well as having some of the largest mineral resource deposits in the world, with the second-largest proven reserves of uranium and the third largest amount of timber.[1] According to Statistics Canada, the nation’s natural wealth tripled in value between 1990 and 2009, then valued at $3 trillion, largely due to the increased price of oil.[2]

In June of 2012, the United Nations released a major report in which it established a new index to account for and define ‘wealth’ beyond mere reports of GDP. Termed the “Inclusive Wealth Index” (IWI), it determines national wealth based upon three types of assets: “manufactured” (machinery, buildings, infrastructure, etc.), “human capital” (the population’s education and skills), and “natural capital” (land, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, etc.). The study, Inclusive Wealth Report 2012, analyzed 20 different countries, and was intended to take into account depleting resources and sustainability for future generations when determining a nation’s real wealth. While GDP growth has taken place in China, the U.S., South Africa and Brazil, these nations have significantly reduced their natural capital. Between 1990 and 2008, the “natural capital” of the United States declined by 20%, 17% for China, 25% for Brazil, and 33% for South Africa. In fact, 19 out of the 20 countries studied showed a decline in natural capital, offset only by an increase in human capital (education and skills).[3]

Human capital is based upon the average years of schooling, wages that the country’s workers can demand, and how many years they are expected to work before they retire or die. With this measurement, human capital amounts to the largest percentage of a nation’s wealth (except for Nigeria, Russia, and Saudi Arabia), accounting for 88% of Britain’s wealth and 75% of America’s.[4] Canada is of course included among the 19 countries with rapidly declining natural capital.

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver spoke to a gathering of Canaccord Genuity Corporation (a financial services conglomerate) in Toronto in September of 2012, where he explained that Canada’s “tremendous natural wealth” included “huge capacities and reserves of energy, including the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world,” as well as “tremendous hydroelectric capacity, massive tracts of forests and an abundance of minerals and metals.” He added, however: “it’s not enough to have the resources… You have to do something with them.” Oliver listed some of the many resources which Canada has and produces in abundance: oil, natural gas, hydroelectricity, uranium (second largest producer in the world), more than 200 mines turning out more than 60 minerals, “including more potash than anyone else,” as well as aluminum, cobalt, diamonds, nickel, platinum group metals, titanium concentrate, tungsten, chromite, the second-largest exporter of primary forest products, and is the “biggest exporter of wood pulp, newsprint and softwood lumber.” The resource sector, explained Oliver, “is the cornerstone of our economy, our long-term prosperity and our quality of life.”[5]

Oliver explained that the energy, forestry, metals and minerals industries accounted for roughly 15% of Canada’s nominal GDP, the “direct contribution” to the Canadian economy, while the indirect GDP (taking into account “goods and services purchased from other sectors – construction, machinery and equipment, business and professional services”) takes the number up to roughly 20%. The key areas and industries are oil in Alberta, forestry in British Columbia, potash and uranium in Saskatchewan, mining in Ontario and hydro-power in Quebec. Oliver told the assembled crowd in the heart of Toronto’s finance industry that there was “about $650 billion invested in over 600 major resource projects currently underway in Canada or planned in the next 10 years.” He added: “Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are especially hungry for the energy and minerals and metals and forest products they need to fuel their growth and build a better quality of life for their citizens.” There were, he acknowledged, still inherent problems with the global economy which could effect this outlook, but suggested that what the Canadian government can – “and is doing – is establish a competitive business climate so the private sector can capitalize on our enormous potential.” In other words, the Canadian government will establish a highly protective and subsidized market for multinational corporations to more effectively plunder the natural resources.[6] All for altruistic intentions, of course!

Canada’s highly influential big business dominated think tanks have not been far behind in promoting resource plundering by multinational corporations. The Conference Board of Canada published a report in June of 2012 arguing that “Canada’s trade strengths are concentrated in industries that extract natural resources and process raw materials,” including agricultural and food products, minerals and metals, forest products, and electricity exports. In the report, Adding Value to Trade: Moving Beyond Being Hewers of Wood, Michael Burt wrote: “These industries rely heavily on natural resource wealth such as land, water, forests, and mineral products. The abundance of these resources gives Canada a robust comparative advantage in the industries that extract and process them.” Thus, it would be desirable to promote the “development and use of our natural resources, and industries that support the primary sector are competitive with world standards.”[7] The board of directors of the Conference Board of Canada includes executives and/or board members of the Business Development Bank of Canada, EPCOR Utilities, CGI Group, GE Canada, Canada Post Corporation, TransAlta Corporation, ICICI Bank Canada, Cisco Systems Canada, Desjardins Group, IBM Canada, Shell Canada, Xerox Canada, SaskTel, SaskPower, and John Manley, the President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), the main business interest group in Canada, made up of the top 150 corporate CEOs in the country.

In October of 2012, the Canadian International Council (CIC) – the Canadian counterpart to the Council on Foreign Relations in the U.S. – published a report entitled, Becoming a Resource Superpower, in which the author, Madelaine Drohan (the Canada correspondent for The Economist) argued that, “without strong leadership and collaboration we risk losing an opportunity to become a real resource superpower.” A series of recommendations were laid out, including the possibility of establishing a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) to pool and invest money made from resources, encouraging the provincial and federal governments in Canada to “stop treating” revenue from resources “as income to be spent and start treating them as capital to be saved or invested.” In other words, the money made from resources should not go back to benefit Canadians, but rather be used to exclusively benefit the investor class.[8]

Other recommendations focused on expanding the relationship between government, business, and academia (as if we don’t have enough of this already): “To do this, federal and provincial governments must concentrate their funding for research and development on collaborative projects between groups of companies and academic institutions.” Another recommendation focused on expanding “trade” networks and energy customers, specifically in the Asia-Pacific, noting: “Canada should focus on negotiations involving the largest possible number of countries, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and look beyond China so we do not repeat the error of putting all our eggs in one basket.” The report then recommended the government to establish highly protectionist trade agreements for corporations, writing: “Government can help companies plug into global value chains by removing impediments and securing the right trade and investment deals.” By definition, that is the opposite of “free trade,” which is why it is important that we call it “free trade,” when in actuality, it is highly protectionist, involving state intervention designed to undermine the ‘market’ and give corporations a subsidized advantage, thus, undermining competition. The last major recommendation was for federal, provincial, and territorial governments to “collaborate on a national blueprint for resource development that identifies the gaps to be filled – including in infrastructure, environmental protection, trade diversification, education, immigration, technology, and supporting sectors – and sets out how to address them, with achievable goals and deadlines.” In other words, massive state-capitalist planning and plundering is required.[9]

The board of directors of the Canadian International Council (CIC) includes the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the Atlantic Council of Canada, Raymond Chrétien (nephew of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien), while the chief sponsors of the CIC include: Bennett Jones, Power Corporation of Canada (owned by the Desmarais family, Canada’s Rockefellers), the Royal Bank of Canada, AGF, Barrick Gold, BMO Financial Group, Sun Life Financial, Scotiabank, and TD Bank. So naturally, it has everyone’s interests at heart, and by ‘everyone’, I mean, everyone that matters to the investor class (i.e., the investor class).

So, as Canada increases production of oil from Alberta’s tar sands, the government is seeking to expand the major pipelines to the coast in the hopes of acquiring China as a major trading partner, instead of just the United States.[10] Canada sits atop “unknown quantities” of natural gas reserves, what The Economist calls an “unconventional bonanza,” adding: “Just as the 20th century was the age of oil, the 21st could prove to be the century of gas.”[11] However, in August of 2012, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared that Canada’s future economic hopes depend upon the natural resources of the Arctic, which has been the focus of a new global grab for resources since the Arctic ice has begun to break up more rapidly. On a visit to the region, Harper stated, “Obviously, there is a tremendous economic opportunity here. The fact that we are attracting investment not just domestically, but from around the globe speaks very highly to the future.” As revealed by documents released to the press, in late 2011, the Mining Association of Canada was lobbying the Environment Minister Peter Kent “to change regulations and allow non-metal mines, such as diamonds, oilsands and coal, to discharge potentially polluted water under federal guidelines.”[12]

In other words, now that the ice is breaking and resources are being readied for plunder, the major mining conglomerates want the government’s permission to treat the Canadian environment the way they treat the environment in the rest of the world, notably, in poor, conflict-ridden countries like Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. After all, what is plundering without the added bonus of environmental devastation? It’s not just a matter of extracting and exploiting all available resources, from which to gain massive profits, but it’s also important for corporations to destroy the surrounding environment so that little, if anything, can flourish and replenish. That is plundering at its most profitable. In October of 2012, it was reported that Canada was going to claim ownership of a massive size of undersea territory in the Arctic, larger than the size of the province of Québec, and roughly equal to 20% of the country’s surface area.[13]

In 2013, Canada will begin chairing a two-year term of the Arctic Council, a grouping of eight nations working together to manage the development of the Arctic as an economically and strategically important global region.[14] With the opening of new and large opportunities for economic exploitation and resource plundering, the states with territory in the Arctic have become increasingly aggressive in their military posturing in the region, “increasingly designed for combat rather than policing,” according to a study by the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions. The report noted: “Although the pursuit of co-operation is the stated priority, most of the Arctic states have begun to rebuild and modernize their military capabilities in the region.”[15]

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been publicly making aggressive statements about competition in the Arctic, particularly in relation to Russia. In private, however, Harper had been making different claims. As revealed by Wikileaks, Harper expressed the message to the Secretary-General of NATO that there was no real military threat in the Arctic, instead expressing the perspective that, “Canada has a good working relationship with Russia with respect to the Arctic, and a NATO presence could backfire by exacerbating tensions.” Harper added, according to the released cables, “that there is no likelihood of Arctic states going to war, but that some non-Arctic members favoured a NATO role in the Arctic because it would afford them influence in an area where ‘they don’t belong’.” All the public statements and aggressive military stances in the region have, however, helped to sway public opinion into believing that there is a “security or sovereignty threat to the northern border,” and thus justify increased expansion into the region for exploitation. The issue is not one of security, but of securing resources (for corporations, no doubt). One released cable from 2009 relayed this point accurately, noting that Canada’s defense plan to build six Arctic Patrol ships for the navy was “an example of a requirement driven by political rather than military imperatives, since the navy did not request these patrol ships. The Conservatives have nonetheless long found domestic political capital in asserting Canada’s ‘Arctic Sovereignty’.”[16] By the summer of 2012, the aggressive rhetoric had essentially vanished, and Harper’s missions to the Arctic were entirely diplomatic and aimed at exploiting the region’s vast natural resources.[17] The Obama administration has also identified the Arctic as “an area of key strategic interest.”[18]

Canada For Sale: “Free Trade” Fanaticism

Canada has been pursuing a vast array of so-called “free trade” agreements with specific countries around the world, as part of the overall program of plundering resources and giving multinational corporations unprecedented control over society. Since the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada has pursued agreements with several countries, including Israel, Jordan, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, Panama, Peru and is in talks with the European Union and Japan, as well as China and India.[19]

On August 15, 2011, the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement – a highly protectionist corporate-driven agreement (like all “free trade” agreements) – came into effect. The agreement was reached in 2008, receiving “royal assent” in 2010, and is sure to benefit major corporations and help finance a state which is responsible for the greatest human rights violations in the Western Hemisphere. Canada’s top five exports to Colombia include wheat, newsprint and paper, machinery and equipment, dump trucks as well as beans, peas, and lentils. Colombia’s top five exports to Canada include coal, coffee, bananas, fuel oil and cut flowers (note: this list excludes illicit trade products like cocaine, of which Colombia is a major global exporter).[20]

As critics of the deal pointed to Colombia’s record on human rights abuses, Stephen Harper commented, “No good purpose is served in this country or in the United States by anybody who is standing in the way of the development of the prosperity of Colombia,” by which he means to say that human rights are irrelevant so long as multinational corporations are making large profits. And indeed, policies fit that paradigm very well. Harper added: “Colombia is a wonderful country with great possibility and great ambition. And we need to be encouraging that every step of the way. That’s why we have made this a priority to get this deal done. We can’t block the progress of a country like this for protectionist reasons.”[21] In this sense, the word “protectionist” refers to any impediments, regulations, or barriers to the unhindered exploitation and plundering of a country by multinational corporations. When agreements are protectionist in favour of corporations, securing and enforcing their unhindered monopolization of markets and exploitation of resources, this is called “free trade.”

With more than 70 Canadian corporations in Colombia, from oil and mining to finance, the agreement will open up more access for major companies. For those who mention human rights abuses, Harper had this to say: “I think there are protectionist forces in our country and in the United States that don’t care about development and prosperity in this part of the world. And that’s unfortunate.” Chris Spaulding of Talisman Energy, a Canadian corporation doing business in Colombia, commented that, “It’s very business friendly. They want foreign investment. The labor force is very good. The resources are there.”[22]

According to the Globe and Mail, Colombia has “near bullet-proof potential for rapid growth,” due to low wages, abundant resources, and with the return of “order” (a euphemism for state oppression and control), though the country still has a high murder rate, five times the rate of the United States. Colombia not only signed a free trade agreement with Canada, but also with the U.S., and has received top rates from the World Bank for fostering a good “business climate.”[23] Scotiabank, one of Canada’s big five banks, made a $1 billion purchase of a 51% stake in Colombia’s fifth largest bank, Banco Colpatria.[24] Rick Waugh, the CEO of Scotiabank, declared that, “Colombia is very important to us.”[25]

Toronto-based mining company Gran Colombia Gold Corp has been seeking to remove an entire town, a 500-year old community, to make way for an open-pit mine. When the Colombian government was preparing to displace the town, villagers in the community formed a committee to defend themselves. One of the organizers, a local priest, Father José Reinel Restrepo, publicly denounced the plan to move the town for the benefit of a foreign corporation, even giving television interviews in which he denounced “Canadian imperialism.” He explained: “If they are going to drive me out of here, I would tell them they would have to expel me by way of bullets or machetes – but they can’t oblige me to leave.” Four days later, Father Restrepo was shot dead while traveling to visit his family.[26]

Colombia has a long history with powerful business interests allying themselves with paramilitary outfits to “silence opponents and displace rural populations living atop natural resources.” Under the guise of the “war on drugs,” Colombia’s military, with billions in “aid” from the United States, has co-operated with big business interests and criminal paramilitary groups, purportedly to fight rebel groups (notably FARC), but mostly to clear rural communities to allow for corporate plundering of the resources upon which they sit. In recent decades, some four million people have been displaced by such actions, leaving the country with Latin America’s “most inequitable distribution of wealth.” On top of that, Colombia is a major narco-state, with state, paramilitary and rebel groups all participating in the massive cocaine trade. Many historians have described Colombia as “the world’s most enduringly violent country,” with over five decades of constant internal warfare. With over 20 major Canadian companies holding major investments in Colombia, it’s no wonder that the World Bank rated the country as the best investment climate in Latin America.[27]

The brand of “order” that the government of Colombia has enforced in recent years represents a continuation of the policies of several administrations before it. The human rights and humanitarian crisis in Colombia is “staggering in scale,” with millions displaced, killed, tortured, raped, kidnapped or “disappeared,” more than 280,000 people had to flee their homes in 2010 alone. State, paramilitary and rebel groups have all routinely been accused of vast human rights abuses and war crimes. While the new government of President Santos promised to prioritize human rights when he came to power in 2010, the reality, according to Amnesty International, was that “threats against and killings of leaders of displaced communities and of those seeking the return of lands misappropriated during the conflict, mainly by paramilitary groups, have increased during the Santos government.” In criminal investigations of human rights abuses, witnesses, victims, lawyers, and judges have continuously been threatened or even killed. Threats and murders have also increased for human rights activists, trade unionists, and community leaders.[28]

Canadian law demands that the government table a human rights report for Parliament on the impact of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Instead of submitting the report, the Canadian government decided, in May of 2012, that it would not even adhere to Canadian law, and refused to submit any such report, instead stating that it would produce a report for May of 2013. With more than 259,000 people displaced from their homes in Colombia in 2011 (on top of the 280,000 displaced in 2010), human rights abuses and war crimes will continue, with the tacit (and perhaps active) cooperation of Canadian corporations, notably mining companies. The Canadian government has effectively given the green light for such abuses to continue. While Colombia’s Constitutional Court identified 34 Indigenous nations in the country that were in “grave danger of extinction,” Canadian indifference continued. Alex Neve, the Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada declared that, “Canada must not turn its back on the human rights crisis in Colombia for yet another year… The crucial question that should not be postponed is what role is Canadian investment playing with regard to this emergency?” Neve added: “Failure to carry out a full impact assessment violates Canada’s responsibility of due diligence under international law and denies Canadian corporations working in Colombia the information they need to avoid implicating themselves in grave human rights violations.”[29]

The website for the Canadian ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Trade declared that the Canada-Colombia FTA provided “a key boost for Canadian companies in five important sectors: agriculture, information and communication technologies, mining, oil and gas, and services.” Noting that Canada’s interest in the narco-state was “growing strongly,” the ministry website added that Colombia had “undergone important economic and legal reforms, spurring democracy and global direct investment.” The business climate, it declared, was “now stable and predictable, making Colombia a secure business partner and a solid investment destination.”[30] With that in mind, Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay signed an agreement with the Colombian military in November of 2012 to strengthen its “military relationship with Colombia,” which MacKay stated, “represents a natural evolution in our relationship… And we look forward to continuing to build our ties with the Colombian Armed Forces.” No doubt, as they continue to displace hundreds of thousands of innocent people in order to clear the land for foreign corporations, and of course, to help advance the profits of the international illicit drug trade.[31]

Scotiabank decided to expand its operations further in Colombia, with the purchase of a majority stake in one of Colombia’s largest pension fund companies. Scotiabank has taken on a major role in “financing Colombia’s energy and mining sectors,” with the bank’s head of global wealth management stating, “We look to continue the growth and expansion of this business.” Another executive at Scotiabank stated, “We continue to invest in Colombia because we see this as a market with great potential for growth.”[32] Interestingly, the Canadian Embassy in Colombia is located in the new Scotiabank Tower in Bogota.[33]

Canada continues to pursue further “free trade agreements” with other countries as well, notably, Japan and China. In March of 2012, Canada and Japan agreed to begin free trade talks, already steadfast trading partners. On top of “free trade,” the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced that Canada and Japan would also be advancing defence and security “co-operation.”[34] At the announcement, Harper declared that, “This is a truly historic step that will help create jobs and growth for both countries.” Jayson Myers, the president of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters association stated, “Japan is a strategic commercial partner… However, it is also a country with whom we’ve had a persistent trade deficit when it comes to manufacturing. These negotiations provide the appropriate forum to resolve ongoing concerns.”[35]

As revealed by secret documents obtained by the media, the Canadian government had been lobbying the United States to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement for the main reason of gaining more access to Japan, with one document noting that the TPP without Japan “does not excite us.”[36] In November of 2012, it was reported that Japan was likely to follow Canada’s entrance into the TPP, the largest and most secretive trade agreement in history, involving 11 Pacific rim countries, and negotiated in cooperation with over 600 corporations. The TPP is highly controversial within Japan, since it could potentially – and likely would – lead to reduced protections and subsidies for the Japanese agriculture sector, an area long considered untouchable. A spokesperson for the Canadian department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade stated, “We welcome Japan’s interest in joining the TPP. Japan’s participation in the TPP would further strengthen Canada and Japan’s strong trade and investment relationship. We are already working closely with Japan towards a bilateral free trade agreement that will bring new jobs and increased prosperity to Canadians and we would welcome the opportunity to also work together in the TPP.”[37]

(For more information on the TPP, please see my three-part series here: The Trans-Pacific Partnership)

Canada has also begun talks with India and hoped to sign a free trade deal with the country by the end of 2013, with Stephen Harper stating, upon a visit to India, “I think I am very clear that we need to go farther and faster.” Stephen Harper lamented against the fact that India has democratic institutions, and thus, undemocratic policies are harder to implement. He stated: “What we do have to realize when we deal with India, as opposed to some other countries that we’re dealing with in the developing world – this country is a democracy… And that means that governments cannot simply dictate a whole set of policy changes to happen the next day. That means governments must develop consensus behind policy changes. And that, in this country is not easy. We understand that.”[38] Luckily for Harper, he doesn’t have to face any such problems at home, with a majority government, tearing the country to pieces day-by-day. Stephen Harper once boasted many years ago, that if he was given the chance to become Prime Minister, “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it.”[39] Indeed, that turns out to be quite true. Indeed, back in 1997, Harper wrote an article in which he referred to Canada as “a benign dictatorship,” though there seems to be little ‘benign’ about his majority-government rule.[40]

In September of 2012, Stephen Harper signed an investment treaty with China (as a precursor to a potential free trade agreement), called the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). The details of the agreement were kept secret until the deal was tabled in the Canadian Parliament in late September, but the agreement is not to be debated in Parliament because treaty making “is a royal prerogative,” and can thus become law through the initiative of the Prime Minister’s cabinet alone, so long as the treaty is ‘tabled’ in Parliament. Canada already had roughly 24 FIPAs in operation, with roughly a dozen more in the works. FIPAs are not “free trade agreements,” but are designed to simply “protect and promote” foreign investment in legally-binding agreements.[41] In essence, they are quicker and smaller versions of “free trade” agreements, and designed with a similar purpose: to advance corporate rights and the expense of democratic rights.

China’s ambassador to Canada stated that the two countries should move quickly toward a free-trade agreement within a decade, adding, “It’s time to open each other’s markets.” The comments came as a major Chinese state-owned corporation was seeking to take over a Canadian energy company, which would be the first direct foreign takeover of a major actor in Canada’s energy sector, a major concern for Canadians who fear Canada’s resource wealth will not benefit Canadians. On this issue, the Chinese ambassador noted, “Business is business. It should not be politicized… If we politicize all this, then we can’t do business.” The ambassador told a Canadian journalist, “We are not coming to control your resources.”[42] No, of course not, they’re just coming to take the resources. Within a couple months, Prime Minister Harper approved of the Chinese takeover of the Canadian energy company Nexen, as well as another takeover by a Malaysian company in the Canadian energy sector. However, Harper then stated that there would be restrictions on foreign governments buying some of Canada’s largest energy conglomerates (just not these ones in particular). At a press conference, Harper stated, “When we say that Canada is open for business, we do not mean that Canada is for sale to foreign governments.” Except, of course, for all the exceptions to that rule.[43]

Critics of the Canada-China FIPA warned that it would reduce Canada to little more than a “resource colony,” which would bind Canada to new investment rights with China for 30 years.[44] Not only does it allow China to gain an increased foothold in Canada’s economy, and specifically, in purchasing Canadian resources, but it also acts “to protect Canadian capitalists when they go into China.”[45] What more could someone ask for? The Council of Canadians, a public interest organization, referred to the Canada-China FIPA as a “corporate rights pact” that would have serious repercussions on Canadian environmental, energy, and financial policies. This is because the deal would allow for lawsuits against the Canadian federal and provincial governments for having “barriers” to investments, which could then be overturned.[46]

Canada is also in the final stages of negotiating a trade agreement with the European Union, called the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), designed to reduce tariffs and open up “new markets,” having major impacts upon agriculture, intellectual property rights (copyright and patent laws), with drug prices likely to increase “significantly,” as well as allowing for more “labour mobility,” a euphemism for increased labour exploitation.[47] The agreement, which has been in negotiations for years, would “deal another blow to Canada’s already battered manufacturing sector,” with roughly 28,000 jobs under threat, deemed to be the “best-case scenario” by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The “worst-case” scenario could see up to 152,000 jobs being “vaporized.”[48]

As is typical, the negotiations are “behind closed doors” and barely deal with actual “trade.” CETA is, much like the TPP, termed a “next generation” free trade agreement, negotiated since May of 2009, and would further deregulate and privatize the Canadian economy, and of course, therefore, increase corporate power, and thus at the expense of democratic accountability. The agreement could restrict how local and provincial governments could spend money, even banning “buy local” policies, increase the cost of drugs by $3 billion, increase Canada’s trade deficit with the EU, allow for European corporations to attack environmental and health protections within Canada as “barriers to investment,” potentially even apply pressure to privatize water, transit, and energy, and even prevent farmers from saving their seeds, as a major gift to GMO manufacturers.[49] Where corporate rights are advanced, democratic rights are dismantled.

A leaked document from the European Commission dated November 6, 2012, revealed that the practice of Canadian municipalities “buying locally” would disappear with the Canada-EU CETA, and that “provincial development programs could go with them.” Canadian municipalities were offering better terms for European access to municipal contracts that those which Canadian provinces give each other. The document, prepared for the European Commission’s Trade Policy Committee noted that the agreement is “the most ambitious and comprehensive offer Canada and its provinces have made to any partner, including the U.S.” EU negotiations will, however, continue to press for more access to energy sectors. Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians noted: “The amount of room our provinces, municipalities and local communities have to support local farmers and otherwise create the jobs of tomorrow is threatened again by a Canada-European Union free trade deal that will forever prohibit these kinds of economic strategies.” The province of Ontario could alone lose between 13,000 and 70,000 jobs as a result of the agreement, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.[50]

Openly acknowledged by European politicians was that Canada would be getting the short end of the stick in the CETA deal, as a Danish member of the European Parliament stated, “At the moment Europe will be able to export more than what Canada will be exporting.” Another European official closely linked to the negotiations stated, “We will gain a bit more.” Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast said, “[t]he potential benefits to Canadians under a free trade agreement with the European Union are immense,” though he forgot to acknowledge that the ‘Canadians’ he was referring to are largely corporations, and the elite class that owns them. Michael Hart, a trade expert at Carleton University noted, “[t]rade agreements do not create jobs. Never have. Never will. But ministers have never accepted that economic insight.”[51] And understandably so, after all, it’s rather challenging to sell a trade deal to the public if one openly declares it is for the singular purpose of advancing corporate rights, domination, and plundering. So instead, politicians must always mutter the magical word of “jobs,” which in political language, translates accurately into “profits,” as Noam Chomsky has suggested in the past. Thus, when politicians say that trade agreements will “create jobs,” which they never do, what they are actually saying is that such agreements will “create profits,” and exclusively for major multinational corporations, which they always do.

Canada’s trade agenda is of course driven by big business, whose interests will be served by such “free trade” agreements. In regards to CETA, the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business (CERT) was established in 1999 to contribute “recommendations on trade and investment to government officials and hosting thematic, high-level meeting focused on developing strategic relationships between company executives and with government officials,” according to the website for CERT. A declaration of support in 2008 for a Canada-EU trade agreement was signed by over 100 executives in Europe and Canada, urging Canadian and EU leaders to “design a new type of forward-looking, wide-ranging and binding bilateral trade and investment agreement.” Such an agreement, the document stated, “will provide European companies with a gateway into the vast North American free trade area, while increasing Canadian opportunities in the European Common Market,” serving as “a strategic and important step towards the eventual creation of a comprehensive transatlantic trade and investment area.” Among the signatories to the statement were top executives at the following companies: Anglo American plc, AstraZeneca, Barrick Gold Corporation, BASF, Bayer, Bertelsmann, BNP-Paribas, Bombardier, British Airways, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, CN, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, E.ON AG, Gaz de France, GlaxoSmithKline, Lafarge, Manulife Financial, Merck, Monsanto Canada, Munich Re, Pfizer Canada, Power Financial Corporation, Rio Tinto plc, Royal Dutch Shell, Siemens, SNC-Lavalin, Société Générale, SUEZ, Suncor, ThyssenKrupp, TOTAL SA., TSX Group, Ubisoft Entertainment, and Volkswagen, among many others.[52]

In late October 2012, a number of European and Canadian big business lobbying groups, including BusinessEurope, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business (CERT), sent a letter to the Canadian and European trade negotiators, Ed Fast and Karel de Gucht, respectively, urging them to push through on the CETA. The signatories called for Canada and the EU to reach “an ambitious and successful conclusion to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations by the end of 2012.” The letter said it was “imperative” to “maintain a high level of ambition” in key areas which would benefit Canadian and European corporate interests. Among the many areas for which the letter suggested “a high level of ambition” were in recommending the “full and rapid dismantling of tariffs for all industrial goods,” and “[a]ccess to raw materials and energy products,” the removal of barriers and “discriminations” in service sectors, “full access” to the agricultural sector, including “a satisfactory path forward on the bio-tech issues that have caused trade impediments,” by which is meant to advance the interests of GMO manufacturers. Further recommendations included “access to government procurement” which removes all barriers and allows for increased privatization, and of course, “[r]obust protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights in both markets,” which would include “the targeting, seizing and destroying of counterfeit imports and exports,” so as to undermine competition and protect monopoly and oligopoly corporations. Finally, the letter stated that the Canada-EU agreement “must also ensure improved labour mobility,” which would allow for increased labour exploitation, enhancing competition between the labour forces of Europe and Canada, which always results in lost jobs, lower wages, and reduced protections and benefits.[53] These are, of course, all very good things for multinational corporations. Since they are terrible things for the populations, they have to be coded in political and economic language, so instead of saying, “we want easily exploitable and cheap labour,” they suggest, “improved labour mobility,” which is also at times referred to as “labour flexibility” (i.e., making labour “flexible” to the interests of multinational corporations).

The Great Canadian Corporate Colony

Such letters from corporate leaders are necessary in order to remind political leaders whose interests they are in office to serve. The Canadian government ensured that it would serve big business interests through trade policy by appointing, in May of 2012, a new ‘advisory panel’ which would “help guide Canada’s ambitious, pro-trade plan in large, dynamic and fast-growing priority markets.” Speaking at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, International Trade Minister Ed Fast stated: “Our government’s top priority is the economy – creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadian workers, businesses and families… We understand the importance of trade to our economy… That is why we are deepening Canada’s trading relationships in priority markets around the world.”[54]

Ed Fast announced the formation of the new advisory panel at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The members of the panel include: Murad Al-Katib, president and CEO of Alliance Grain Traders Inc.; Paul Reynolds, president and CEO of Canaccord Financial; Kathleen Sullivan, executive director of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA), representing 80% of Canada’s agri-food sector; Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, former president and CEO of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, former president and CEO of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporations (CBC), and former government minister; John Manley, former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, former Foreign Affairs and Finance Minister, and currently president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), a corporate interest group made up of Canada’s top 150 CEOs; Catherine Swift, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses; Jayson Myers, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters; Brian Ferguson, president and CEO of Cenovus Energy Inc, a major Canadian oil company; Serge Godin, founder and executive chairman of the board of CGI Group Inc, one of the largest information technology businesses in the world; and Indira Samarasekera, president of the University of Alberta. Upon the announcement of this panel, Ed Fast stated: “I look forward to receiving advice from these knowledgeable Canadian leaders.”[55]

So we return to the statement once made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it.” Sadly, this is quite true as Harper Inc. advance Canada to the status of one of the world’s premier corporate colonies, where plundering for profits, environmental degradation, mass privatization, deregulation, and democratic devastation are the rules of the day. A Canada once thought of as democratic, free, and peaceful, is ever-advancing toward a fully privatized outpost of global corporate tyranny: Canada Inc., a subsidiary of the American Empire & Co.

 

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance across a wide spectrum of social, political, economic, and historical spheres. He has been published in AlterNet, CounterPunch, Occupy.com, Truth-Out, RoarMag, and a number of other alternative media groups, and regularly does radio, Internet, and television interviews with both alternative and mainstream news outlets. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project and has a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Notes

[1]       “The World’s Most Resource-Rich Countries,” 24/7 Wall St., 18 April 2012:

http://247wallst.com/2012/04/18/the-worlds-most-resource-rich-countries/

[2]       Kim Covert, “Canada’s natural wealth tripled between 1990 and 2009,” Financial Post, 28 June 2011:

http://business.financialpost.com/2011/06/28/canada%E2%80%99s-natural-wealth-tripled-between-1990-and-2009/

[3]       UNEP, “A New Balance Sheet for Nations: Launch of Sustainability Index that Looks Beyond GDP,” UNEP News Centre, 17 June 2012:

http://www.unep.org/newscentre/default.aspx?ArticleID=9174&DocumentID=2688

[4]       Free Exchange, “The real wealth of nations,” The Economist, 30 June 2012:

http://www.economist.com/node/21557732

[5]       Joe Oliver, “Natural Resources: Canada’s Advantage, Canada’s Opportunity,” Natural Resources Canada, 4 September 2012:

http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/media-room/speeches/2012/6475

[6]       Ibid.

[7]       CNW, “Canada’s trade strengths come from natural resources and related industries,” Canada Newswire, 19 June 2012:

http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/995619/canada-s-trade-strengths-come-from-natural-resources-and-related-industries

[8]       Jameson Berkow, “Canada could become a global resource superpower in just nine easy steps,” The Financial Post, 9 October 2012:

http://business.financialpost.com/2012/10/09/canada-could-become-a-global-resource-superpower-in-just-nine-easy-steps/

[9]       Jameson Berkow, “Canada could become a global resource superpower in just nine easy steps,” The Financial Post, 9 October 2012:

http://business.financialpost.com/2012/10/09/canada-could-become-a-global-resource-superpower-in-just-nine-easy-steps/

[10]     Energy in Canada, “The great pipeline battle,” The Economist, 26 May 2012:

http://www.economist.com/node/21555928

[11]     “An unconventional bonanza,” The Economist, 14 July 2012:

http://www.economist.com/node/21558432

[12]     Jordan Press, “Future lies in Arctic resource development, Harper says,” Postmedia News, 21 August 2012:

http://www.canada.com/business/Future+lies+Arctic+resource+development+Harper+says/7122937/story.html

[13]     Randy Boswell, “Canada poised for massive undersea land grab off Arctic, Atlantic coasts,” The Ottawa Citizen, 4 October 2012:

http://www.canada.com/Canada+poised+massive+undersea+land+grab+Arctic+Atlantic+coasts/7345687/story.html#ixzz2BZr0yMiK

[14]     Randy Boswell, “Canada to take helm of Arctic Council as region heats up,” Postmedia News, 25 September 2012:

http://www.canada.com/Canada+take+helm+Arctic+Council+region+heats/7298225/story.html

[15]     Terry Macalister, “Arctic military rivalry could herald a 21st-century cold war,” The Guardian, 5 June 2012:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/05/arctic-military-rivalry-cold-war

[16]     Campbell Clark, “Harper’s tough talk on the Arctic less stern in private,” The Globe and Mail, 12 May 2011:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harpers-tough-talk-on-the-arctic-less-stern-in-private/article579749/

[17]     Campbell Clark, “Harper’s Arctic trips are now diplomatic ventures,” The Globe and Mail, 22 August 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/harpers-arctic-trips-are-now-diplomatic-ventures/article4494231/

[18]     Jacquelyn Ryan, “As Arctic melts, U.S. ill-positioned to tap resources,” The Washington Post, 9 January 2011:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/09/AR2011010903400.html

[19]     “Free trade with Canada has become a global aspiration,” The Vancouver Sun, 2 November 2012: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Free+trade+with+Canada+become+global+aspiration/7488138/story.html#ixzz2BfUjOQxc

[20]     “Canada-Colombia trade deal takes effect,” CBC, 15 August 2011:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2011/08/15/f-colombia-canada-trade.html

[21]     Mark Kennedy, “Harper defends trade agreement with Colombia,” 10 August 2011:

http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/08/10/harper-in-colombia-to-mark-launch-of-free-trade-agreement/

[22]     Ibid.

[23]     Martin Hutchinson, “Colombia’s turnaround: from bullets into drill bits,” The Globe and Mail, 19 January 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/rob-insight/colombias-turnaround-from-bullets-into-drill-bits/article1359576/

[24]     Caroline Van Hasselt and Dan Molinski, “Scotiabank Buys Stake in Colombian Bank,” The Wall Street Journal, 21 October 2011:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204485304576643353880991840.html

[25]     Paul Christopher Webster, “Colombia is Canada’s new best friend,” The Globe and Mail, 26 April 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/colombia-is-canadas-new-best-friend/article4102946/?page=all

[26]     Ibid.

[27]     Ibid.

[28]     Alex Neve, “Canada’s tainted trade partner,” The Toronto Star, 21 September 2011:

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1057525–canada-s-tainted-trade-partner

[29]     News Release, “Canada-Colombia trade deal: Empty human rights impact report yet another failure by government,” Amnesty International, 16 May 2012:

http://www.amnesty.ca/news/news-item/canada-colombia-trade-deal-empty-human-rights-impact-report-yet-another-failure-by-go

[30]     FAITC, “Colombia FTA gives Canadian firms a big boost,” Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, 7 December 2012:

http://www.international.gc.ca/canadexport/articles/111012b.aspx?view=d

[31]     Jessica Hume, “Canada, Colombia strengthen defence relationship,” The Toronto Sun, 17 November 2012:

http://www.torontosun.com/2012/11/17/canada-colombia-strengthen-defence-relationship

[32]     Grant Robertson, “Scotiabank bulks up in Colombia,” The Globe and Mail, 14 August 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/latin-american-business/scotiabank-bulks-up-in-colombia/article4479935/

[33]     Paul Christopher Webster, “Colombia is Canada’s new best friend,” The Globe and Mail, 26 April 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/colombia-is-canadas-new-best-friend/article4102946/?page=all

[34]     “Canada, Japan agree to free-trade talks,” CBC, 25 March 2012:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/03/25/harper-japan-trade.html

[35]     Shawn McCarthy, “Canada, Japan launch free-trade talks,” The Globe and Mail, 25 March 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canada-japan-launch-free-trade-talks/article534401/

[36]     Jason Fekete, “Secret documents show how hard Conservative government lobbied to get into TPP talks,” Reuters, 12 June 2012:

http://o.canada.com/2012/06/19/secret-documents-show-how-hard-conservative-government-lobbied-to-get-into-tpp-talks/

[37]     Andy Hoffman, “Japanese PM looks to join Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal,” The Globe and Mail, 11 November 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/japanese-pm-looks-to-join-trans-pacific-partnership-trade-deal/article5186241/

[38]     Mark Kennedy, “Stephen Harper says Canada-India trade links must come faster,” The Montreal Gazette, 8 November 2012:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Stephen+Harper+says+Canada+India+trade+links+must+come+faster/7518117/story.html

[39]     Frances Russell, “True colours of Mulroney, Harper revealed,” Winnipeg Free Press, 20 May 2009:

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/westview/true-colours-of-mulroney-harper-revealed-45462077.html

[40]     Terry Milewski, “Ending Canada’s ‘benign dictatorship’,” CBC, 30 March 2011:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/story/2011/03/30/cv-milewski-harper-coalition.html

[41]     “5 things to know about the Canada-China investment treaty,” CBC, 27 October 2012:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/10/27/pol-the-house-fippa-with-china.html

[42]     Campbell Clark, “China calls for free-trade deal with Canada within a decade,” The Globe and Mail, 22 September 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/china-calls-for-free-trade-deal-with-canada-within-a-decade/article4561149/

[43]     Shawn McCarthy and Steven Chase, “Ottawa approves Nexen, Progress foreign takeovers,” The Globe and Mail, 7 December 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/ottawa-approves-nexen-progress-foreign-takeovers/article6107548/

[44]     Heather Scoffield, “China deals would leave Canada a resource colony: opponents,” The Financial Post, 31 October 2012:

http://business.financialpost.com/2012/10/31/china-deals-would-leave-canada-a-resource-colony-opponents/

[45]     Don Butler, “Understanding FIPA in under 1,000 words,” Ottawa Citizen, 31 October 2012:

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Understanding+FIPA+under+words/7472421/story.html

[46]     Daniel Tencer, “Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion And Protection Agreement ‘A Corporate Rights Pact,’ Council Of Canadians Says,” The Huffington Post, 1 October 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/01/canada-china-investment-fipa_n_1929663.html

[47]     Janyce McGregor, “5 key issues in the Canada-EU trade deal,” CBC, 22 November 2012:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/11/21/pol-ceta-canada-europe-trade-list.html

[48]     Greg Keenan, “Free-trade deal with EU could cost thousands of Canadian factory jobs,” The Globe and Mail, 27 October 2010:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/free-trade-deal-with-eu-could-cost-thousands-of-canadian-factory-jobs/article1215960/

[49]     Campaigns, “Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA),” The Council of Canadians:

http://canadians.org/trade/issues/EU/index.html

[50]     Daniel Tencer, “Canada-EU Free Trade: Leaked EU Document Sheds Light On Negotiations,” The Huffington Post, 26 November 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/26/canada-eu-free-trade-leaked-document_n_2192949.html

[51]     Althia Raj, “Canada Trade Deal With European Union: CETA May Benefit EU Over Canada, Officials Say,” The Huffington Post, 17 October 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/10/17/canada-may-get-short-end-of-stick-in-economic-and-trade-agreement-with-eu_n_1014707.html

[52]     CERT, “Declaration in support of a Canada-EU trade and investment agreement,” The Canada Europe Roundtable for Business.

[53]     “The Canadian and EU business communities’ call for a successful conclusion to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA),” BUSINESSEUROPE, 29 October 2012.

[54]     Press Release, “Harper Government Launches Next Phase of Canada’s Pro-Trade Plan for Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity,” Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, 29 May 2012:

http://www.international.gc.ca/media_commerce/comm/news-communiques/2012/05/26a.aspx?lang=eng&view=d

[55]     Ibid.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: What “Free Trade” Actually Means

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: What “Free Trade” Actually Means

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

The following is part 3 of a three-part exclusive series on the Trans-Pacific Partnership for Occupy.com

Part 1: The Trans-Pacific Partnership: This is What Corporate Governance Looks Like

Part 2: Why So Secretive? The Trans-Pacific Partnership as Global Corporate Coup

To discuss “free trade agreements” or the “free market,” we must first identify the theoretical versus the functional definitions of these terms – because theoretical definitions look at what those terms should mean, whereas functional definitions look at what the terms mean actually.

The theoretical definition of a “free market” is one in which every individual actor in the realm of exchange exists in a state of equality of opportunity; where all compete with one another to produce the best products at the cheapest prices for consumers, thus the most innovative and efficient producers succeed while others fail, unregulated – and unhelped – by the state. Within “free markets,” what we call “free trade agreements” are meant to reduce barriers such as tariffs, subsidies and regulations so that market “competitors” can freely move products and goods across borders and compete in an ever-expanding global “free market.”

The functional, or technical, definition of a “free market” is one in which the state regulates the market – the realm of economic exchange and activity – for the benefit of large transnational corporations and banks.

Barriers to profits, such as environmental, labor, safety and financial regulations, are dismantled. Meanwhile, subsidies and legal rights and protections are granted to major corporations, undermining competition and supporting monopolization. So while the rhetoric of “free markets” tends to be all about reducing state interference in the economy, in actuality state interference increases – but only for the benefit of large corporations and banks.

At the same time, state “interference” decreases in sectors that benefit the actual population, such as welfare, social services, pensions, healthcare, education, labor protections and so on. In the actual “free market,” these protections are dismantled, subjecting populations to “market discipline” quite unlike the large corporations and banks that receive direct protection against “market discipline.” The most obvious example of this is the post-2008 bank bailouts.

In a theoretical “free market,” all the banks that gambled badly would have failed and collapsed. But with the functional “free market” we have today, the banks went to the state and got bailed out with trillions of dollars of taxpayer money.

The same dichotomy exists for the term “free trade agreement,” which in theory is the opposite of “protectionism,” where states intervene in the market by establishing tariffs, regulations, subsidies and protections for various imports and exports, thus undermining the “free market.”

The technical definition, however, is one in which protectionism is rampant, with enormous subsidies and protective barriers, and very often includes thousands of pages of regulations and provisions. But because all of this is done to protect corporate and financial interests, it is called “free trade.” It is “protectionism” if the barriers, regulations and protections benefit the nation or population and prevent transnational corporations and banks from having unhindered access to the “market”?

Likewise, is it “free trade” if the barriers, regulations, and protections benefit corporations and banks at the expense of the nation and population? In actuality, so-called “free trade” is a drain on the economy, creates enormous national debts, undermines labor, creates poverty and exploitation, wastes natural resources and devastates the environment. However, it is very profitable for banks and corporations, so is endlessly repeated as something “good” and “necessary.”

In theory, “free trade” would enhance competition because it would allow all parties to compete on an even playing field internationally, thus companies would have to find ways to lower their costs of production while increasing their product standards, ultimately decreasing the final price to consumers. In this theoretical form of “free trade,” the best and cheapest product, the company that made it, and the consumer and society as a whole would all benefit.

The reality is the exact opposite: the production cycle is broken up (this is commonly called “offshoring”), which increases the use of transportation, resources and the overall cost of production, making the final product more expensive to consumers. Case in point is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), where competition between corporations is undermined while access to resources and markets is enhanced, subsidized and protected.

Corporate cooperation with each other and the state is enhanced while the poor, working and middle classes of Canada, the United States and Mexico are put in direct competition with each other. Corporations in Canada and the U.S. close their factories and move them to Mexico where labor is cheaper, increasing unemployment and poverty, destroying unions and labor protections, and forcing down wages while costs and corporate profits increase.

The role of the state is to regulate these markets and agreements for the benefit of the corporations and banks, and to force the populations to compete with each other in a race to the bottom: market monopolization for the elite, and market discipline for the population.

The break-up of the production cycle, especially from the late 1980s onward, has redefined what “trade” actually is. Typically, we think of trade as a system where countries export and import products or goods. With the era of “free trade,” the production cycle was no longer confined within national borders, and was broken up between several countries.

The result was that a large percentage of what we call “trade” is actually one corporation moving parts or goods to a subsidiary or another corporation in a different country, to continue the production cycle until it returns to the home country as a finished product for consumption.

This is referred to as “intra-industry trade” (transporting parts or goods between corporations) or “intra-firm trade” (transporting parts or goods between a corporation and its subsidiaries). When the parts move across borders, often several times before the final product is created, customs agents at borders register the cumulative value of those products as a “traded” good, and these numbers are then used to determine the “actual contribution” of that good to the economy.

For example, a product which has parts manufactured in Canada, assembled in Mexico, and sold in the United States, would have to cross borders several times before it becomes a final product. Each time the parts cross a border, the total value of those parts at that time of transport gets registered as an import/export, instead of differentiating between the value added at each part of the production cycle. Thus, the statistics of exports and imports become heavily skewed and inflated since they do not account for “value-added.” While the production cycle is broken up over several countries, the determination of “value” is not broken up to fit the actual trading system as it exists.

For a hypothetical comparison to reveal how absurd this process is, imagine a country that attempts to measure the total education of its population by including in its statistics the degrees and credentials of all the tourists who entered the country for short periods of time. The recorded education level of the country’s population would be enormously inflated, since the educated tourists entering the nation would not be staying and contributing their education to the benefit of the society. Something similar happens when parts move across borders several times before they become a finished product, yet have their total value registered each time they cross a border.

According to a report from a Canadian think tank, the Conference Board of Canada, if countries were to apply a “value-added” measurement of trade instead of using inflated numbers applied to the cumulative value of a good, the actual contribution of trade to a country would rapidly diminish. In conventional measurements, trade accounts for 35% of Canada’s economy, but with the value-added measurement, it drops to 24%. These manipulations are important because they serve as a basis for claiming that countries like Canada are “trade dependent” nations, which justify implementing more “free trade” agreements.

When a country imports more than it exports, it builds up a large amount of debt called a trade deficit. When a country exports more than it imports, it establishes a trade surplus. However, because the process of determining the value of imports and exports is enormously inflated and misleading, countries are saddled with inflated and inaccurate debts. They are then pressured into reducing those debts through austerity measures, which punish those countries’ populations into poverty.

Apple is a great example of this process, often hailed as one of the great corporate success stories, being enormously profitable and therefore “good for the economy.” As the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo reported in 2010, while Apple is a U.S.-based company, the iPhone is itself considered to be a Chinese export to the U.S. The iPhone is produced in many different pieces and parts through several Asian and European countries, which are then transported to China where they are assembled and shipped to the United States and elsewhere.

The estimated value of the Chinese laborers in assembling the iPhone was 3.6% (or $6.50) of the total value of the finished product, estimated at $178.96 in 2009. Yet, the wholesale cost of the shipped iPhone is credited to China as an export. China was merely the last stop in the production cycle, but China records the total value of the finished product as an export, while the United States records it as an import. Thus, the researchers at the Asian Development Bank Institute concluded that “even high-tech products invented by U.S. companies will not increase U.S. exports.”

Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), commented, “What we call ‘Made in China’ is indeed assembled in China, but what makes up the commercial value of the product comes from the numerous countries… The concept of country of origin for manufactured goods has gradually become obsolete.”

If trade statistics were adjusted to reflect the actual value contributed to a given product by a country, the U.S. trade deficit with China (which in 2010 stood at $226.88 billion) would likely be cut in half. In 2009, the iPhone left the United States with a $1.9 billion trade deficit with China, but if the value-added approach to determining trade statistics were applied, the United States would have a $48 million trade surplus with China (in relation to the iPhone alone).

With the production cycle broken up and scattered around the globe, this adds enormous costs to transportation of equipment, machinery, goods and products between these nations, which in turn requires enormous quantities of oil and fuel to facilitate this transport system, and thus produces unnecessary amounts of pollution. Because of the high costs of transportation, fuel, and assembly, the value of the end product goes up, making it far more costly than if it were simply produced in one or two countries.

With countries determining their exports and imports based on inflated and inaccurate statistics, populations are saddled with enormous debts and thus the financial cost of breaking up the production cycle lands on the shoulders of the population, who were already subjected to increased competition between labor forces, reduced environmental and social protections, dismantled subsidies and regulations, increased personal debt and poverty.

So if “free trade agreements” are bad for people, bad for labor – at home and abroad – and bad for the environment and the nation as a whole, why are they pursued?

The answer is simple: they create enormous profits for banks and corporations, whose losses are subsidized by the state. In an actual “free market,” breaking up the production cycle would be far too costly to be a rational choice for a corporation, but because the state takes on the cost of doing so (largely through its trade deficit), the process continues.

When it comes to agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it is not difficult to see what the results will be: increased subsidies, protections and regulations for the benefit of large corporations and banks (notably the 600 corporations involved in secretly drafting the agreement over recent years) and decreased protections, subsidies and regulations that benefit the population, environment and society as a whole.

The TPP advances corporate monopolistic protections through intellectual property rights; undermines labor protections, putting the working class of 11 different nations in direct competition with one another; dismantles environmental protections and financial regulations; and expands corporate rights and privileges to allow undemocratic corporate institutions to challenge national laws through an unaccountable international tribunal of corporate lawyers who are given powers to overturn national laws or demand immense compensation from any nations that hinder those corporations’ “potential profits,” thus further increasing the heavy cost of “free trade.”

The Occupy movement and other activists have a strong mandate to oppose the TPP and all related “free trade agreements.” Popular opinion is swinging against “free trade” as people seem instinctively to recognize – even without all the details – that such agreements undermine labor, increase debt and benefit only the rich.

But while public opinion may oppose the TPP in principle, the bigger problem is that “the public” does not know the TPP even exists. This is a challenge that the Occupy movement can step up to: promoting an educational campaign that crosses borders, organizing international protests and actions against the TPP, and establishing a “free market” of resistance based upon the “free trade” of information.

As corporate rights expand and democratic rights decrease, so must people demand an end to the TPP. Organized resistance, information and action have stopped “free trade agreements” in the past, and they can – and must – do so in the future. The coming corporate tyranny of the Trans-Pacific Partnership can only be defeated through a democratic movement of Transnational People Power.

Our already frail and dying democratic institutions lack the capacity to take up the challenge, so the challenge now rests with the people alone.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance across a wide spectrum of social, political, economic, and historical spheres. He has been published in AlterNet, CounterPunch, Occupy.com, Truth-Out, RoarMag, and a number of other alternative media groups, and regularly does radio, Internet, and television interviews with both alternative and mainstream news outlets. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project and has a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: This is What Corporate Governance Looks Like

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: This is What Corporate Governance Looks Like

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

The following is the first installment of a three-part exclusive for Occupy.com on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Originally published at Occupy.com

Part 2: The Trans-Pacific Partnership: This is What Corporate Governance Looks Like

Part 3: The Trans-Pacific Partnership: What “Free Trade” Actually Means

In 2008, the United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced the U.S. entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks as “a pathway to broader Asia-Pacific regional economic integration.” Originating in 2005 as a “Strategic Economic Partnership” between a few select Pacific countries, the TPP has, as of October 2012, expanded to include 11 nations in total: the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia, with the possibility of several more joining in the future.

What makes the TPP unique is not simply the fact that it may be the largest “free trade agreement” ever negotiated, nor even the fact that only two of its roughly 26 articles actually deal with “trade,” but that it is also the most secretive trade negotiations in history, with no public oversight, input, or consultations.

Since the Obama administration came to power in January of 2009, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has become a quiet priority for the U.S., which overtook the leadership role in the “trade agreement” talks. In 2010, when Malaysia joined the TPP, the Wall Street Journal suggested that the “free-trade pact” could “serve as a counterweight to China’s economic influence,” with Japan and the Philippines both expressing interest in joining the talks.

In the meantime, the Obama administration and other participating nations have been consulting and negotiating not only with each other, but with roughly 600 corporations involved. The TPP is accelerating the most dangerous free market policies of previous U.S. administrations, bestowing unprecedented powers and privileges upon Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) while dismantling regulations and laws without any democratic oversight or input.

This three-part investigative series examines the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a legally binding trade agreement for advancing transnational corporate tyranny and dismantling domestic democratic accountability.

I. Trade Representatives: The Global Corporate Lobby

Who negotiates trade agreements? The answer is simple: trade representatives. The term “trade representative” is essentially another way of saying “corporate lobbyist.”

To prove this point, it would be useful to quickly glance over the biographies of the important U.S. Trade Representatives (USTR) since the George H.W. Bush administration, when USTR Carla A. Hills was lead negotiator for NAFTA and the WTO.

Embedded within the U.S. foreign policy establishment, Hills had a long career in government and was the USTR from 1989 to 1993, after which she established and became CEO of Hills & Company, an international consulting firm with a focus on global trade and investment for clients such as the Coca-Cola Company, Procter & Gamble, American International Group (AIG), Novartis, Bechtel, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Inter-American Development Bank, Pfizer and Chevron.

A few accolades: Hills is a member of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, Gilead Sciences, and is on international advisory boards for Rolls Royce, the Coca-Cola Company and JPMorgan Chase. She is also a member of the Trilateral Commission, the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Following Hill, from 1993 to 1997, the U.S. Trade Representative was Michael Kantor, who now advises corporate clients as a partner in the law firm Mayer-Brown. A member of the board of CBRE (a real estate services company), Kantor also serves on the advisory boards of ING USA and Fleishman-Hillard, a public relations firm.

Next in line, from 1997 to 2001 the USTR was Charlene Barshefsky, who is now on the boards of American Express, the Estée Lauder Company and Intel; like Hill, she is a member of both the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations.

The USTR from 2001 to 2005 was Robert Zoellick, who afterwards served as Deputy Secretary of State, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs from 2006 to 2007, and President of the World Bank from 2007 to 2012. Following Zoellick, from 2005 to 2006, the USTR was Rob Portman, a U.S. Senator who was a possible running mate for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

And only after him did Susan Schwab, the USTR from 2006 to 2009, commit the U.S. to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Schwab has since joined the boards of FedEx, Caterpillar and Boeing. Based on the evidence of her and her predecessors’ tenures, it is safe to say there has been a significant interchange between “trade representatives” and “corporate representatives” — to the point where it is almost impossible to distinguish them apart.

Now let’s get even more caught up to speed on appointed “government officials” so we can know exactly what we’re talking about.

In 2008, as Obama was campaigning for president, he stated, “I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race. I don’t take a dime of their money, and when I am president, they won’t find a job in my White House.”

Within a week of becoming president, Obama changed his mind and his “transition team” (responsible for selecting the Obama cabinet) became co-chaired by John Podesta, co-founder with his brother Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group, a major Washington lobbying firm.

Podesta was Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff and, as co-chair of Obama’s transition team, he declared his team was implementing “rules that are the strictest, the most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history.” A top lobbyist whose firm has represented clients ranging from Wal-Mart, BP and Lockheed Martin to the Egyptian military dictatorship, Podesta appeared the ideal figure to implement Obama’s “strict” rules against hiring corporate lobbyists, right?

A little further background: the Podesta Group counts among its recent lobbying successes the stalling of a Senate bill which was calling on Egypt “to curtail human rights abuses.” The Group’s website also boasts that it “challenged” Wall Street reform after “one of the world’s largest banking firms came to the Podesta Group seeking help with their opposition” to proposed regulations for banks.

Thus, it should come as little surprise that part of the “strictest” and most “far-reaching ethics rules” announced by John Podesta in relation to lobbying was that no official could be appointed to the Obama administration if s/he had been an active lobbyist within the previous two years. Luckily for Ron Kirk, Obama’s U.S. Trade Representative, these “strict” rules only applied to the Washington D.C. area; and since Kirk was a corporate lobbyist in Austin, Texas, for the investment bank Merrill Lynch (before it was taken over by Bank of America in 2008), the “far-reaching ethics” promised by Podesta didn’t reach Kirk.

Kirk’s main priority since becoming USTR has been the Trans-Pacific Partnership, worked on in secret for nearly four years with several other countries and 600 corporations. President Obama has called it “a next-generation trade agreement” and a “model” for future agreements.

But not everyone agrees.

In May of 2012, more than 30 legal scholars from nations that will be affected by the TPP signed a letter addressed to USTR Kirk expressing their “profound concern and disappointment at the lack of public participation, transparency and open government processes in the negotiation” of the TPP.

In late June of 2012, more than 130 members of Congress followed this up with a letter that they signed and sent to Kirk urging transparency in TPP negotiations, and an inclusion of Congressional consultations, stating: “We are troubled that important policy decisions are being made without full input from Congress.”

In his not-to-worry response, Kirk reassured the public: “I believe … that we have very faithfully operated within the spirit of the Obama administration to have the most engaged and transparent process as we possibly could.”

Meanwhile, the TPP has received strong endorsements from large transnational corporations and their official lobbies, such as Thomas Donohue, the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who told the Financial Times that, “[t]his must be an agreement with high standards. These standards will set the bar on regulatory coherence, investment and intellectual property.”

Part of these “high standards,” according to a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation group (APEC), are “deep commitments that go beyond tariff reduction and pass existing World Trade Organization standards.” In other words, it goes far beyond “trade.” This was confirmed by Iwan Azis, the head of the Asian Development Bank’s regional integration office, who stated that the TPP was intended to deal with “behind the border” issues, typically decided by domestic policy, and “which go beyond the normal scope of trade agreements” including issues of labor, environmental and intellectual property standards.

Azis commented: “As a concept, this is definitely something big… This is so comprehensive, it is like a Grade A agreement.” The TPP is designed “to be a structure on to which other nations, including possibly South Korea, and eventually even China, could be bolted.”

At the 2011 APEC summit, Chinese president Hu Jintao stated: “China supports the goal of the regional integration of the Asia-Pacific economy, using the East Asian free trade zone, full economic partnerships in Asia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership as foundations.”

The aim of the TPP appears to be in establishing a core “trade bloc” in order “to create a gravitational force that would bring others in,” according to Karan Bhatia, the Vice-President for international law at General Electric and a former deputy U.S. trade representative. Ultimately, this objective includes bringing both Japan and China into the fold.

In May of 2012, Kirk stated that he “would love nothing more” than to have China join the TPP, following the more immediate additions of Mexico, Canada, and Japan. And in November of 2011, President Obama spoke to the Australian parliament, explaining: “I have directed my national security team to make our presence and missions in the Asia Pacific a top priority… The United States is a Pacific power and we are here to stay.”

One observer and critic has noted that the TPP has the potential to become a new “global trade agreement.” Charlene Barshefsky, the USTR from 1997 to 2001, wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal in October of 2012 in which she strongly endorsed the TPP as a “crucial opportunity” to overcome “barriers to innovation.” Referring to the TPP as the “most important trade negotiation of the past decade,” Barshefsky wrote that it “will set the terms of trade for many years in the world’s most economically dynamic region.”

Gary Horlick, who is rated one of the world’s top international trade lawyers with a long career representing major U.S. and global multinational corporations, and more than 20 countries in international trade negotiations and disputes – and who was the first Chairman of the World Trade Organization’s Permanent Group of Experts on subsidies – commented on the TPP: “This is the least transparent trade negotiation I have ever seen.” As part of this “transparency,” participants in the negotiations had to sign a memorandum of understanding which forbids them from releasing any “negotiating documents until four years after a deal is done or abandoned.”

What Horlick referred to as the “least transparent trade negotiations” he had ever seen, Kirk referred to as “the most engaged and transparent process” possible. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that Kirk has access to the draft document and observes and participates in the negotiations, unlike the representative bodies of governments or their populations.

So let’s call this what it is: a transnational corporate coup over the democratic process and public accountability.

Kirk explained that “there’s a practical reason” for all the secrecy in the negotiations over the TPP: “for our ability both to preserve negotiating strength and to encourage our partners to be willing to put issues on the table they may not otherwise, that we have to preserve some measure of discretion and confidentiality.”

Indeed, this is “practical.” After all, as he explained, if the talks were not done in secret, the public would be aware of what was being discussed, and if the public knew what was being planned, they would oppose it.

So secrecy is necessary in order to make the agreement as undemocratic and unaccountable as possible, to ensure that corporations get what they want while the public remains in the dark. Deceptive and saturated with disdain for democracy, certainly, but “practical” nevertheless.

Part II of Marshall’s investigative series on the Trans-Pacific Partnership will appear Wednesday.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.