Manchester ignores CETA’s destructive force over local democracy
By: Laura Williams
Date: 12 November 2016
On Thursday Manchester City Council decided to reject our TTIP/CETA Free Zone, despite the fact that these deals could seriously undermine the additional powers that the region is pushing for under devolution. They declared that they would revisit this issue if it re-emerged on the global stage, which seems pretty contradictory given that CETA is due to be voted on imminently.
Councillor Flanagan, political lead for this area, stated that they did not want to “waste much time in this committee as history has overtaken us”, focusing solely on the TTIP negotiations and dismissing the threat posed by other looming trade deals such as CETA and TiSA.
The TTIP/CETA Free Zone campaign
The Council were forced to discuss the issue after a local government petition led by the Stop TTIP MCR campaign managed to secure 1,400 signatures, triggering the debate. The group have spent the last three years ensuring that the people of Manchester are aware of the threat that trade deals such as TTIP, CETA and TiSA pose to our public services and democracy. What’s become clear from this campaign is that once people hear about the deal, they are appalled by the secretive way that these deals are negotiated and frustrated by the way that they are presented as a-political decisions that they need not be consulted on. You can watch their campaign videos on youtube to get a sense of the strength of feeling.
The majority of the case presented by the campaign group focused on CETA, the deal between the EU and Canada, which will be voted on in the European parliament in December or January with the potential to affect the UK for the next 20 years. This is 20 years regardless of whether we stay in the EU or leave. The decision will be made before we are officially out and will be stuck with us.
Why Manchester should worry about CETA
Beyond the well known concerns about these trade deals Manchester City Council has reasons to be particularly worried about this deal. Greater Manchester is currently pushing for greater powers through the devomanc deal in health care and purchasing powers through the joint commissioning of projects. CETA is pulling in the opposite direction. It will take away local government ability to make democratic decisions around our health care due to the threat posed by the Investment Court System and place limits on local government procurement rules. Instead of being able to support local small businesses or require social value assurances in purchasing decisions Manchester would have to open up to competition from large companies from across the world, seriously undermining the value of these kinds of initiatives.
Although the Council stated that in principle the group were with the petitions ideas in principle, noting that the Council’s powers in local procurement were of the utmost importance, they were unwilling to take any action on CETA. It seemed as though the decision about which way the committee was going to vote had already been taken, with not a single word about the imminent threat posed by CETA being listened to. They had decided to only talk about TTIP and were not willing to comment on anything beyond that. Is this what representative democracy is supposed to look like? Backroom decision making, where the views of regular citizens are not given the time that they deserve.
It’s not over
The campaign to stop these trade deals is far from over in Manchester. We know that we must stop these trade deals. Despite Manchester’s Labour dominated council shirking its responsibility, we know that at other levels of the Labour party they are listening with them looking to us in helping for the creation of an alternative vision of trade. The group will be stepping up their efforts campaigning alongside the millions of protesters across Europe who share our fears. People power cannot and will not be ignored.
You can watch the full discussion on Manchester City Council’s website, from minute 31 onwards.