The excessive emphasis on the further global expansion of European corporations is a fundamental flaw in the EU’s approach to economic globalisation. The EU’s aggressive push for WTO negotiations on pro-corporate rules on investment was the main reason for the collapse of the Cancún summit.
Also in bilateral and inter-regional trade negotiations outside of the WTO, such as free trade talks with Latin-american countries, the EU continues to promote an unsustainable corporate-centred trade and investment agenda, shaped in close co-operation with industry lobby groups. The European Comissión plays a particularly problematic role in nurturing relations with big business and granting corporate lobby groups inappropriate powers.
The deeply undemocratic habit of prioritising corporate expansion over other concerns is also clear in the EU’s policies towards water delivery in developing countries. The European Commission tries to use both the WTO’s services negotiations (GATS) and EU aid policies to accelerate and consolidate water privatisation, on behalf of giant European water corporations like Suez.
If the EU is to become a responsible and progressive force in global economy and politics, clearly its policies need to be de-linked from the expansion interests of European corporations. This kind of transformation is a pre-condition for a shift towards people-centred, sustainable trade and investment policies.
The transformation needed requires a fundamental democratisation of EU decision-making on these issues, instead of the further centralisation of powers proposed in the new draft EU constitution. Apart from greater democratic control, the EU’s international trade and investment policies must be re-oriented to first and foremost serve global economic justice and sustainability goals.
In the case of water delivery, the EU must move away from serving the interests of private water corporations and instead ambitiously support the expansion of democratic models of public water supply in the South.
Generally, the campaigns in Europe are still not strong enough to force through a turn-around in the EU’s WTO policies and therefore need a further boost after Cancún. Part of the challenge is to campaign against further centralisation of EU decision-making on international trade in the hands of the European Commission. The struggle against the EU’s water liberalisation and privatisation agenda through the WTO’s services negotiations (GATS) is particularly crucial, as part of wider campaigns for water justice.