|Volume 46 Number 9, April 2, 2016||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
It is asserted that an entity like the EU is a necessary free trade arrangement in order to efficiently distribute human and material resources so as to increase the competitiveness of its member states. However, so-called free trade is trade under the domination of the most powerful monopolies centred in the big powers. Under their control, international trade serves both their particular private empire-building interests and the geopolitical aims of those powers. International trade has grown into far more than a purely economic relation: it has become a weapon wielded by the big powers, both in collusion to maintain the imperialist system of states under their domination, and against one another, in mutual competition.
The reality of "free trade" is freedom only for the most powerful monopolies and states. This freedom is enforced over others via international agreements, trade blocs and other arrangements, and any opposition is met with blockades and sanctions through to war and regime change, and other violations of sovereignty. At the same time, rivalry between the big powers manifests itself as national chauvinism and contains the real danger of open conflict and warfare between these powers.
The EU provides a single large territory where the most powerful monopolies based in the big European powers have unrestricted monopoly right within the borders of the Union and have a power base from which to control international trade in contention with monopolies centred in other world powers, particularly North America centred on the US. The EU also provides a geopolitical entity from which agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) can be made with other powers that give these monopolies unrestricted access across whole swathes of the globe.
The brutal treatment of countries such as Greece, particularly over the past year, has shown very starkly how monopolised global trade and big power geopolitics directly confront the public desire for control over the economy and its direction. This desire, expressed in the courageous Oxi (No) vote in the Greek referendum in opposition to the devastating measures imposed by the EU at that time, which was answered by harsh punishment, is the desire for an alternative to austerity and for defence of public right over monopoly right. In the case of countries such as Greece in particular, this desire relates to the need to build diverse self-reliant national economies as opposed to nation-wrecking, sovereignty as opposed to outright annexation. In general, it is the desire for the people to have a say over their own destiny.
For these countries, sovereignty against the hegemony of the global monopolies and the geopolitics of the big powers is a life and death issue, posing the necessity to develop an economy and politics free from this control and exploitation. Any hint of such independence from the Europe of the monopolies cannot be permitted. This presents the problem of withdrawal from the imperialist system of states, where any trade with the big powers is conducted with strict safeguards in place to defend their sovereign economies.
The wrecking of the national economies and infrastructure of these countries has reached such a degree, along with political destabilisation, that the free movement of labour has become forced movement whereby whole sections of the population, particularly the younger sections, are leaving their homelands in search of employment and stability, creating huge diasporas in the case of some nations.
A country such as Britain, on the other hand, is itself a big power with its own empire-building plans relating to Europe and the world. It wields the geopolitical weapon of international trade itself, not only in collusion with the other big powers, particularly the US and the European powers, but also in competition with them. British monopoly capital is divided on where best to position itself, with conflicting interests between the monopolies that are based in and operate within Britain itself. The official Remain campaign in the referendum on EU membership and the version of the Leave campaign being promoted reflect these divisions. Both are characterised by British national chauvinism and an imperialist outlook, employing hysteria and fear to disinform the population.
For the desire for an alternative and for a say over the matters that affect people's lives to be realised means an alternative to the EU of the monopolies and other such "free trade" arrangements. This means sovereignty and decision-making power being vested in the people over the local economy, so as to develop a diverse, self-reliant economy in the service of the public interest. This creates the conditions for trade relations on a new basis to be formed with other such sovereign local economies for the mutual benefit of each trading partner.
A key battle-ground in monopoly control over international trade versus international trade between free and equal partners for mutual benefit is the determination of prices of traded goods.
The prevalent dogma that the prices of internationally-traded goods are simply determined by supply and demand ignores various factors relating to monopoly control of market prices. The most powerful monopolies influence both supply and demand through their control over production, determining what gets produced, how much and what raw materials are required. Through large financial institutions and rich hedge funds, they intervene in the markets both to speculate or to manipulate prices directly. Free trade agreements increase their scope to operate and eliminate competition. For example, Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) being introduced through TTIP allows a corporation to sue a government for any action that may limit its profits.
Further distortion of price arises from the hegemony over international trade enjoyed by the US dollar, which functions as a means to extract tribute from the global economy. The Euro and other fiat currencies including the pound have aspired to gain this dominant position in contention with the US dollar.
Without such manipulation and distortion, prices of traded goods would reflect their value of production (comprising existing value of materials and instruments transferred by the production process and newly-produced value claimed by workers, owners of capital and governments). From such a starting-point, mutually beneficial bilateral trade would be possible at a price determined by the values of production in the two trading countries, which would account for their different conditions and eliminate the use of a third party's currency, be that the US dollar, Euro, pound or any other currency. Such arrangements would be an important precondition to popular sovereign control rather than monopoly control over international trade.
This article makes use of "International Trade as a
Geopolitical Weapon of the Big Powers", K.C. Adams, TML Weekly
Information Project, February 27, 2016 - No. 9,