The Shape of Trade to Come - Latin America and Europe

By the end of 2016 the European Union's trade and investment policy had become a hot issue on political agendas across Europe. The EU's free trade approach caused discontent both within and outside the European Union. The EU's "free" trade ideology, driven by a powerful corporate lobby, has contributed to growing inequality, joblessness and poverty within and outside the European Union, contributing to the rise of xenophobic and nationalist forces in several EU Member States.

Some factions of the ultra-right in Europe and the US have appropriated much of the language of opposition to free trade. Counterintuitively, the European elite has vowed in response to fight protectionism and populism by accelerating and deepening free trade and investment protection.

Meanwhile in Latin America, the past decade has been defined by, broadly speaking, two types of government. On the one hand are those governments that attempted to create a new type of regional integration, in which an increase of commercial flows was not a core objective. On the other hand was a set of countries that persisted with the neoliberal agenda, signing new free trade and investment agreements with the EU, US and Asian countries. The first group operated in a context where the high price of commodities (such as oil), among other factors, allowed incomes to support another type of politics, more in touch with social movements' agendas, although full of contradictions. This scenario has completely changed over the last two years. With the arrival of new right wing governments, we are witnessing a political shift and a return of the free trade and investment protection ideology across most of the region.

The EU has warmly welcomed this shift towards a "free trade" mindset in parts of Latin America. Trade talks between EU and Mercosur have regained momentum, as well as bilateral renegotiations with Mexico and Chile.

Due to increasing public awareness of the failures of neoliberal economic policies, people on both sides of the Atlantic have expressed widespread concerns about the Shape of Trade to Come. Even as the backlash against neoliberalism is resulting in a shift to the far right, elites throughout Europe and America continue to embrace free trade dogma, by desperately offering the same bad medicine, and by creating a false dichotomy between "free trade" and "protectionism".

As political elites and the far right are repositioning around trade and investment policies, so are social movements and organisations in Latin America and Europe. Building on a long history of working against the corporate trade agenda, movements are surveying the changed political landscape and preparing for the struggles ahead.

The profound uncertainties that marked the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 in trade and investment policies require a clear and thorough analysis, as well as a discussion of new strategies in the current conjuncture.


This Forum will have three key objectives:

1 - Deepen our analysis of the shifts in Europe and Latin America, and its relations in a new context of global trade and investment discourse, and develop our understanding of the far-right and nationalist narrative on free trade and how to counter it.
2 - Understand the state of movements and mobilization in both regions. What are the key issues and campaigns?
3 - Deepen our analysis and strategies on specific topics (for ex. ongoing negotiations, new EU investment proposal and key political moments like the G20 summit in Hamburg and the WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires).


Focus 1
The Shape of Trade and Investment policies in the EU and Latin America

Corporate elites and their political allies have pushed a trade liberalization and investment protection agenda that benefits businesses' interests at the expense of peoples' rights for decades. However, recent political changes in Latin America, in the European Union, and in other parts of the world have shifted the discourse around free trade and have entailed a strategic recalibration of how this agenda is being implemented. This session aims to analyze the current trade strategies that have come with these political changes, in order to resist and to fight for alternatives. It aims to unveil and to expose the underlying myths of free trade and investment policies and to help understand the political context in which the strategic recalibration of trade policies is happening.

  • Marina Albiol (GUE/NGL, Spain)
  • Jocelio Drummond (IPS/REBRIP, Brazil)
  • Ben Beechy (Sierra Club, US)
  • Nick Dearden (Global Justice Now, UK)
  • Luciana Ghiotto (ATTAC Argentina/ Asamblea Argentina mejor sin TLCs)

Moderators: Cecilia Olivet (TNI) and Alfonso Moro (FAL)

Focus 2
The State of the Movements

As the position of political elites around trade and investment policies are changing, so is the state of movements on both sides of the Atlantic. In recent years, social organisations and movements have built in Latin America a strong resistance against NAFTA, TPP and other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), to stop the corporate trade agenda. In Europe, organisations have worked to stop TTIP, CETA and other multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations of the European Union. Moreover, these mobilizations in Europe and Latin America are part of a long history of struggle against the corporate trade agenda. The common struggles between organisations from both regions have been part of this history, for example with the Enlazando Alternativas Biregional network and the global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. This session will aim to learn from past successes and defeats, and to discuss the present state of movements in Latin America and Europe. It also aims to strengthen our visible bond against the invisible hand of corporations and elites.

  • Marc Maes (11.11.11, Belgium)
  • Alberto Villareal (REDES-AdT Uruguay)
  • Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, Germany)
  • Patricio Lopez (Campaña Chile mejor sin TPP, Chile)
  • Cecilia Olivet (TNI, Uruguay)
  • Alberto Arroyo (Convergencia "México Mejor sin TLCs")

Moderators: Luciana Ghiotto (ATTAC Argentina) and Fabian Flues (FOEE)

Focus 3
The Struggles to Come and our Alternative Trade and Investment Agenda

In this new conjuncture, we need to carefully identify the key battlegrounds ahead. These battlegrounds could be ongoing or concluded trade and investment negotiations, for example the renegotiations between the European Union with Mexico and Chile and the negotiations between the EU and Mercosur, the Andean and Central America, as well as international trade negotiations like the Trade in Service Agreement (TISA). Another common front for action could be the attempt by the EU to establish an Investment Court System (ICS) and a Multilateral Investment Court (MIC). Other sites for action could be around top decision maker meetings, for example the forthcoming G20 summit in Hamburg (7-8 July) and the WTO Ministerial Conference in Argentina (11-14 December). Last but not least, the battle for an alternative trade and investment agenda is as important as ever. This session will therefore give the opportunity for group work on specific topics and issues. It will provide participants space for in-depth analysis and discussion of strategies.

  • El movimiento contra el TTIP/CETA (Lucile Falgueyrac, S2B), tbc (Ecologistas en Acción)
  • Jornada Continental (tbc)
  • Campaña "México Mejor sin TLCs" (Enrique Pérez Suárez, ANEC)
  • Campaña "Chile Mejor sin TPP/TLCs" (Patricio Lopez)
  • Campaña "Argentina mejor sin TLCs" (Bettina Müller)

Moderators: Lyda Forero (TNI) and Florian Horn (Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Brussels Office)

This conference is a cooperation between the Transnational Institute, Seattle to Brussels and the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Brussels Office.