Category Archives: Europe

Map of the day: Uncle Sam, man in the middle

From Mare liberum: enhancing trade across two oceans with TPP and TTIP, a report on the impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership by the Economic Research arm of Rabobank, the number bank in the finance-heavy Netherlands — and a major financial player in California with, alongside a chain of banks and some other investments, holds naming rights to three Golden State venues, the Rabobank Arena and the Rabobank Theater and Convention Center in Bakersfield and Rabobank Stadium in Salinas.

Note that nation emblazoned with the colors of both agreements and draw appropriate conclusions:

BLOG Mare Liberum

Quote of the day, with some added bonuses

From Race to the bottom — Regulatory cooperation in TTIP: A blueprint for
corporate domination? [PDF], a noteworthy new report about the impacts of the pending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [previously] by the NGO Global Justice Now [with full sourcing in the document]:

How TTIP has already undermined standards

The EU has already started toning down its standards before TTIP has even been signed.

US officials successfully used the prospect of TTIP to bully the EU into abandoning plans to ban 31 dangerous pesticides with ingredients that have been shown to cause cancer and infertility.

A similar fate befell regulations around the treatment of beef with lactic acid. This was banned in Europe because of fears that the procedure was being used to conceal unhygienic practices. The ban was repealed by MEPs [Members of the Europeab Parliament — esnl] in the European Parliamentary Environment Public Health and Food Safety Committee after EU Commission officials openly suggested TTIP negotiations would be threatened if the ban wasn’t lifted.

On climate change, the European Fuel Quality Directive which would effectively ban Canadian tar sands oil has foundered in the face of strong US-Canadian lobbying around both TTIP and the EU-Canada CETA deal [the parallel Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, now in negotiation — esnl].

More generally, the EU’s Better Regulation programme has also been linked to TTIP. Better Regulation explicitly seeks to reduce the regulatory ‘burden’, delaying the implementation of new rules on things like safe levels of chemicals. Trade unions say that Better Regulation has already been responsible for 100,000 deaths from cancer.

The fact that all of this is happening before any deal has been signed exposes the emptiness of the EU Commission’s claims that regulatory cooperation in TTIP won’t lead to a race to the bottom on standards.

If the mere prospect of TTIP is enough to convince EU officials to allow carcinogenic pesticides and tar sands oil, what awaits us after TTIP comes into force can only be imagined.

Next, a video about a parallel TTIP problem from Corporate Europe Observatory’s webttv:

Suing the state: hidden rules within the EU-US trade deal

Program notes:

This film presents some of the dangers of the investor rights within the proposed EU-US trade deal. We need to stop this corporate attack on our democracy and policies to protect the public interest.

The film has been produced by Sourced TV for Corporate Europe Observatory

And what about that secret court?

First, A cartoonist’s take on the court from Keith Tucker, via Twitter:


Some disturbing elucidation from a November, 2014 piece from Mel Kelly of Green European Journal:

The “court” being used to sue governments using the ISDS clause in trade agreements is not a court of law but the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). Established in 1891 in the City of London, it is a private company limited by guarantee, which acts as a private corporate court to settle international commercial disputes between private corporations and was never intended to have power over governments – but the “Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause being quietly inserted into “trade agreements”, for some unknown reason (other than corporate greed and corporate abhorrence at democracy) gives this corporate court power over any government which has signed a trade agreement with the ISDS clause in place.

At the time of its incorporation an academic journal said “this chamber will have all the virtues which the law lacks. It is to be expeditious where the law is slow, cheap where the law is costly, simple where the law is technical, a peacemaker instead of a stirrer-up of strife.”

But not content with bypassing every EU court of law to sue governments if TTIP is signed, corporations have decided the 1998 London Court of International Arbitration rules should be updated before TTIP (and the EU Canadian CETA) trade agreements are signed, and that the new LCIA “arbitration rules” should seek to “promote a more speedy, efficient, and fair arbitration process, one that is more aligned with modern arbitral practice.”

Translated this means corporations have just quietly changed their LCIA arbitration rules as of 1st October 2014, to make it even easier, faster and cheaper for Corporations to sue every EU government signed up to TTIP-CETA, in a move designed to tip their scales of corporate injustice firmly in Corporate America’s favour using what can only be described as LCIA corporate kangaroo courts.

Needless to say, many Europeans are alarmed, so much so that 3,263,920 of them signed a petition to stop both TTIP and the CETA in less than four months.

Which explains our choice for a concluding graphic, via Greenpeace España:


Chart of the day: Starbucks’ European tax scam

esnl has never consumed a cup of Starbucks coffee, and that’s because of their loathsome business practices here in the U.S.

While Starbucks aggressively brands itself as a community-making business, the company goes out of its way to destroy rivals owned by members of the local communities where it establishes new branches, frequently setting up across the street for existing locally owned coffee shops and driving them out of business, a practice that’s still ongoing — as in the case of Starkville, Mississippi.

Starbucks used to take an even more brutal approach, as Naomi Klein wrote in her seminal No Logo back in 1999:

Until the practice began creating controversy a few years back, Starbucks’ real-estate strategy was to stake out a popular independent café in a well-trafficked, funky location and simply poach the lease from under it. Several independent café owners in prime locations are on record claiming that Starbucks went directly to their landlords and offered to pay them higher rental payments for the same or adjacent spaces. For instance, Chicago’s Scenes Coffee House and Drama received an eviction notice after Starbucks rented a space in the shopping complex where it was located. The coffee chain attempted maneuver with Dooney’s café in Toronto, though Starbucks claims it was the landlord who made the initial approach. Starbucks did gain control of Dooney’s lease but the community protest was so strong that they company ended up having to sublet the space back to Dooney’s.

And that brings us to our latest example of Starbucks looting the commons, in this case, the tax coffers of the Netherlands, employing a strategy that would’ve made Meyer Lansky smile.

And that brings us to our chart of the day [sorry for the small text, but it’s the latest image provided by the European Commission]:

BLOG Starbucks

An explanation from the European Commission:

Starbucks Manufacturing EMEA BV (“Starbucks Manufacturing”), based in the Netherlands, is the only coffee roasting company in the Starbucks group in Europe. It sells and distributes roasted coffee and coffee-related products (e.g. cups, packaged food, pastries) to Starbucks outlets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The Commission’s investigation showed that a tax ruling issued by the Dutch authorities in 2008 gave a selective advantage to Starbucks Manufacturing, which has unduly reduced Starbucks Manufacturing’s tax burden since 2008 by €20 – €30 million. In particular, the ruling artificially lowered taxes paid by Starbucks Manufacturing in two ways:

  • Starbucks Manufacturing pays a very substantial royalty to Alki (a UK-based company in the Starbucks group) for coffee-roasting know-how.
  • It also pays an inflated price for green coffee beans to Switzerland-based Starbucks Coffee Trading SARL.

The Commission’s investigation established that the royalty paid by Starbucks Manufacturing to Alki cannot be justified as it does not adequately reflect market value. In fact, only Starbucks Manufacturing is required to pay for using this know-how – no other Starbucks group company nor independent roasters to which roasting is outsourced are required to pay a royalty for using the same know-how in essentially the same situation. In the case of Starbucks Manufacturing, however, the existence and level of the royalty means that a large part of its taxable profits are unduly shifted to Alki, which is neither liable to pay corporate tax in the UK, nor in the Netherlands.

Furthermore, the investigation revealed that Starbucks Manufacturing’s tax base is also unduly reduced by the highly inflated price it pays for green coffee beans to a Swiss company, Starbucks Coffee Trading SARL. In fact, the margin on the beans has more than tripled since 2011. Due to this high key cost factor in coffee roasting, Starbucks Manufacturing’s coffee roasting activities alone would not actually generate sufficient profits to pay the royalty for coffee-roasting know-how to Alki. The royalty therefore mainly shifts to Alki profits generated from sales of other products sold to the Starbucks outlets, such as tea, pastries and cups, which represent most of the turnover of Starbucks Manufacturing.

The EC estimates the Netherlands lost between €20 and €30 million from the tax dodge and tasked the Dutch government to recover the lost revenue.

So we’ll keep drinking our home brew morning lattes and keep skipping the “Starbucks experience.”

And if you really want to kill that Starbucks urge, just consider what goes into their best-selling Pumpkin Spice Latte [and there’s no pumpkins involved].

Climate change good for the far north only

Russia, Canada, Mongolia, Scandanavia, Greenland, and the Baltic would benefit from global warming, while everyone else would be left out in the cold heat.

From Nature, via Stanford University [PDF], and click on the image to enlarge:


More from the UC Berkeley news service:

Unmitigated climate change is likely to reduce the income of an average person on Earth by roughly 23 percent in 2100, according to estimates contained in research published today in the journal Nature that is co-authored by two University of California, Berkeley professors.

The findings indicate climate change will widen global inequality, perhaps dramatically, because warming is good for cold countries, which tend to be richer, and more harmful for hot countries, which tend to be poorer. In the researchers’ benchmark estimate, climate change will reduce average income in the poorest 40 percent of countries by 75 percent in 2100, while the richest 20 percent may experience slight gains.

The Nature paper focuses on effects of climate change via temperature, and does not include impacts via other consequences of climate change such as hurricanes or sea level rise. Detailed results and figures for each country are available for download online.

UC Berkeley’s Solomon Hsiang, Chancellor’s Associate Professor of Public Policy, was a co-leader of the study with Marshall Burke, a 2014 Ph.D. graduate from Berkeley and an assistant professor in earth system science at Stanford University. Berkeley’s Edward Miguel, Oxfam Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics, co-authored the results.

Co-author Michael Burke of Stanford explains:

Our paper, published online Oct 21st 2015 in the journal Nature, seeks to answer two main questions:

  1. In recent years, how has economic output around the world been affected by changes in temperature and precipitation?
  2. What do these historical responses imply about the potential future impacts of climate change?

To answer question 1, we analyzed changes in temperature and changes in economic output (as measured by per capita gross domestic product) for 166 countries for the years 1960-2010. To answer question 2, we combined these historical estimates with projections of future climate change from global climate models, and projections of how countries’ economies might develop absent climate change

Our findings demonstrate that changes in temperature have substantially shaped economic growth in both rich and poor countries over the last half century, and that future warming is likely to reduce global economic output, relative to a world without climate change.

List of the day: Top lobbying power at the EU

Following up on today’s quote of the day, just what corporations are bankrolling the massive lobbying push at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels as the end of negotiations nears for the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?

From, drawing on the European Union’s transparency registry, the top ten biggest spenders in Brussels:

  1. ExxonMobil €4.5-5mn (previous year: €4.75-5mn)
  2. Shell €4.5-5mn (previous year: €4.25-4.5mn)
  3. Microsoft €4.5-4.75mn (previous year: €4.5-4.75mn)
  4. Deutsche Bank €3.962mn (previous year: €1.99mn)
  5. Dow Europe €3.75-4mn (previous year: €800,000-900,000)
  6. Google €3.75-4mn (previous year: €1.25mn-1.5mn)
  7. General Electric €3.5-3.75mn (previous year: €3.25-3.5mn)
  8. Siemens €3.23mn (previous year: €4.35 mn)
  9. Huawei €3mn (previous year: €3mn)
  10. BP €2.5-3mn (previous year: €1.25mn-1.5mn)

Free [for corporations only] trade agreements

Another hard-hitting documentary from Dutch public television network VPRO, this time focusing on the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership now in the final stage of negotiation.

As with other free trade agreements, most notably NAFTA, the “freedom” involved belongs to multinational corporations, and not the citizens of the nations involved, the corporations to take states to secret tribunals to block laws created to protect the public.

From VPRO Backlight:

Documentary: TTIP: Might is Right

Program notes:

The proposed free trade agreement between the US and Europe (TTIP) causes concern about the European right to self-determination. The most controversial part of TTIP is ISDS: investor-state dispute settlement. ISDS will make it possible for companies to sue governments that damage their investments. But is this arbitrage system where a few investment lawyers decide over billions of taxpayers money a protection of our business interests, or a threat to our democracy?

On Saturday, October 10, tens of thousands of European citizens took to the streets, and more than 2.5 million signatures were offered to the European Commission. The source of this concern and protest is the free trade agreement TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) between the United States and the EU, which would create the world’s largest free-trade zone. According to the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade Lilianne Ploumen, TTIP could be realized as soon as 2016; the negotiations are well under way. If the EU ratifies the trade agreement, critics fear that the scales will tilt toward North-American standards and values with regard to (food) safety, workers’ and consumer rights. And that when it comes to important collective achievements and protection of its citizens, Europe will give up its right to self-determination.

The part of the trade agreement that’s questioned the most is ISDS, or investor-state dispute settlement, which can be used by companies to dispute a country’s laws and rules, if a company feels unfairly treated. This will enable multinationals to circumvent democratic decisions and existing national jurisdiction. In order to understand the potential consequences of this, VPRO Backlight traveled to Canada, which became one of the most sued countries in the world after it entered into a trade agreement with the US. American companies now summon the Canadian government to appear before an arbitration tribunal if they feel that Canadian rules aren’t in compliance with the free trade agreement Nafta. Despite democratic decisions against fracking under Canada’s most important river, the Saint Lawrence, the Canadian government was sued for millions of dollars by the oil and shale gas company Lone Pine.

Could this happen in the Netherlands as well? In spite of resistance, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp (VVD) doesn’t rule out the possibility of future fracking in the Netherlands. VPRO Backlight probed the opinions at an information meeting organized by the Dutch Oil and Gas Company in Saaksum, Groningen. The locals there seem more and more convinced that fossil fuels should stay where they are: underground. But then no profit would be made from them anymore. The question is if this could result in ISDS claims in the future. Or should we welcome ISDS? Because it’s also crucial for the position of the Netherlands as a world leader in legal and financial services. It will protect the tens of billions of Dutch foreign investments.

British Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang wonders what free trade really means in this day and age. Because there has long been a largely free movement of goods between the US and EU, with few tariff walls. So whose interest will the controversial TTIP and ISDS serve then? And in the service of whom or what is the law, when it comes to international investment arbitration? Isn’t in the end, might right?

With: Steve Verheul (Canadian negotiator for the trade agreement between Canada and the EU), Gus van Harten (Canadian lawyer and ISDS expert), Nikos Lavranos (former negotiator for the Netherlands, currently ISDS investment consultant) and Ha-Joon

Director: Roland Duong
Research: William de Bruijn
Producers: Jolanda Segers, Bircan Unlu

Headline of the day: Bibi’s new level of crazy

And even Germany agrees, via the Guardian:

Germany refuses to accept Netanyahu’s claim Palestinian inspired Holocaust

Germany says it has no reason to change its view of history after Israel’s prime minister blames mufti of Jerusalem for inciting Holocaust

Another German also disagrees, via EF Productions:

Hitler Finds Out That Bibi Thinks the Grand Mufti Convinced Hitler to Kill Jews

Program note:

Yes, this is another Downfall parody video.