CETA is bad for workers, environment, public services and democracy, and it is set to come to European Parliaments as early as 2016
One year ago Canada and the EU finalised a trade deal known as CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).
If you haven’t heard of CETA, what you need to know is simple – it’s like TTIP but coming sooner.
CETA is bad for workers, environment, public services and democracy, and it is set to come to European Parliaments as early as 2016. If CETA gets voted through it will make it easier for bad deals like TTIP to be successful. This is why the TUC has launched an online petition calling on MEPs to say no to CETA – we want as many people as possible to sign and share it.
The big danger in CETA is that it contains Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), the notorious corporate court system which allows foreign investors to sue governments for policies they regard as threatening future profits. This could include minimum wage policies, environmental protection, and renationalising public transport, health and education services.
Canadian investors have been eager to use ISDS in the past, with the Canadian company Methanex suing the state of California for banning chemicals that risked contaminating the state’s drinking water.
EU investors are heavy users of ISDS too. In one case, a Dutch company called Achmea used ISDS to sue Slovakia before it joined the EU for renationalising its health service which has resulted in Slovakia being forced to pay 1.32 million Euros in arbitration costs so far.
US investors with bases in Canada will be able to sue our governments for billions too – so they wouldn’t need TTIP’s ISDS to do damage. 80 per cent of US companies operating in the EU have bases in Canada.
Yet on workers’ rights CETA contains no such provisions: no compensation, no enforcement, and certainly no special courts.
Advocates of CETA have tried to assure us that public services are protected in the deal. This is clearly false. There is no carve out for public services from the investment chapter of CETA and inadequate carve outs in the market access chapter, which mean that states are laid open to challenges for regulating their public services in ways that can be interpreted as disadvantaging foreign investors.
CETA will also allow corporations to ignore or challenge environmental regulations and targets to cut emissions. This has already happened in other trade agreements with the USA using ISDS in NAFTA to challenge anti-fracking laws in Canada.
This clearly undermines the democratic mandate of governments and their ability to regulate in the interests of the public, rather than private profit.
On Monday, there was a change of government in Canada with the Liberal party taking power. This offers the opportunity for a new approach on trade, hopefully one which puts workers’ rights and public wellbeing at its heart.
In Europe, while politicians in some countries such as France, Germany and Greece have voiced concerns over CETA, we still have a way to go to make sure MEPs and MPs vote against the deal. You can take an important step by signing the TUC petition today.
Rosa Crawford is international policy officer at the TUC
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