Another trade deal running into trouble

The revisiting of the controversial EU- Canada trade agreement is being played down as 'legal adjustments'


The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), the controversial trade deal between Canada and the EU,  once again run into trouble. Again it is the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause that’s causing problems.

According to reports leaking from Canada, EU officials secretly approached Justin Trudeau’s new government in Canada asking to revisit the controversial ISDS clause, as it was becoming increasingly clear that even with a ‘revised clause’ the deal would run into trouble and possibly a humiliating defeat in the European Parliament later this year.

This is becoming a particular concern as momentum against CETA and TTIP  picks up across Europe, led by trade unions and campaigning groups as well as socialist MEPs.

Negotiations for CETA were supposed to have concluded in the summer of 2014, and although the deal was initialled nothing has been signed off.

The campaign against CETA has highlighted that it sets a bad precedent for other trade deals – notably the US-EU deal TTIP.

The revisiting of the deal is being played down as ‘legal adjustments’ or ‘scrubbing’ as the text is translated into 23 languages.

Negotiators have been meeting weekly by video conference, but the wrangling has dragged on. The EU negotiators believes this section can be reworked as part of the legal ‘scrub’.

The ISDS clause Canada negotiated on CETA is consistent with other trade deals in allowing businesses protection from government decision-making, and giving corporations an opportunity to claim damages if they believe a government decision affects them.

Critics of the ISDS clauses point out how expensive things can get for ordinary taxpayers when corporations sue governments. The US are past masters and highly skilled at winning – and dragging out – these disputes.

ISDS has proven to be extremely unpopular as part of TTIP. In January 2105 the European Commission released the results of a public consultation on ISDS that revealed that 97 per cent of thousands of respondents were opposed to its inclusion as part of any deal.

The EU has proposed a new ‘Investment Court System’ (ICS) proposing permanently appointed judges, a formal court of appeal and clear rules to make things ‘fair’, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. The US does not like this idea at all as it could affect TTIP negotiations and would be inconsistent with TPP, the 12 nation Pacific Rim – US deal.

Veteran campaigner Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians, who has campaigned in the EU against the deal says: “I don’t think it could pass the European Parliament as it stands now.”

Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite responsible for manufacturing

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