CETA moves forward, but without controversial 'investment protection' provisions

This protest against CETA is taking place this hour in front of the European Commission building in Brussels.

An 11th hour deal has been struck between Belgium and the Belgian region of Wallonia to allow the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) to move forward.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted, "CETA deal has been made. Must see what it says. Will not be an easy ride even now. Horrible flawed deal and process. CETA 'deal' likely includes no ICS (ISDS) to be adopted right away which means it might never be in CETA at all! This would be huge."

And she has told the Canadian Press, "It is a mishmash of strange compromises including that the regions of Belgium will still likely decide not to ratify, which would mean that Belgium cannot ratify. CETA in fact could be as dead as it was yesterday. It also sends the ICS - the provision that allows foreign investors to sue governments - to the European Court of Justice for a ruling on whether it is compatible with EU treaties. Any decision on regulatory cooperation can still be blocked by Belgium’s regions and they can restrict Canadian market access on agricultural products. This has a long long way to go before it is real, and no amount of ceremony with a formal looking signing by our Prime Minister in Brussels can change this fact."

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel made the announcement about concessions on CETA early this morning. And Wallonian minister-president Paul Magnette now says, "We always fought for treaties that reinforced the social and environmental standards, protect the public services and that there is no private arbitration [in dispute settlements]. All this is achieved as of now."

EU Observer reports, "The Belgians agreed to a general safeguard clause, which would allow any regional entity within a federal structure like Belgium's to withdraw the country from CETA. They also want a contested investment protection system to become a real public court, amid fears that the mechanism, in its current shape, is biased towards corporate interests. Farmers would also see special protection and support measures triggered if they are hurt by Canadian competition."

But the deal came too late to allow for the Canada-EU signing ceremony to take place in Brussels today as had been planned.

The Council of the European Union will still have to formally agree to the deal and the 751-member European Parliament will need to ratify it as well. Following that, significant portions of CETA would be provisionally applied before the 28 EU member states and 38 parliaments have the opportunity to vote on the deal. That said, a German constitutional court ruling on October 13 means that CETA's most controversial provision - its investment court system (ICS) provision - cannot come into force until approved by all member states and parliaments.

This means that the ICS provision cannot be implemented until after the 2-3 year process of member state votes, and the hope and likelihood that it will not secure the unanimity needed to ever come into force.

A German constitutional court ruling from October 13 also means that provisional application will not apply to portfolio investments (Chapters 8 and 13), international maritime transport (Chapter 14), mutual recognition of vocational qualifications (Chapter 11), and protection of workers (Chapter 23).