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Austrian chancellor calls for ISDS to be removed from CETA

Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann wants the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) to be renegotiated given his concerns about the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision. Faymann, who is also the chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ), has been the country’s chancellor since October 2008.

The German-language newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has reported, “Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann (SPÖ) has practiced severe criticism of the planned free trade agreement CETA and TTIP. The planned special rights for groups he considered dangerous, he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Public courts and the rule of law would be undermined by private arbitration. The ready-negotiated agreement with Canada, he questioned. The results presented by the EU he was not satisfied, he continued, ‘Austria wants an agreement without ISDS’ (investor-state dispute settlement).”

The article adds, “Faymann calls on the EU Commission is also a clear voice for the national parliaments. …It is now the task of the national parliaments to examine the final agreement with Canada and to inform the public about the advantages and disadvantages. On the issue of safeguards he wanted to stay persistent, Faymann said. ‘The agreement with Canada will serve as a model for the much larger with the United States. Therefore, it is now important to create already with the CETA agreement a model without ISDS.’ ‘This is about a long-term decision. These agreements will also affect the lives of our children and grandchildren’, he added.”

The Canadian ambassador to Austria is “irritated” by this position.

The German-language newspaper Die Presse interviewed Ambassador Mark Bailey on Austria’s concerns about CETA.

On Austria’s skepticism of CETA, Bailey says, “We are a little irritated. If we consider the situation in Austria and the performance of the economy, but we see that this country has benefited hugely from liberalized markets. Of course it benefited primarily within the European Union, but also by the growing relations with other economies. I have contact with many Austrian companies that are interested in an expansion of its international collaborations. And also because I see that Austria has gained immensely from globalization. Now, when people make a more of this success in question, I am amazed. I guess that has no economic, but rather emotional reasons, related to other political issues.”

On whether CETA can be renegotiated given concerns about the ISDS provision, Bailey adds, “He must, of course, the first of its partners in the European Union to convince. As I know from other Member States, which is quite a challenge. Because most of these do not want to renegotiate. The Canadian government believes that we have made an excellent contract here. It is an extremely balanced agreement that includes benefits and concessions and from both sides. If we take out as a part, could tip the balance. We have come to the conclusion that [the investor-state provisions] are a necessity for a modern trade and investment agreements.”

In September 2014, we noted in this campaign blog that the National Council (one of the two houses of the Austrian parliament) was critical of CETA being declared “complete” and that the Austrian federal minister (of the economy) Reinhold Mitterlehner spoke against this situation in Brussels.

And contrary to Mr. Bailey’s assertion, there is opposition to ISDS and CETA in other EU member state countries. Just last week, the Hungarian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade István Mikola said there was a political consensus that the Hungarian parliament would not ratify CETA for the time being because it cannot accept the ISDS provision in the agreement.

For an overview of EU member state opposition to CETA, please see this campaign blog.

It is believed that the legal scrubbing and translation of CETA could be completed by this December and that voting in member state national legislatures could begin in January 2016.

For more on the Council of Canadians campaign against the ratification of CETA, please click here.