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Barlow challenges CETA in Sweden

Photo by Skiftet

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow is in Stockholm, Sweden right now speaking against the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

This morning the Swedish social justice group Skiftet (Shift) has tweeted:

  • Maude Barlow of @CouncilofCDNs talks about CETA and how it threatens to lock in privatizations.

  • Maude Barlow wants to renegotiate CETA so that it puts the focus on raising standards. “We have time. No holding a gun to our head.”

  • Canada has the world’s worst mining according Barlow. The country has much lower standards than the EU because of the informal NAFTA process.

  • With CETA will lobbyists learn more about the new laws before the population gets it says Barlow.

You can read more of their tweets (in Swedish) at @SkiftetSE

The current Prime Minister of Sweden is Stefan Löfven. His Social Democratic Party holds 113 seats in the 349-seat parliament and is in a coalition government with the Greens which holds 25 seats.

While Löfven is a Social Democrat, and a long-time member of the labour movement, as well as the first chair of the trade union IF Metall, he has also been a supporter of so-called ‘free trade’ agreements.

Löfven has commented, “In Sweden we have an export rate of 50 per cent of our GDP. Then understand after all that we have the benefit of free trade. Free trade agreement between the EU and the US are basically good. You cannot start at the other end and say that free trade agreements are fundamentally bad. But on the other hand, it must not be on any terms, and I am also clear. Free Trade Agreement shall not impair the social conditions or human rights, it is not for it. It is to lift trade and remove various barriers, tariffs and duties. It should start in the positive end.”

The Embassy of Sweden in Ottawa states, “CETA will definitely generate new opportunities for business growth and employment in both Sweden and Canada. The CETA agreement represents the most ambitious and comprehensive agreement of its kind to date.”

And Business Sweden, a trade and investment council owned by the Swedish government and industry, says, “In its scope, the CETA is even more extensive then the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and will result in large opportunities for Swedish – and European – companies looking to establish themselves on the Canadian market.”

It is notable that a Swedish energy company is at the centre of an emblematic investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) case.

In 2009, the Swedish energy company Vattenfall initiated an ISDS challenge against Germany using the investment protection provision in the European Union’s Energy Charter. Vattenfall claimed that the quality control regulations Hamburg put on the use and discharge of cooling water negatively impacted the coal-fired power plant they were constructing on the Elbe River. The Swedish company sought about $2.4 billion in compensation. The case was settled when the City of Hamburg agreed to lower the environmental protections for the river.

Many see this type of ‘investment protection’ as the most egregious aspect of corporate rights agreements like CETA and the United States-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). More than 29,000 people in Sweden have signed a petition that calls for TTIP negotiations to be stopped and for CETA not to be ratified.

Barlow will be at meetings in Stockholm (today), then in Copenhagen (September 7-8), as well as in Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö (September 9). On September 17, she will be at the massive anti-CETA rally in Stuttgart, Germany. More than 30,000 people are expected to be at that protest.