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Council of Canadians meets with Paul Magnette to discuss CETA

(left-right) Paul Magnette, Sujata Dey, Ronald Cameron, Quebec Solidaire leader Amir Khadir, key allies.

Council of Canadians trade campaigner Sujata Dey met with Paul Magnette, the minister-president of the Belgian region of Wallonia, this morning in Montreal alongside other allies to discuss the implications Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

In October 2016, Magnette made international headlines when he called on Canada and the European Union to postpone the CETA signing ceremony (scheduled for October 27) and examine the implications of CETA.

While CETA was signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the European Union on October 30, it still needs to be ratified by 38 national and regional parliaments in Europe, including the Parliament of Wallonia, to be fully implemented.

On March 26, The Globe and Mail reported, “The trade deal between Canada and the European Union is facing a new challenge from the Belgium region of Wallonia which is threatening to block final ratification of the agreement. Magnette said in an interview that his government will not support the CETA trade deal when it comes up for ratification unless changes are made to how disputes are resolved. Mr. Magnette also said his government is challenging the legality of the dispute resolution mechanism in the European Court of Justice, which could take at least two years to rule.”

This European Law blog explains, “The issue of the compatibility of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and ICS (a form of ISDS) with the Treaties has been a contentious issue among EU law insiders for a while. Recently 101 law professors objected to ICS in an open letter because ICS is ‘in strong tension with the rule of law and  democratic  principles  enshrined  in  national  constitutions  and  European  law’. …The European Association of Judges (representing 44 national associations of judges) and the German Association of Judges (representing 16 0000 German judges and public prosecutors) have opposed ICS inter alia on the ground that the system might not be compatible with EU law.”

The Council of Canadians has been clear in its opposition to the Investment Court System (ICS) now incorporated into CETA.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “ICS fails to require foreign investors – like everyone else, including domestic investors – to go to a country’s domestic courts before seeking an international remedy. The proposed investment court system still gives a special status to foreign corporations by allowing them to challenge the laws that apply to everyone else through a special system outside established court systems.”

Furthermore, the report Investment Court System put to the test published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe, Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung, and the Transnational Institute found that ICS reform in CETA would still allow the most controversial ISDS challenges launched under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to proceed.

The London, Hamilton, Guelph, South Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Quill Plains (Wynyard) chapters have all written Magnette to express their support for his concerns about the ‘investment protection’ provisions in CETA.