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Council of Canadians opposes ISDS in Canada-India ‘free trade’ agreement

Harper and Modi sign

The Council of Canadians is working to stop the Canada-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and in particular an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision in it. Last week, the Harper government in Canada and the Modi government in India vowed to complete the deal by this September.

The Tyee reports, “But Brent Patterson of the Council of Canadians, an Ottawa-based public advocacy group, said such deals put corporations ahead of people by neutralizing the government’s power to enforce things like pollution regulations through investor state provisions. ‘The deals do infringe on the right of democratically elected governments to act in the public interest’, Patterson said. ‘Sometimes we still have elected governments that don’t act in the public interest by pursuing and signing and ratifying agreements like this.'”

The article adds, “Investor-state dispute provisions in such agreements are of particular concern, because they allow companies to take governments to secret arbitration for things like loss of future profits if, for example, a government passes a law that harms the companies’ business interests. Patterson said that could apply to things like banning certain pesticides and other pollution prevention measures, among other situations. Similar concerns were expressed when Harper signed the controversial Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China last year.”

The Toronto Star has reported, “A free-trade pact with India would increase sales of a Canadian exports sectors such as forest products, minerals, manufactured goods, agricultural products, fish and seafood products, machinery, construction materials, aerospace and environmental technologies, the federal government said.” In 2012, Reuters reported, “[Then energy minister Joe] Oliver said he would try to boost Canadian energy exports to India. Canada exported $1.4 billion worth of natural resources to India last year — including only $4.1 million in energy products — and Oliver said he sees great potential for more trade.”

That “potential” could includes greater Indian investment in the tar sands (and the Reliance refinery in Jamnagar as a destination for Energy East tar sands exports), uranium exports to India, and the export to India of Canadian expertise in the infrastructure for hydroelectric transmission (related to the controversial construction of dams).

The Tyee news report highlights, “The Council of Canadians is now in talks with Focus on the Global South, an organization working to protect the rights of people in the Southern Hemisphere’s developing nations with offices in Bangkok, New Delhi and Manila. The aim is to get both organizations working together, possibly with others, to try to prevent the CEPA between Canada and India from being finalized. …’Pollution of the air, water and land is going to be a concern to anyone anywhere in the world’, he said.”

The Council of Canadians opposes investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions in ‘free trade’ and ‘investor protection’ agreements, such as the proposed Canada-India CEPA and FIPA. We call for transparent and democratic negotiations for fair trade agreements that benefit people, respect human rights and protect the environment. We reject ‘free trade’ agreements that constrain governments from acting in the public interest and that entrench corporate rights.

Photo by Harjap Grewal.