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Council of Canadians presents to European parliamentary delegation on CETA

This morning, the Council of Canadians joined with civil society representatives from the Trade Justice Network, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale to present to a delegation of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) visiting Canada.


The delegation included Lola Sanchez Caldentey (aligned with PODEMOS in Spain) of the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left, which is opposed to CETA and expected to vote against its ratification.


The delegation also included Bernd Lange (Germany), Sorin Moisa (Romania) and Jude Kirton-Darling (United Kingdom) from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. The S&Ds have expressed concern about the investor-state dispute settlement provision, but with the recent amendments to that provision that may soften their opposition, it’s critical to keep them onside to defeat CETA.


And it included David Borelli (Italy) of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group, which is believed to be opposed to CETA.


The remaining MEPs in the delegation were from parliamentary groupings believed to be supportive of CETA: Marietje Schaake (Netherlands) of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, David Campbell-Bannerman (UK) of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, and Artis Pabriks (Latvia) of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats).


As such, the MEPs we met with represent parliamentary groupings of 291 MEPs most likely opposed to CETA and 358 MEPs most likely in favour.


In my presentation, I raised the investor-state dispute settlement provision, food safety and regulatory convergence with the MEPs.


I highlighted:


– “We stand with the more than 3.4 million Europeans have signed a petition against the ratification of CETA, noting in particular its ISDS provision. We also stand with the largest association of judges in Germany who recently spoke against what has been presented as a new and improved version of the ISDS provision. …If England opted to stop paying higher water rates and brought its privatized water services back into the public realm. Canadian investors could challenge that. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owns 27 per cent of Northumbrian Water Group Plc and the Canada Pension Plan owns one-third of Anglian Water Services. Both are highly profitable enterprises for these Canadian pension funds.”


– “Under CETA, Canadian beef producers would be able to sell an additional 50,000 tonnes of beef a year, an increase from the current quota is 15,000 tonnes. In September 2012, U.S. food inspectors found E. coli bacteria in a shipment of beef from the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta. In 2014, E. coli was again found in meat exported to the United States from the same plant in Alberta which is now owned by the Brazilian company JBS Food Canada. This is the plant where 40 per cent of the cattle in Canada is slaughtered. This situation is exacerbated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency laying off 100 food-safety inspectors to cut costs.”


– “Other areas of regulatory concern might include our differences over Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone, also known as BGH or rBST, a hormone injected into dairy cows to increase their milk production. While it may be illegal in Canada to administer BGH to cows to boost their milk production, Global Affairs Canada says, ‘There is no scientific basis for restricting trade in milk or dairy products.’ As you know, the EU banned the use of BGH because it substantially increases health problems in cows.” And while all use of asbestos was banned in the EU in 2005, asbestos mining and export is not banned in Canada.


Of these arguments, it seemed that our food safety concerns resonated even with the MEPs who support CETA.


In that regard, I noted that under CETA more Canadian apples will be heading to Europe. That’s because European negotiators agreed that the 9 per cent EU seasonal tariff on Canadian apples will be reduced to 0 per cent. In March 2015, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency gave permission to a British Columbia-based company – Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. – to grow and sell a genetically modified apple in Canada. The apple has been genetically modified so that it does not brown when cut or bruised. Significant planting of this apple is expected to begin next year, perhaps the year CETA goes to a ratification vote.


I also raised our concern that in Nov. 2015 the US Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to an American company to market its genetically modified fish as a food product and that Health Canada may adopt a similar policy. This salmon will contain a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a gene from an ocean pout, an eel-like fish, so that it will grow to maturity at twice the normal rate. Those eggs will be produced in Prince Edward Island.


I highlighted that since CETA has a mechanism to “discuss and attempt to prevent or resolve” non-tariff barrier relating to agricultural exports, and given Canada has no laws for mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, MEPs should be concerned that CETA could mean these “foods” could make their way on to the dinner tables of Europeans.


During the meeting, Lange, who is the Chair of the European Parliament’s committee on international trade, suggested that CETA could go to the European Parliament for a ratification vote late this year or in January 2017.