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European free trade deal talks paused over Trudeau’s insistence on investor-state provision

The Storting (the Norwegian Parliament), Norway, Oslo.

The Norwegian government has put a pause on ‘free trade’ talks given the Trudeau government’s demand for an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision in the Canada-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) agreement.

The EFTA includes Canada and the non-European Union member countries Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

In this January 2016 blog, we noted that the EFTA, ratified in 2009, was in the process of being updated and that it could include the controversial ISDS provision.

Now, this blog (in Norwegian) by Petter Slaatrem Titland at Attac Norway reports, “The negotiations have stopped. Canada requires Norway to join a so-called investor-state court (ISDS), where companies can sue states for regulations they believe violates the agreement. [On June 7], Trade Minister Monica Mæland announced that the reorganization with Canada has stopped due to Canada’s requirements for investor-state court.”

He then highlights, “This is a victory for civil society that has worked to stop such a court in Norway since the proposal for the first time appeared 9 years ago.”

But he cautions that the pause in the talks may have more to do with the Ministry of Food and Fisheries (which is conducting the talks) not having a mandate on this issue and that the Norwegian government will announce a decision in August that could endorse investment protection provisions.

Attac Norway will continue to raise this issue, especially in the lead up to the general election in Norway this coming September 11.

This is not the first time the Trudeau government appears to have been insistent on so-called investment protection provisions in such an agreement.

In this February 2016 blog, we noted that Embassy reported, “The Hindu newspaper reported last month that Canadian officials had frozen the ongoing [free trade] talks [with India] until it agreed to sign the [Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement that included investor-state arbitration mechanisms]. …The move comes weeks after India released its ‘model’ for negotiating investment treaties going forward.”

That article highlighted, “The Model BIT [put forward by India] requires investors to pursue disputes in domestic courts for at least five years before moving on to international arbitration.”

The Council of Canadians calls on the Trudeau government to drop its insistence on investment-protection provisions (like ISDS and the Investment Court System in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and other damaging provisions common in ‘free trade’ agreements.

The Labour Party Manifesto highlighted in the recent election in the United Kingdom, “Labour opposes parallel investor-state dispute systems for multinational corporations and we will open a dialogue with trading partners on alternative options that provide investor protection whilst guaranteeing equality before the law.”