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French prime minister says TTIP against Europe’s interests

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Following the Brexit vote and the loss of the United Kingdom’s backing in the ratification process for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), support from France for CETA’s sister trade deal between the EU and the United States also appears to be in danger.

Agence France-Presse reports, “French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday blasted a planned EU-US trade treaty [the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership], saying the ambitious deal was against ‘EU interests’.”

The prime minister told members of the governing Socialist Party, “No free trade agreement should be concluded if it does not respect EU interests. Europe should be firm. France will be vigilant about this. I can tell you frankly, there cannot be a transatlantic treaty agreement. This agreement is not on track. …[TTIP] would impose a viewpoint which would not only be a breeding ground for populism, but also quite simply be a viewpoint that would be bad for our economy.”

If Canadian officials were counting on the support of France, which is de facto now the European Union’s second largest economy, to get CETA ratified, this may suggest they don’t have that backing.

In February 2014, Agence Europe reported, “France ‘is not in favour’ of including in [TTIP] a settlement mechanism for disputes between the investor and state, as [French minister for trade Nicole] Bricq believes that a state to state dispute mechanism ‘is enough’. France is not alone on this issue – Germany is also ‘very reluctant’, Bricq says.”

And in February 2015, the French Senate voted in favour of a resolution calling for the abandonment of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision in CETA if substantial changes cannot be negotiated. This followed a November 2014 vote in which the National Assembly adopted a resolution that states it “opposes any mechanism for arbitration of disputes between states and investors and therefore requests the substantial revision of Chapters 10 and 33 on the protection of investments.” Chapter 10 is CETA’s investment chapter, which includes the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, while Chapter 33 outlines CETA’s dispute resolution process.

The British government was reportedly instrumental in addressing the French government’s concerns about the investment provision in CETA.

While ISDS in CETA has now been replaced by an ICS (investment court system) provision, a recent report by five our closest allies found that the ICS provision would still allow the most controversial ISDS challenges launched under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to proceed. This includes TransCanada’s US$15 billion NAFTA challenge against the United States over US president Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL 830,000 barrel per day tar sands pipeline, Lone Pine’s $250 million NAFTA challenge over Quebec’s moratorium on fracking for oil and gas under the St. Lawrence River, and Bilcon’s US$300 million NAFTA challenge against an environmental impact assessment that stopped the construction of a quarry and marine terminal in a sensitive coastal area.

There is immense opposition to TTIP in Europe along with a growing awareness that even if Europeans were able to derail TTIP, more than 42,000 American transnational corporations with operations in Canada could still use the investment protection provision in CETA, should it be ratified, to challenge European laws and regulations.

Following the Brexit vote, CETA has been variously reported as in “a holding pattern”, “scuttled” or even as “probably dead”.

For more on our campaign to stop CETA, please click here.