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French Senate calls for ISDS to be removed from CETA

The French Senate.

The French Senate.

State level opposition in Europe to the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision continues to grow.

EurActiv France reports, “The French Senate united on Tuesday (February 3) in its opposition to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism. …The different political groups all voted in favour of a proposal for a European resolution calling for the abandonment of the arbitration mechanism in [the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement] with Canada, if substantial changes cannot be negotiated.”

While the Council of Canadians has advocated for the removal of the ISDS provision from CETA, the news service notes, “The resolution [passed by the French Senate also] proposes ‘allowing recourse to an international dispute settlement system for investments, based on the World Trade Organisation’s dispute settlement system’. …Matthias Fekl, the French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, called for ‘the creation of a permanent international court that could be based in Europe’, charged with resolving disputes between investors and states.”

More significantly, the news report adds, “The last option listed in the proposal, and the most radical, is to ‘entirely abolish the dispute settlement mechanism for investments with Canada’, included in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement already negotiated with Ottawa last year. This last option enjoys the support of the French government. …The [French] Secretary of State has not ruled out making changes to the ISDS clause in the CETA agreement…”

The French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade says, “As long as the process of ratifying a consolidated text has not begun, nothing is set in stone. Otherwise we would have a real democratic problem.” The Harper government, however, says CETA talks are completed and that the investor-state provision in it is non-negotiable. That may be because late last year, then European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht warned, “If the negotiations are reopened, the deal is dead.”

This news follows an earlier vote in November 2014 in both the French National Assembly and Senate which opposed the investor-state rules in CETA.

Various other reports have noted that Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Belgium and Italy are also concerned about the investor-state provision. The new Syriza government in Greece has previously indicated that it would veto the ratification of CETA. Earlier this week, Georgios Katrougkalos, the deputy minister for administrative reform, also stated, “I can assure you that a Parliament where Syriza hold the majority will never ratify [the US-EU ‘free trade’ deal now being negotiated]. And this will be a big gift not only to the Greek people but to all European people.” While Syriza is two seats short of a majority in the Hellenic Parliament, its coalition partner is also opposed to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The Council of Canadians supports the French government’s call to reopen CETA and to remove from it the investor-state provision. We call on the Harper government, all opposition parties and provincial governments to publicly support this resolution.

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

Further reading
Germany and France want to reopen CETA to amend ISDS provision (January 2015 blog)
National Assembly, Senate in France adopt resolutions opposing CETA investment rules (December 2014 blog)