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Germany and France want to reopen CETA to amend ISDS provision

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted:

EurActiv reports that the governments of Germany and France want to reopen the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The news service reports (in French), “France and Germany want to change the dispute resolution clause between investors and states of the EU-Canada trade agreement, although the negotiations were completed in October 2013.”

It adds, “On 21 January, the [French] Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Matthias Fekl went to Berlin to meet Sigmar Gabriel, the [German] Minister of Economy and Matthias Machnig, the Federal Secretary for Economic Affairs. In a joint statement, the ministers of the two countries have called on the Commission and Member States to consider ‘all options changes’ of the arbitration clause in the agreement with Canada.” A foreign ministry source adds, “What is important is that for the first time the Germans agree two the link on arbitration within CETA and TTIP.”

The French government is reportedly looking at options such as: 1) bringing national courts into the investor-state system; 2) establishing an appeal system administered by an international organization so that arbitration tribunal decisions could be challenged; and 3) addressing conflict of interest issues in arbitration cases.

Yannick Jadot, a French Member of the European Parliament with the Group of the Greens/ European Free Alliance, says, “They have not gone far enough. It is necessary that Member States hear that European citizens do not just want a change at the margin of the arbitration, but removal of the provision. …While the Commission considers that negotiations are concluded, Member States say they are not satisfied.” He adds if the investor-state dispute settlement provision is adopted in CETA it would be a de facto agreement with the US too given “large US companies all have subsidiaries in Canada.”

The Harper government, however, says CETA talks are completed and that the investor-state provision in it is non-negotiable. In response to the statement by Germany and France, a Canadian official told EurActiv, “Canada and the EU have negotiated an ambitious, balanced and beneficial to both parties which includes the ISDS and we remain committed to put into effect as soon as possible.” The European Commission has not yet responded to the statements from Berlin and Paris.

In September 2014, then European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht warned, “If the negotiations are reopened, the deal is dead.”

EurActiv concludes, “Opposition is strong to investor-state in CETA in the European Parliament and it is uncertain if there is a majority there to ratify the agreement.” It is possible that 391 members of the 751-member body could vote against CETA. Various other reports have noted that Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Belgium and Italy are also concerned about the investor-state provision. The new Syriza government in Greece – elected yesterday – has previously indicated that it would veto the ratification of CETA.

It is expected that ratification votes on CETA could begin in 2016.

Further reading
Paris and Berlin to form united front against ISDS in ‘free trade’ deal (January 2015 blog)
Majority of MEPs may oppose Canada-EU ‘trade’ deal (August 2014 blog)
SYRIZA government in Greece would veto CETA (December 2013 blog)