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Kitchener-Waterloo chapter receives reply from Magnette on CETA ‘investment protection’ mechanism

The Council of Canadians Kitchener-Waterloo chapter has received an email reply from Paul Magnette, the minister-president of the Belgian region of Wallonia.

On April 10, chapter activist David Lubell wrote to Magnette stating, “We have tried many times and in many ways to get ministers and parliamentarians of the previous and current Canadian governments to actually look at the problems with this trade agreement that privileges corporate profits above our sovereign rights to environmental protections and local decision-making. …Your firm analysis and opposition to this deal strengthens our resolve to continue to raise opposition to this deal on our side of the Atlantic Ocean.”

On April 20, Magnette replied, “As you know, private arbitration is unacceptable to us. Thanks to the mobilization of Wallonia, it was replaced by a public court, entirely composed of independent judges. Moreover, they will be subject to a strict code of conduct preventing any conflict of interest. In order to ensure the implementation of these negotiated elements, the provisions regarding the dispute settlement mechanism will not enter into force as long as all parliaments ratification procedures are not completed. Wallonia has already declared that if this future mechanism does not match its ambitions, its Parliament will reject the CETA ratification.”

In order for CETA to be fully implemented, it needs to be ratified by 38 national and regional parliaments in Europe, including the Parliament of Wallonia.

The Globe and Mail has reported, “The trade deal between Canada and the European Union is facing a new challenge from the Belgium region of Wallonia which is threatening to block final ratification of the agreement. Wallonia First Minister Paul Magnette said in an interview that his government will not support the CETA trade deal when it comes up for ratification unless changes are made to how disputes are resolved. Mr. Magnette also said his government is challenging the legality of the dispute resolution mechanism in the European Court of Justice, which could take at least two years to rule.”

This European Law blog explains, “The issue of the compatibility of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and ICS (a form of ISDS) with the Treaties has been a contentious issue among EU law insiders for a while. Recently 101 law professors objected to ICS in an open letter because ICS is ‘in strong tension with the rule of law and  democratic  principles  enshrined  in  national  constitutions  and  European  law’. …The European Association of Judges (representing 44 national associations of judges) and the German Association of Judges (representing 16 0000 German judges and public prosecutors) have opposed ICS inter alia on the ground that the system might not be compatible with EU law.”

The Council of Canadians has been clear in its opposition to the Investment Court System (ICS) now incorporated into CETA.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “ICS fails to require foreign investors – like everyone else, including domestic investors – to go to a country’s domestic courts before seeking an international remedy. The proposed investment court system still gives a special status to foreign corporations by allowing them to challenge the laws that apply to everyone else through a special system outside established court systems.”

Furthermore, the report Investment Court System put to the test published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe, Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung, and the Transnational Institute found that ICS reform in CETA would still allow the most controversial ISDS challenges launched under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to proceed.

In recent weeks, the Hamilton, Guelph, South Niagara and Quill Plains (Wynyard) chapters have also written Magnette.