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McKenna claims CETA is “a green trade deal”

CETA and tar sands protest

Federal environment minister Catherine McKenna is claiming that the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is “a green trade deal”.

CBC reports, “McKenna said the CETA deal will make it easier for Canadian businesses to tap into emerging clean-tech markets. …’This agreement protects the government’s legitimate objective of protecting the environment’, McKenna said on Parliament Hill Monday [Feb. 29].” McKenna made that claim at a joint media conference in which federal trade minister Chrystia Freeland stated, “There have been some modifications to the investment chapter [of CETA] to reflect the shared intent of Canada and the EU to strengthen our provisions on the right to regulate…”

But those modifications do not change the fundamental truth that CETA still fails to require transnational corporations to go to a country’s domestic courts before seeking an international remedy. Nor is there any certainty that these modifications would prevent, for example, another investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) challenge like the one that has been launched by Calgary-based TransCanada against the United States government for rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline. That company is suing for $15 billion in “compensation”, including for lost future profits, claiming the denial of their 830,000 barrel per day pipeline was arbitrary and unjustified.

Just last week, the Council of Canadians, Friends of the Earth Europe, Food & Water Watch, the Transnational Institute and nine other groups based in the European Union and the United States released an 8-page briefing paper titled Oil Corporations Vs. Climate: How investors use trade agreements to undermine climate action.

That paper notes, “Rather than learning lessons from trade agreements like NAFTA, governments in the United States, the European Union, Canada, and many other countries are now pushing for even more trade and investment agreements that would expand the very tool that TransCanada is using to challenge the rejection of the Keystone KL pipeline: the investor-state dispute settlement system which empowers corporations to sue governments for up to billions of dollars in private trade tribunals.” Those deals include the Canada-EU CETA, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

And the paper says, “In order to tackle the climate crisis, the U.S., EU, Canada and other countries need to reject ‘VIP’ treatment for corporations and say no to any trade agreement that includes special rights for foreign investors. Doing so is critical in the fight to protect our communities, our democracy, and our climate.”

It’s also important to remember what was sacrificed to achieve McKenna’s so-called “green trade deal”.

In Oct. 2014, CBC reported, “EU sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the desire for trade deal with Canada had been a factor [in abandoning the European Fuel Quality Directive]… The Harper government had lobbied heavily against the fuel quality directive, a modest climate measure that required fuel suppliers to reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector by 6 per cent by 2020. Part of the plan was to assign specific carbon intensities to different types of oil, with tar sands and fracked oil obviously having higher values. The Natural Resources Defense Council now projects that Europe could be receiving 700,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen a day by 2020.

Additionally, Murray Dobbin has written, “[CETA] demands that parties ensure ‘that licensing and qualification procedures are as simple as possible and do not unduly complicate or delay the supply of a service or the pursuit of any other economic activity’ (Art. 2, Sec. 7). Requiring that oil and gas companies do environmental assessments, archaeological studies or get approvals from different levels of government is clearly a process that could be made simpler by doing away with these requirements altogether. Obligations to consult with the public and First Nations certainly complicate the regulatory process and cause delays.”

The Council of Canadians has endorsed the Leap Manifesto. That manifesto calls for both a 100 per cent clean economy by 2050 and “for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects.”

Further reading
CETA & TTIP could lock-in fossil fuel exports to Europe (Nov. 26, 2015)
Barlow challenges CETA in Leeds, says it will mean more tar sands oil in Europe (Nov. 4, 2015)
Verheul threatens to take EU to WTO over European Fuel Quality Directive (Sept. 20, 2011)