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Poland wary of ‘investment protection’ provisions in CETA

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow speaks against CETA and TTIP at the Warsaw School of Economics, April 12.

While the Polish government appears to be generally supportive of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), it is also voicing serious reservations about the deal’s investment protection provisions.

During a visit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on May 10 in Ottawa, Polish President Andrzej Duda reaffirmed his support for the “timely ratification” of CETA. Polskie Radio also reported that President Duda said that Poland may be the first European country to ratify CETA as “Poland and Polish companies are interested in free trade, economic cooperation with Canada”.

But Poland’s deputy minister of development Radoslaw Domagalski has also expressed concern about the investment protection provisions in CETA.

In a recent interview with the Polish newspaper Gazeta Prawna, Domagalski says, “We especially analyzed the strongly disturbing clause on the investment court. …CETA is a gateway for American companies. I repeat: we know that this is a foretaste of TTIP [the United States-EU ‘free trade’ agreement] and CETA cannot be underestimated. That is why it is a priority for us at the moment. We want to liberalize access to the market and we have nothing against raising the level of competitiveness, but the element of investor protection raises our concerns. The investment court is a mechanism that induces caution. Here you cannot make mistakes. And I hope that no error is committed.”

He adds, “The problem is quite urgent, because we expect that the ratification will have to occur in the third and fourth quarter [of this year].”

The Gazeta Prawna reporter also tells the deputy minister that Maude Barlow has said that CETA and TTIP are similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Domagalski responds, “We know these risks. …We know the strength of American corporations, that they operate in a legal culture based on litigation, and that this is a threat and a challenge for European companies. Especially Poland because we are primarily a recipient of investment, not the exporter. On the other hand, I note that although we are not Germans, we are not Mexico. However, we want, to make decisions consciously and the NAFTA experience is very valuable to us.”

On April 12, Barlow spoke against CETA at the Warsaw School of Economics. In that address, she highlighted that Poles should be concerned that if CETA were to be ratified it could also act as a ‘backdoor’ for American corporations to sue their government over public interest legislation whether TTIP is adopted or not.

Barlow noted in Warsaw that, “There have been more than 35 corporate investor-state dispute settlement challenges against Canada under NAFTA and we have already paid out over $200 million to American corporations.” Non-governmental organizations in Poland have also highlighted, “Poland is the world’s eighth most frequently sued country under the controversial Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which is central to TTIP. There are 16 known cases filed by foreign investors against Poland, though the actual number may be much higher.”

Beyond the investment protection provisions, there are also strong concerns in Poland that both CETA and TTIP would introduce genetically modified foods into Poland, mean more pesticides on foods (82 pesticides allowed in the US are banned in Europe), and bring a flood of cheap agricultural imports that would hurt Polish farmers. The Polish Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development recently announced that negotiations on food trade within TTIP have been suspended, while Environment Minister Jan Szyszko sees GMOs as a huge threat to Poland.

Barlow’s report Fighting TTIP, CETA and ISDS: Lessons from Canada (which we have translated and made available in Polish) states that NAFTA facilitated the expansion of large-scale, export-oriented farming that relies on pesticides and GMOs.

The Council of Canadians will continue to make the case that CETA is not good for Polish agriculture and that the ISDS provisions in both CETA and TTIP pose a threat to Poland. We will also continue to argue that even if TTIP were to be rejected, more than 41,000 U.S. subsidiaries in Canada could still use CETA’s investment protection provisions to unfairly challenge EU member state laws.

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