Skip to content

Visiting MEPs praise CETA, but suggest further work may be needed on ISDS provision

The Council of Canadians and allies met with this European parliamentary delegation earlier this week in Ottawa. Lola Sanchez Caldentey (on the left in this photo) is with the Confederal Group of the United European Left-Nordic Green Left, which opposes CETA.

On March 21, the Council of Canadians joined with civil society representatives from the Trade Justice Network, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale to present to a delegation of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) visiting Canada.

We raised a number of key issues including the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause, food safety particularly genetically modified foods entering Europe, the loss of the right to regulate, the lack of existing tariff barriers between the two jurisdictions, higher drug costs overshadowing any economic gains from the agreement, and more.

Two of the Members of the European Parliament we met with were Bernd Lange from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (which has 191 seats in the European Parliament) and Artis Pabriks of the Group of the European People’s Party – Christian Democrats (which has 221 seats).

Today, Embassy News reports, “The delegation met with members of the House trade committee, business groups including the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business, civil society groups including the Council of Canadians, labour groups including Unifor and was scheduled to meet with Quebec’s minister of the economy and others, according to an itinerary provided by the delegation’s press official.”

Unfortunately, “Bernd Lange and Artis Pabriks had mostly good things to say about the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement during a Tuesday press conference on the Hill, held as part of a tour of Ottawa and Montreal by nine EU Parliamentarians involved in assessing the CETA.”

The report notes, “The two men praised the redesigned CETA and said the deal could be ratified by early next year. 
That deal is ‘probably the most advanced trade agreement the world has seen up to now’, said Mr. Pabriks. …The European People’s Party called for the speedy ratification of the CETA in a March 1 press release. ‘I am ready to do everything necessary to start the ratification process from the European Parliament’s side as soon as possible’, Mr. Pabriks was quoted as saying in the release. Mr. Lange, who had raised concerns about the deal’s ISDS clauses in the past, said recent changes to those terms were a significant improvement.”

And yet we can take some hope in that:

– “The EU trade committee will look into the details of the text to see whether further improvements to ISDS are needed, said Mr. Lange, adding ‘personally, I think it’s a really big step for a better future of investment protection.'”

– “The committee will also examine how the CETA protects labour rights, said Mr. Lange, noting that Canada has failed to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention. ‘Our core values are that fundamental labour rights have to be respected’, he said.”

– “The committee will take extra time to look at other provisions in the deal related to how public services are provided, for example to ensure that better access for foreign companies interested in providing those services won’t harm the public interest, and that any countries that decide to privatize the provision of public services will have the right to bring them back under public control, he said.”

In terms of process and timelines, Embassy highlights, “The EU Parliament’s trade committee will be reviewing the CETA text before sending it along to the Parliament, along with a recommendation on whether to pass the deal. The deal will likely go before the Parliament in June, according to a press release from the visiting EU delegation. …The visiting parliamentarians met with their Canadian counterparts to try to find a date early next year when both sides could announce the ratification of the CETA at the same time, said Mr. Lange. He added that a final decision had not yet been made on the precise date.”

Beyond the European Parliament, CETA would also have to be ratified by individual EU member states.

The Council of Canadians will continue to lobby MEPs and national legislatures to vote against the ratification of CETA, including further work in Europe next month.