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WIN! CETA may be signed, but its investment provisions & ratification are in doubt

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow in Stuttgart on the historic day last month that 320,000 Germans mobilized against CETA.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to sign the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) tomorrow.

While this might suggest we have just lost our seven year campaign against CETA, there are three key reasons to conclude that in fact we have just won a significant battle against corporate rights agreements.

Investment protection

After intensive pressure, the European Commission and Canadian government were forced to renegotiate the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision into an investment court system (ICS) provision. Our movement’s highlighting that ICS is undemocratic and as problematic as ISDS then resulted in ICS not being provisionally applied. That means it will not come into force after the signing and a vote in the European Parliament, but rather 2-5 years from now after Europe’s 38 national and regional parliaments have voted on the deal. There is good reason to hope that it will not survive those multiple ratification votes and that ICS will never be enforced.

Interpretive instrument

While we have argued that CETA is deeply flawed, a side declaration was negotiated that will be referenced in areas where the CETA text is unclear. That declaration states CETA preserves the ability of the European Union and its member states and Canada to adopt and enforce their own laws and regulations to regulate economic activity in the public interest, CETA will not prevent public authorities from providing public services previously privatized or bringing under public control services they had chosen to privatize, and CETA will not prevent a reversal of a decision authorizing the commercial use of water. We will wield this declaration if CETA is used to undermine these rights.

Trade spotlight

The intense media attention on Wallonian opposition to CETA over the past two weeks has put a spotlight on corporate rights agreements presented as ‘trade’ deals. The European Commission and the Trudeau government face an uphill 2-5 year battle to secure the ratification of CETA in 38 parliaments. And the CETA controversy will draw new public attention to the ratification process for the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (which has to be ratified by February 2018), and other deals currently being negotiated such as the United States-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the World Trade Organization’s Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

The Council of Canadians will continue to work with our European allies to ensure that CETA does not survive the multi-year ratification process.

Trudeau and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker may get their signing ceremony tomorrow, but CETA is now a significantly diminished deal and the prospect of it being in place 2-5 years from now is weak.