CETA: The Canadian people's voice in Europe

Council of Canadians launches two-month tour of Europe

In the last several years, Canadian business groups and their lobbyists have been making the transatlantic journey to promote CETA, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.  And they are formidable opponents, the who’s who of the business community, showing the revolving door between our politicians and big business. Just a few of the names: former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, and former Québec Premiers Jean Charest and Pierre Marc-Johnson

But now, the rest of us will have our voice in Europe through a delegation from the Council of Canadians led by the organization’s National Chairperson, Maude Barlow.  This week, the Council of Canadians is launching an eight-country, two-month European tour to bring the citizens’ point of view to the table with European leaders.

Maude Barlow is no stranger to free trade, and has been representing this citizens’ group for decades since Canada’s first free trade agreement was signed with the United States.  The top issue in the 1988 Canadian election campaign was free trade; Barlow and her organization were foremost in warning Canadians of what might happen.

Fast forward almost thirty years. Manufacturing jobs lost. Rampant inequality. Destruction of health and social services. And lawsuits under Chapter 11 of the agreement when our government tries to make decisions to protect our environment or to act in other areas of public policy. As Europeans debate trade agreements with Canada and Europe, Barlow says they have much to learn from Canada’s sad example.

“Canada would lose much of its manufacturing base as American corporations closed their Canadian plants and moved them offshore,” Barlow writes in a report. “Canada also gave up regulatory control of its energy reserves. NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) introduced a new provision – investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) – whereby corporations from the three countries could sue one another’s governments for changes to laws, policies or practices that hurt the corporations’ bottom lines.” The report, Fighting TTIP, CETA and ISDS: Lessons from Canada, is also available in FrenchGerman and Spanish.

Indeed Barlow writes that, in 2013, “as a result of NAFTA, Canada is the most investor-state challenged country in the developed world, and Canadians have an important story to share with Europeans as they grapple with TTIP and CETA.”

 As Europeans debate TTIP and CETA  — and while 250,000 Germans protested the TTIP, the EU-US free trade agreement — Europeans are eager to hear about the dangers that CETA represents for their advanced climate policies and for their public regulation and services. 

Some of the meetings planned by the Council of Canadians in Europe: visits to the Bundestag in Germany, the National Assembly in France and the Parliaments of Austria and Spain. The newly elected mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colou, will be welcoming  the delegation to her city, which has just been declared a no-TTIP zone.  They will also be hosted by the Bishop of Baden-Württemberg, with meetings also set with local politicians. 

The following public events will be held:

• Nov. 1, 3pm: Dundee, Lecture Theatre 1, Dalhousie Building, Dundee DD1 5EN - latest details on Facebook
• Nov. 2, 6:30pm: Manchester, Central Hall, Oldham Street M1 1JQ - latest details on Facebook
• Nov. 3, 7pm: Leeds, The Carriageworks, The Electric Press, Millennium Square, Leeds LS2 3AD - latest details on Facebook
• Nov. 5, 7pm: London, Portland Hall, University of Westminster, 4-12 Little Titchfield Street, London, W1W 7BY (Oxford Circus/Goodge Street tube stations). Register for free
• Nov. 6, 7.30pm: Oxford, Wesley Memorial Church, New Inn Hall Street, OX1 2DH
• Nov. 7: Cardiff, Temple of Peace and Health, King Edward VII Avenue CF10 3AP
• Nov. 9 Dublin, venue TBC
• Nov. 11: Madrid (with Spanish interpretation), Centro Cultural GalileoCalle Fernando el Católico, 35
• Nov. 12, 7pm: Barcelona (with Catalan and Spanish interpretation), Pati Llimona Carrer del Regomir, 3, 08002
• Nov. 12, 7pm: Paris (with French interpretation), Le Brady, 39 Boulevard de Strasbourg, 75010  - latest details on Facebook
• Nov. 16: Vienna (with German interpretation), VHS Ottakring, Ludo Hartmann Platz 7, 1160 - latest details on Facebook
• Nov. 17, 9am: Brussels, European Parliament
• Nov. 25, 7:30pm: Karlsruhe (with German interpretation), at the Evangelische Akademie Baden im Evangelischen Oberkirchenrat, Blumenstraße 1-7 (TBC)

Later, the delegation will be going to Paris during the climate talks.  It will also be racing against the clock to get an important report (also available in German, Spanish and French) by internally reknowned legal scholar Gus Van Harten into the hands of world leaders on how they can protect a climate change agreement from existing or future trade agreements that allow corporations to sue over environmental policy decisions. We cannot reverse the 3,200 trade agreements containing ISDS provisions, but nor can we allow any agreement reached in Paris to be undermined by them.

“Countries are in a Catch-22,” says Barlow, who wrote the foreword to Van Harten’s report. “Any legislation or policy that obstructs corporate profits puts governments at risk of paying millions or billions of euros in compensation. We need a paradigm shift in the way we manage trade agreements. The European Parliament has adopted Mr. Van Harten’s carve-out. It is now up to European leaders to take the idea to Paris and make it happen.”

The tour is made possible by the JMG Foundation and the Wallace Global Fund. Thanks are also due to the following organizations: Global Justice NowATTAC-Francethe Collectif Stop TAFTA FranceAITEC (the International Association of Technicians, Experts and Researchers),  Campact, the Evangelische Akademie BadenATTAC-AustriaVENRO,Ecologistas en Acción, Friends of the Earth, the Seattle 2 Brussels Network and the European STOP TTIP network.

Photo: Mehr Demokratie, Flickr Media Commons

Originally published in the Huffington Post.