EU ambassador gives CETA timeline, appears to criticize the Council of Canadians

Anna-marie-ConinsxThe European Union's ambassador to Canada says the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will be provisionally implemented in early 2017, that EU member state support of the deal is not needed, that the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision is not a problem, that ISDS can be fine-tuned without re-opening the agreement, and appears to suggest that the Council of Canadians is "anti-U.S.".

The Canadian Press reports, "Marie-Anne Coninsx, the EU ambassador to Canada, said the final text ... will be presented to the European Parliament by mid-2016." She also says that she sees its "entry into force [in] early 2017." The EU ambassador then asserts, "If the parliament says yes, at that moment, the agreement can start its provisional implementation [in areas of] exclusive competence of the European Union, which means more than 90 per cent." With this comment, as the article notes, she seems to suggest that EU member states have limited power to stop the deal.

The article highlights, "Coninsx also dismissed any suggestion that the investor-state dispute resolution process, or ISDS, would be an impediment to reaching the deal. ...Coninsx said CETA has a built-in 'modern mechanism' to deal with ISDS, and said that while there 'might be some fine tuning for CETA in it, but no re-opening of the agreement'."

The Canadian Press also reports, "Groups such as the Council of Canadians are in Europe campaigning to fuel opposition to the deal. 'It's mainly led by many people who are anti-U.S., anti-globalization', she said."

The ambassador's comments tell us a few things:

  • She gives us an approximate and somewhat official timeline for CETA ratification votes in the European Parliament (mid-2016). This is close to what we had heard, which was a ratification vote in the European Parliament in late-2016 or early-2017.
     
  • We still do believe that EU member states have a critical role to play in the ratification of CETA, an assertion that has also been clearly made by EU member states. The Council of the European Union (which represents the executive bodies of EU member states) has stated it will not sign CETA if it is presented as an "EU-only" deal because under the Lisbon Treaty investment protection is considered a "shared competence" between the EU and member states. A government briefing note obtained by the Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act has also noted, "Implementation is likely to require ratification by all 28 member states, a process that is expected to take at least two years after EU institutions approve the agreement."
     
  • She also appears to suggest that the ISDS provision could be fine-tuned likely with the Investment Court System (ICS) 'reform' without renegotiating the deal. In Dec. 2015, European commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström stated in a media release that "the EU was aiming for some fine tuning to make it equivalent to the new EU approach as laid out in the Investment Court System proposal." It might also be consistent with a comment made by German chancellor Angela Merkel in Feb. 2015 that, "We are currently in the process of transposing the agreement into law, and there are still a few matters that must be clarified."
     
  • As for Ambassador Coninsx's most undiplomatic dismissal of civil society groups opposing CETA, we would ask two things of her. First, to remember that more than 3.28 million Europeans have signed a petition against CETA and the United States-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We would also ask that the ambassador take the time to read Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow's report Fighting TTIP, CETA and ISDS: Lessons from Canada in order to have a fuller understanding of the informed critique we are presenting in Europe.

The Council of Canadians will be returning to the European Parliament this spring as well as visiting a number of European countries to continue to help build opposition to CETA.

Further reading
Barlow opposes CETA 'reform', Trudeau in bind to get CETA ratified in Europe (Jan. 21, 2016)

Photo: European Union ambassador to Canada, Marie-Anne Coninsx.