European regulations could be badly affected by Transatlantic free trade

Council of Canadians executive director Garry Neil and trade campaigner Stuart Trew will be in Brussels during the March 10-14 fourth round of Canada-United States Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations to share our concerns about the investor-state provision in the Canada-EU free trade agreement with allies and Members of the European Parliament. (MEPs). We are calling on MEPs and Members of Parliament in Canada to refuse to endorse the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) until the extreme investor-state dispute settlement provision has been taken out.

This intervention comes at an important political moment. EurActiv reports, "Plans for a sweeping EU-US free trade deal known as TTIP risk being blown off course by civil society fears about the damage it could wreak on environmental and social protections, according to a leaked EU ... preparation paper for an EU-US Summit on 26 March..."

The article adds, "A little-noticed environment committee report for the parliament last October found four areas which could be badly affected by the regulatory harmonisation needed for a TTIP deal: GMO’s, chemicals, poultry pathogen reduction treatments, and aviation greenhouse gas emissions. Without precise language – notably absent from a planned EU-Canada free trade deal – investor-state disputes mechanisms covering these areas 'could hamper the EU and member states in efforts to establish regulations seeking to protect their citizens or the environment', that report said."

In short, that report said:

- Genetically Modified Organisms: "Whereas the EU employs the precautionary principle and a thorough risk assessment process in determining which GMOs are allowed on the market, regulators in the US assume that GMOs are 'substantially equivalent' to their non-GMO counterparts and allow them on the market without a distinct regulatory regime."

- Chemical regulations: "While the EU’s REACH framework requires all chemicals on the European market to be registered with the European Chemicals Agency, including the submission of safety data, US legislation only requires the submission of safety data in very specific circumstances and allows chemicals that were on the market prior to 1976 to remain on the market without any testing or registration requirement whatsoever."

- Poultry pathogen reduction treatments: "While both parties possess comprehensive regulations overseeing the production and processing of poultry, since 1997 the EU has held that only water may be used to wash poultry carcasses for sale on the European market, whereas the US allows its processers to use a number of different PRTs – including chlorine dioxide."

- Aviation emissions: "(The EU) requires international air travel originating or terminating in the EU to comply with the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) requirements. The US has no equivalent programme to regulate aviation emissions, even though this sector is among the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gasses."

And similar concerns are being extended to the European agreement with Canada.

Last month, EurActiv reported, "Multinationals will have wide-ranging powers to sue EU states that enact health or environmental laws breaching their 'legitimate expectations' of profit, according to a leaked ‘investment chapter’ from the Canada-EU free trade agreement (CETA), which was signed last November. ...EU officials have reportedly not challenged the authenticity of the leaked document, which was published online by the Trade Justice Network (which includes the Council of Canadians)..."

"The CETA investment chapter proposes a definition of ‘fair and equitable treatment’ (FET) for investors which has sparked multi-million dollar lawsuits, such as one by Lone Pine challenging a shale drilling ban by the Canadian state of Quebec. ...(The CETA text) allows FET violations to be triggered by changes to government policies or incentives enacted after the treaty’s signing. Potentially, these could include events such as oil spills or environmental disasters caused by mining or drilling activities."

"Brussels had previously contended that the undisclosed CETA text contained a precise definition of ‘fair and equitable treatment’ that offered clear guidelines to tribunals and prevented broad interpretations of the law. ...But no such right is affirmed over the whole text, merely a sub-chapter of it that deals with expropriation."

In terms of a timeline, "Canadian press reports suggest that a final treaty will be signed 'in a question of weeks' with only ‘technical negotiations’ still to be resolved. A text will then be produced by the summer’s end to be translated into the EU’s 23 languages. Before becoming law, it will need to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU’s Council of Ministers."

Further reading
Transatlantic trade benefits called a "fairy tale" on German television as opposition to CETA, TTIP grows
Investor-state in CETA hits "shared competence" rule
France says investor-state provision not needed in TTIP