Trudeau appears to choose to stick with ISDS in CETA

CETA Trojan HorseIt appears that the Trudeau government will stick with the existing (but controversial) investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), rather than opting for the investment court system (ICS) "reform' sought by the European Commission.

According to this iPolitics news report, the translation of CETA will be completed in May, the agreement will then go to the Council of the European Union (where government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies), then to the European Parliament for a ratification vote (likely later this year) for implementation in 2017.

The article adds, "With public opposition in Europe to ISDS provisions in the agreement casting doubt on implementation prospects, however, Conservative MP Randy Hoback asked [CETA negotiator Steve] Verheul [at the House of Commons international trade committee on Tuesday Feb. 15] to clarify whether the investment chapter might be reopened and cause further delay. ...'We’re not reopening this to any other chapters or adjustments?' Hoback asked. 'No. We’re not reopening the negotiations at all', Verheul answered Tuesday."

Verheul did tell the committee though that "we’re clarifying some of the provisions in the agreement with respect to the obligations to ensure that the government’s right to regulate is not interfered with with respect to investor claims", "we are working on a system that would be somewhat different from what is in the CETA now with respect to — particularly — the selection of arbitrators or members of a panel" and "we’re also looking at whether we can advance the process towards having an appellate mechanism, which is currently mentioned in CETA, as kind of a future work program."

It's not likely that "clarifying some of the provisions" in the deal will be sufficient to sway Europeans, Members of the European Parliament or numerous EU member states opposed to the ISDS provision in CETA:

  • A European petition calling for CETA not to be ratified and for negotiations on the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to stop has collected more than 3.39 million signatures. That petition states, "We want to prevent TTIP and CETA because they include several critical issues such as investor-state dispute settlement and rules on regulatory cooperation that pose a threat to democracy and the rule of law."
     
  • In Aug. 2014, Reuters reported, "EU lawmakers are threatening to block a multi-billion dollar trade pact between Canada and the European Union -- a blueprint for a much bigger EU-U.S. deal -- because it would allow firms to sue governments if they breach the treaty. ...Together with the Socialists' 191 members, the political groups [in the European Parliament] opposing the agreement could count on 341 votes, just 35 short of a majority."
     
  • European Union member states Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Greece and Belgium have expressed concern about ISDS in CETA. It is also believed that Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Luxembourg, Belgium and Italy have concerns about the ISDS provision.

In terms of the most recent key developments with CETA since the election of the Trudeau government:

  • In Nov. 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructed trade minister Chrystia Freeland to "develop strategies to implement" CETA.
  • In Dec., Reuters reported that the European Commission had approached the Trudeau government about renegotiating the ISDS provision in CETA.
  • In Jan. 2016, Freeland stated, "I think CETA will be really the gold standard of trade agreements."
  • In Jan., Trudeau met with German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president François Hollande and the head of the European Parliament to win support for CETA.
  • In Feb., Globe and Mail national business correspondent Barrie McKenna called for the ISDS provision to be scrapped for fear that CETA would otherwise be defeated in Europe.

The Council of Canadians will be returning to Europe this spring to continue to build opposition there to CETA, ISDS and TTIP.

For more on our our campaign, please click here.

Further reading
Fighting TTIP, CETA and ISDS: Lessons from Canada (report by Maude Barlow available in English, French, German, Spanish)