Ottawa – Having announced the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement's (CETA) "completion" yesterday, the Canadian government happily celebrated an agreement between negotiators.
It did this even though the text has not yet been revealed to parliamentarians, and several states including France and Germany have serious reservations about the agreement in its current form. CETA is seen as a test for the agreement between the United States and the European Union.
The Council of Canadians laments the urgency with which Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is pushing this agreement. And it warns Europeans: given the Canadian experience with free trade agreements in the Americas, there is much reason to worry about this “trade” agreement.
“It's liberalization at all costs. The Canadian government wants to force this agreement and its harmful effects on the environment and social welfare on you. Your environmental and social standards are an inspiration to many Canadians, but this agreement will put those at risk,” said Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians.
Already, a report by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Transport and Environment, Sierra Club, Inc, and the Council of Canadians has shed light on how the governments of the United States and Canada put pressure on the Europeans to reduce their environmental standards in trade negotiations.
The most worrying aspect of CETA, the investor-state dispute settlement provisions, have already caused Germany to consider withdrawing from the agreement. Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Affairs Minister, also expressed reservations. This provision allows corporations to sue countries if existing laws impede their profits. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), there have been multiple lawsuits forcing Canada to pay millions of dollars in compensation. In one case, Canada has been challenged for banning hydraulic fracturing under the St. Lawrence River. Canada has also been sued for prohibiting a neurotoxin.
"Our experience is a warning to Europeans. You have the right and responsibility to be worried," said Garry Neil, executive director of the Council of Canadians.
Barlow said that despite the hyperactivity of the Canadian government, the agreement is only between negotiators and will still need to go to the European Council and to individual member states. "It's not too late to influence your governments. Together, we can stop this."
More than 100 European and Canadian groups have signed a letter opposing the provisions in CETA that allow corporations to sue governments.
The Council of Canadians is a non-governmental organization with over 100,000 supporters that has long promoted citizens' rights in free trade agreements such as NAFTA. It continues to lobby parliamentarians on both sides of the Atlantic to remove harmful provisions from CETA.
Photo: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, franz88, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0