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CETA: Canada should mirror EU consultations on investor “rights” chapter in transatlantic trade deals

CETA trojan horseThe Council of Canadians welcomes a decision of the European Commission to hold public consultations on a controversial investor rights chapter in the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The Council asks that those hearings be expanded to consider identical investment protections in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The Council is also calling on the Harper government to hold similar consultations in light of the atrociously high number of investment lawsuits brought against Canada.

“Canada’s experience under the investor ‘rights’ chapter in NAFTA has been pitiful. We have lost or settled half a dozen lawsuits from U.S. companies against public policies, including environmental decisions, costing the public more than $160 million in damages and who knows how much in lawyers’ fees. Canada is facing billions in current investor-state disputes, including a $250-million lawsuit against a fracking ban in Quebec. We should be asking ourselves why we put up with this in NAFTA – not how we can make things much worse by giving European companies the same right to sue in CETA,” says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

Investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is becoming increasingly controversial across the globe as companies use investment treaties and trade deals to sue countries when completely legitimate and non-discriminatory public policies, including environmental and resource conservation decisions, have the indirect effect of undermining corporate profits. Disputes are decided outside of national courts by paid arbitrators in private tribunals at the World Bank and elsewhere. Decisions are final and binding on countries, with no chance to appeal or review penalties against countries, which usually take the form of multi-million and now multi-billion dollar fines.

South Africa, finding no economic benefit to signing such treaties, has cancelled several investment pacts with EU member states and is reviewing how foreign investors should be protected. Many Latin American countries are doing the same. The Australian government has no investor “rights” chapter in its free trade deal with the United States and is still resisting including one in the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

“All we’re asking for at this point is a public consultation and debate on these extreme investment protections like the Commission has agreed to organize in Europe,” says Trew. “The trade committee in Parliament should be asked to put its CETA discussions on hold, or focus those talks on the problematic and highly controversial investment chapter.”

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