Reports of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) being close to completed have been greatly exaggerated, says the Council of Canadians. Emerging details of an eleventh hour deal, which proponents claim will salvage CETA, suggest it includes a poison pill which could still kill the deal.
While the full details of the deal to salvage CETA have yet to emerge, some key elements have been made public in a four-page document. It is important to note that the agreement is between Belgian parties, not between the EU Council and Belgium. The EU Council also has to agree to it.
The proposed compromise would give any region of Belgium the right to walk out during any part of the ratification process. Five Belgian Parliaments (the Walloon region, the French community, the German community, and the Francophone community commission of the Brussels Capital region) have made it clear that they will never ratify the Investment Court System (ICS) – the provision that allows foreign investors to sue governments – in its current form.
“This would mean that that Belgium cannot ratify. All Europe did with this deal is buy time. CETA as it stands now could be as dead as it was yesterday,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “The deal would also send the ICS to the European Court of Justice for a ruling on whether it is compatible with other EU treaties.”
Other proposed changes include that regulatory cooperation would be put under parliamentary control and ICS would be prevented from being provisionally applied.
“Any decision on regulatory cooperation can still be blocked by Belgium’s regions,” says Barlow. “This has a long, long way to go before it is real, and no amount of ceremony with a formal looking signing by our Prime Minister in Brussels can change this fact.”
It appears that many of the other concerns about CETA – including the negative list which exposes most public services to corporate challenges and “ratchet” and “standstill” clauses that handcuff efforts to protect public services – are still included.
“The democratic exercise that is taking place in Europe right now – where the Walloon government has looked at the text with its citizens, and asked for changes – needs to take place in Canada. There are still so many concerns about CETA,” says Sujata Dey, Trade Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “The text must be reopened and a public commission needs to analyze it. Otherwise, it isn’t going to assuage critics, and CETA’s future will remain in doubt.”