Ottawa – The Council of Canadians is renewing its call for an immediate public consultation on the investor “rights” chapter in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) after much of that chapter was published today as part of a three-month European consultation.
“What excuse could the federal government possibly have for keeping the CETA investment chapter secret now that the EU has published it?” asks Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “This European consultation is bound to delay the end of the CETA negotiations anyway. We deserve a chance in Canada to rethink whether giving European companies those same rights to sue Canada under CETA makes any sense at all.”
Around the world, people and their governments are turning away from investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) as they recognize how skewed it is in favour of multinational corporations. Foreign investors and companies frequently use bilateral investment treaties or free trade deals like NAFTA and CETA 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. Countries have no similar rights to hold investors accountable under these treaties.
Investor-state cases are decided outside of national courts by well-paid arbitrators with a vested interest in siding with investors because it guarantees more cases in the future. Decisions are final and binding on countries, even when the tribunal is clearly wrong, 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 is cancelling its investment treaties with EU member states because of the threat they pose to public policy. Indonesia is about to terminate more than 60 investment treaties, and many Latin American countries have started cancelling theirs with the U.S. and European countries.
“Canada’s experience under the investor ‘rights’ chapter in NAFTA has been pitiful. There is no evidence it has increased investment into Canada but there is proof galore it has undermined our democracy,” says Trew. “Canada is currently facing billions of dollars in investor-state disputes, including a $250-million lawsuit against a fracking moratorium 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.”
European groups have already criticized the European consultation on investor “rights” in free trade deals with the U.S. and Canada. They say it is a mock consultation with a pre-determined outcome biased in favour of investor-state dispute settlement. The Council of Canadians urges the federal government to begin a real public consultation on ISDS in CETA with the option of removing the chapter completely
To see the EU consultation document, with its many references to the CETA investment chapters: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2014/march/tradoc_152280.pdf