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Harper’s Europe-Canada Free Trade Agreement Faces Another Hurdle

2015 German Economics Minister proposes reopening agreement, changes to ISDS provisions

MADRID AND OTTAWA – After repeatedly celebrating the conclusion of CETA, the Canada-European Union 'free trade' agreement, the Canadian government will face another serious obstacle to the agreement. Saturday, German Federal Minister of Economics, Sigmar Gabriel, proposed re-opening the agreement to amend the Investor State Dispute Settlements provision at the Socialist Party of Europe congress in Madrid.

Canadian government officials have said that the negotiations on the deal are finished and that Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision is non-negotiable. The ISDS provision would allow companies to sue governments for laws that impede their profits.

“It will be very interesting to see how Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to this demand from the government of Europe's largest economy. In the past, he has ignored 'bad news' coming from Europe," affirms Brent Patterson, Political Director of the Council of Canadians. "His government has been resistant to reopening CETA fearing that would jeopardize the deal. But if he refuses to amend CETA, he may also be jeopardizing the deal as pressure against it gains momentum in Europe."

German Financial newspaper Boerse.de and Reuters report that Gabriel proposes an investment court instead of an investor state dispute settlement tribunal.

“Both the French and German governments have said they are opposed to ISDS and provisions that allow corporations to dictate our own social protections and laws," says Maude Barlow, Chair of the Council of Canadians. "In a public consultation, 97 per cent of Europeans consulted pronounced against ISDS. European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker has opposed ISDS. One and a half million Europeans have signed a petition against it. There is a rising tide of movement against this deal.”

The Council of Canadians is a veteran trade activist group who has lobbied members of Parliament in Europe and in Canada on CETA. It has called for the removal of the investor-state dispute settlement provision from CETA, rather than for it to be amended.

The proposed revisions are explained here.


Photo:  Gabriel, Sanchez, Valls, Lofven, Schulz.