More than half of Canadians oppose NAFTA-like investment protection in European free trade agreement: poll

December 10, 2013
Media Release

Ottawa, ON – An Environics poll commissioned by the Council of Canadians shows that strong support in Canada for a free trade deal with the European Union does not include letting EU firms sue Canada for environmental measures or other public policies that affect corporate profits.

Almost three quarters (73%) of Canadians said they support the idea of a Canada-EU free trade agreement. However,  54% of Canadians oppose giving special protections to EU firms, “similar to the protections American investors in Canada have as part of free trade with the U.S. [that] let them sue Canadian governments if they feel a government policy, including an environmental policy, unfairly affects their investment or profits in Canada.”

The result is similar among self-declared Conservative voters, half of which (50%) oppose these investment protections.

“There is growing opposition in Canada and around the world to investment protection treaties that give corporations the power to challenge the decisions of elected governments outside of the regular court system,” says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Our poll suggests there is very little public appetite for giving companies the right to profit.”

Canada’s first investment protection treaty was in Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Under that treaty’s investor-to-state dispute process, Canada has been sued at least 30 times, losing or settling half a dozen claims totalling more than $160-million in payouts to U.S.-based corporations. Despite this poor record, Canada continues to pursue investment protection treaties with dozens of countries, including a controversial deal with China, and inside both CETA and the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

There are eight ongoing NAFTA investment lawsuits, including corporate challenges to a partial moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas under the St. Lawrence River, a court decision overturning a pharmaceutical patent for lack of evidence of its usefulness, a temporary moratorium on offshore wind farms in Ontario, and a requirement for offshore oil companies to invest a portion of their profits into research and development in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Canada should be renegotiating these excessive and anti-democratic corporate protections in NAFTA and its many other treaties, not giving the same rights to European companies, which pursue more investor-to-state lawsuits than any other region,” says Trew. “We are cruising for a bruising with CETA.”

The Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations continue this month and likely into January. In November, more than 100 Canadian, Quebec and European organizations published a statement opposing the investment protections and investor-to-state dispute process in CETA. The Council of Canadians’ poll shows that Canadians are uncomfortable with these protections. Furthermore, 80% agree “that the federal government should have to hold public hearings across Canada on the Canada-Europe trade deal before it can sign and ratify the deal.”

The Environics telephone poll, conducted between November 14 and 20 among a national random sample of 1,003 adults, has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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Complete poll results
Poll methodology

www.canadians.org/CETA | Twitter: @CouncilOfCDNs