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EU-Canada trade deal threatens democracy, Europe’s green policies and public services
Luxembourg – As foreign affairs and trade ministers meet in Luxembourg to finalise their decision on the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Canada (CETA), Greenpeace and other civil society organisations protested their opposition to the deal.
Fourteen climbers from Germany and Luxembourg scaled the European conference centre at Kirchberg, Luxembourg where EU ministers are meeting today, to display a 12 by 6-metre banner reading “Don’t trade away our democracy – #StopCETA”.
Greenpeace EU trade policy adviser Shira Stanton said: “The EU-Canada trade deal is irreparable and must be stopped. If ministers sign the deal today, they do so against major public opposition. Trade relations between the EU and other countries should adhere to basic democratic principles and help our countries reach climate, environmental, social as well as economic goals. But CETA will put the interests of multinationals above people and the planet.”
Opposition from citizens as well as national and regional parliaments has accompanied the EU-Canada deal , as the European Commission negotiated it with insufficient consultation with civil society and members of national parliaments. Negotiators tried to reassure CETA critics with a declaration that failed to address fundamental problems.
One major area of concern is the inclusion in CETA of ICS – the Investment Court System [pdf] – which gives foreign investors privileged rights. Any Canadian-based multinational corporation or subsidiary will be able to use ICS to challenge EU laws and standards. ICS, and other CETA provisions, undermine the right of governments to adopt and enforce laws which are in the public interest, for instance to protect the environment or public health.
The EU-Canada deal contains a watered down version of the precautionary principle, that threatens to pave the way for a race to the bottom and weakens European environmental standards.
Additionally, CETA grants access to public procurement for all public services, including water-related services, to Canadian companies. The joint declaration also fails to address the fact that CETA exposes local authorities to compensation claims from Canadian investors, if public authorities decide to bring local public services back under their control.
“A good trade deal works towards the achievement of other public policy priorities, such as the Paris climate agreement and the United Nations sustainable development goals, and it must submit to basic democratic scrutiny. Any agreement that undermines environmental, health and labour standards and that gives privileged powers to corporations will fuel inequalities at the expense of citizens”, said Stanton.
EU ministers are expected to signal their country’s readiness to sign CETA at today’s Council meeting in Luxembourg. They will also decide which parts of the agreement will apply provisionally. At this stage, Belgium cannot agree to the deal following the Walloon Parliament’s opposition to CETA. If the Council reaches an agreement in support of the deal, the EU and Canada will sign CETA at a summit in Brussels on 27 October, but it is unclear if representatives of the 28 EU member states will be able to do so. The European Parliament will debate and vote on consent in late 2016 or early 2017. If the European Parliament gives consent to CETA, large parts of the agreement will ‘provisionally’ come into force, before national parliaments have had their say.
 Over 3 million people across the 28 EU member states signed a petition asking the European Commission to stop TTIP and CETA.
Shira Stanton, Greenpeace EU trade policy adviser, mobile +32 477 790 415 (in Luxembourg), firstname.lastname@example.org
Philippe Schockweiler, Greenpeace Luxembourg communication, mobile +352 621 252 199, email@example.com
Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, firstname.lastname@example.org
For breaking news and comment on EU affairs: www.twitter.com/GreenpeaceEU