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CETA’s future lies in doubt: trade or democracy?

CETA, a controversial EU-Canada trade deal, has suffered a major political setback

By: N. Peter Kramer - Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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One major area of concern is the inclusion in CETA of ICS – the Investment Court System – which gives foreign investors privileged rights.
One major area of concern is the inclusion in CETA of ICS – the Investment Court System – which gives foreign investors privileged rights.

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by N. Peter Kramer

CETA, a controversial EU-Canada trade deal, has suffered a major political setback when the parliament of Wallonia, the Belgian francophone region, voted last week to block the federal Belgian government to ratify CETA. To come in force, the trade deal with Canada has to be ratified by all 28 EU member states.  

Will this be the end of CETA? Wallonia will be the scapegoat! But earlier in the same week the constitutional court in Germany gave the government green light to ratify CETA but set in such a way conditions on it that EU officials fear could create obstacles. And also Bulgaria and Romania have problems with CETA. They have to ratify it as well, but Canada is not giving these two EU member states a visa waiver as it does with the others.   

One major area of concern is the inclusion in CETA of ICS – the Investment Court System – which gives foreign investors privileged rights. Any Canadian-based multinational corporation or subsidiary will be able to use ICS to challenge EU and national 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: a straight infringement of democracy! 

More than 100 professors of law from 24 EU countries have signed a joint statement asking EU decision makers to exclude these controversial legal instruments from CETA. Their top concern is also the provision of special privileges for foreign investors. ‘The investment protection systems in CETA  pose an unnecessary and grave threat to democracy and the public interest’, the statement says.    

After years of secret negotiations and last-minute declarations to paper over the cracks, it’s no surprise that CETA does not have unanimous political support. In the beginning of this week the disagreements between EU trade ministers showed how out of touch most of them are with their citizens. Now it is up to their bosses, the EU leaders during their Summit.  
 
'Delaying a decision on CETA cannot bridge this gap. It’s time to hit the reset button and put people, health and environmental protection at the heart of trade policy”, a Greenpeace EU policy officer said. 

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