European Commission: CETA Trade Agreement: “final approval will need ratification in national parliaments”
After the general unpopularity and apparent failure of TTIP, European trade talks with Canada have come into focus. Negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) began in 2009. Talks were held in private and no public disclosure of their content was made until a deal had been signed in 2014. By then people on both sides of the Atlantic were worried about the agreement. Leaks to the press indicated it was skewed in favour of corporate interests.
In July 2016 public opposition to the deal grew, especially in light of the Brexit vote. For many people, it was too important to be rushed through an EU ratification process without full public consideration. EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker initially pushed for immediate ratification in Brussels, saying CETA is the “EU's best negotiated trade deal”, but under increasing pressure he back-tracked and announced that national parliaments would ratify it individually.
This is where the talks on CETA stand today so what is contained within the agreement?
Under CETA 98% of tariffs between Canada and the EU would be eliminated. The agreement does not affect non-tariff barriers like the EU ban on growth hormones in beef. Service industries would be free to tender for government contracts and investment companies would be able to exploit resources like timber, fish and oil of which Canada has considerable reserves. This has environmentalists very worried about the potential impact of free trade in terms of climate change and habitat loss.
Chapters vary across many spheres from biotechnology and raw materials to financial services. The biotechnology chapter contains the following objectives: “promoting efficient science-based approval processes for products of biotechnology” and “cooperating internationally on issues related to biotechnology such as low level presence of genetically modified organisms”. Opponents of Genetically Modified (GM) technologies are worried that this is another back-door method of introducing the controversial practise to the EU where it is currently highly restricted.
The main opposition to CETA however, is to the proposed system of arbitration in which corporate bodies can potentially sue individual member states, if they make decisions that affect company profits. Activists in Germany have launched the country's biggest ever civil lawsuit against the CETA agreement. 'Mehr Demokratie' ('More Democracy') is led by Roman Huber. He was quoted by the German broadcaster Deutche Welle as saying: "I do not at all understand why a new jurisdiction is being established. We live in constitutional states in the European Union and Canada. Through their Canadian subsidiaries, 40,000 US companies can sue the European Union, and all member states down to small towns. I think that is absurd."
At least now that individual countries must ratify the treaty a debate can be had as to its merits.
[Photo credit: Jakob Huber]