Skip to main content

CETA: the forerunner of the corporate neo-feudalism

This collection of short reports describes and analyses many of the most contentious aspects of the proposed Canada–EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Dozens of trade and investment experts in Canada and the EU have collaborated to provide a diversity of perspectives on the proposed agreement, but all agree that CETA, as it is written, threatens the public good on both sides of the Atlantic. In a wide variety of policy areas only loosely related to trade, CETA elevates the rights of corporations and foreign investors above the welfare of citizens and the broader public interest.

Briefly:

- INVESTOR–STATE DISPUTE SETTLEMENT

The latest CETA text pays lip service to public concerns about investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) by replacing it with what the EU and Canada are calling an Investment Court System. While it improves some procedural aspects of ISDS—for example, by making arbitrators less prone to conflicts of interest—the protections afforded to investors in this new ‘court’ system are largely unchanged. Under CETA, foreign investors still receive extraordinary legal rights to sue governments for measures that may negatively affect their investments. These protections, which are not available to domestic investors or ordinary citizens, would expose taxpayers to huge financial liabilities and threaten to chill public policy. Although the text mentions a so-called right to regulate, the clause is a guideline and does not adequately protect public interest regulation.

- FINANCIAL SERVICES

By allowing more cross-border financial services and facilitating greater direct investment in the financial sector, CETA would encourage the financial industry to take greater risks—for example, by engaging in speculative investment—in order to survive in a more competitive international market. CETA would also limit the regulatory options available to governments to address financial instability by, among other measures, giving the financial industry an institutionalised voice in the regulatory process. Ignoring the lessons of the financial crisis, CETA would open the financial services sectors in the EU and Canada to greater competition and put downward pressure on prudential regulation in ways that make both Parties more vulnerable to financial shocks and contagion. Furthermore, key financial services provisions in CETA are enforceable through the ISDS mechanism, so governments could effectively be forced to pay banks for the privilege of regulating them.

- TRADE IN SERVICES

CETA would restrict governments’ capacity to regulate the entry and activity of foreign service suppliers in the domestic market, even when such regulations do not discriminate based on the country of origin of firms. By ensuring market access and preferential treatment for foreign service suppliers, CETA threatens the viability of public services and local service suppliers. CETA includes exceptions to the services rules, but its ‘negative list’ approach means that all services are covered by default unless specifically excluded by negotiators. Moreover, through its ‘standstill’ and ‘ratchet’ mechanisms, CETA forces governments to make any future regulatory decisions in the direction of even greater liberalisation, including for many of the services that are on the list of exceptions.

- PUBLIC SERVICES

While a limited number of public services are excluded from some of CETA’s liberalising provisions, key reservations are vaguely worded or flawed. The agreement’s investment protections would restrict the capacity of governments to expand public services or to create new ones in the future. CETA conflicts with the freedom of elected governments to bring privatised services back into the public sector. Once foreign investors are established in a privatised sector, efforts to restore public services can trigger claims for compensation, effectively locking in privatisation.

- DOMESTIC REGULATION

CETA would constrain policy flexibility in areas only loosely related to trade by mandating that licensing and qualification requirements—as well as any measure relating to those regulations—be ‘as simple as possible’. CETA interprets even non-discriminatory regulations as potential trade barriers. The scope of the domestic regulation provisions is broader than in other agreements and even trumps other areas in CETA. Regulations concerning not just services but also ‘all other economic activities’ are covered with only a narrow set of reservations.

- REGULATORY COOPERATION

CETA would create a set of institutions and processes for foreign governments (and their corporate lobbyists) to have a say in the creation of new domestic regulations, which could delay or halt the introduction of public interest legislation and undermine the precautionary principle. The range of regulatory areas covered by these rules is extensive, including not just goods and services, but also investment and other areas only loosely connected to trade. Any attempt to ‘harmonise’ regulations between the EU and Canada threatens to push standards down to the lowest common denominator. Moreover, business lobbyists could use this process to push for regulatory changes that are too controversial to be included in the text of CETA itself.

- INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

CETA would strengthen the position of patent holders relative to innovators and consumers, which would encourage the already destructive practice of patent trolling in software and other industries. Because intellectual property is covered by the investor–state dispute mechanism in CETA, patent holders may be able to sue governments for future regulations designed to reduce the power of patent trolls. CETA does not directly threaten Internet freedom, but by locking in the current system of industry-friendly intellectual property rules in Canada and the EU, CETA would prevent governments from returning to a more user-friendly intellectual property regime in the future.

- AGRICULTURE

The ratification of CETA would be a severe setback for efforts to encourage non-industrial farming practices and sustainable agriculture on both sides of the Atlantic. For example, by expanding duty-free import quotas (e.g. for milk and meat), CETA would expose Canadian and European farmers to considerable competitive pressure, which could encourage more profitable (for some) but less sustainable farming practices. Furthermore, CETA raises concerns around processing and production standards, particularly in Europe. Practices that are considered safe in Canada, such as the surface treatment of meat with acetic acid, the use of hormones in beef production, and the use of genetically modified organisms, are restricted in the EU on the basis of the precautionary principle. Under CETA, those precautions could be attacked on the basis of the ‘aftercare principle’ employed in Canada’s ‘science-based’ regulatory approach. CETA also undercuts the current system of geographical indications for European products. Of the 1,308 food items, 2,883 wines and 332 liquors protected in the EU, only 173 are protected in the CETA text.

- CLIMATE AND ENERGY

CETA’s provisions for investment protection coupled with its weak protections for environmental and resource measures will undermine sustainable climate and energy policy in the future. Efforts to stop fossil fuel–based energy production and promote renewable energy will be threatened by CETA, which poses a grave danger to any measures put in place to reach the goals that the EU and Canada agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement. CETA lacks any provisions that clearly protect regulations and measures aimed at curbing climate change or promoting renewable energy from investor attacks. The agreement’s Trade and Sustainable Development chapter is thin and does not contain any concrete obligations for the Parties to develop future-oriented and climate-friendly policies.

- LABOUR RIGHTS

Despite its positive rhetoric regarding the rights of workers, CETA fails to introduce the kind of binding and enforceable labour provisions that would protect and improve labour standards in the EU and Canada. Several EU member states as well as Canada have not ratified some of the International Labour Organisation’s core labour standards or priority governance conventions. The CETA text encourages but does not obligate them to do so. Tellingly, the labour chapter in CETA is exempt from the general dispute settlement provisions of the agreement. In the event of a dispute over a labour standards violation, CETA merely requires the Parties to engage in non-binding consultations.

- CANADA - SPECIFIC CONCERNS

Most concerns about CETA are shared by Europeans and Canadians, but a handful of CETA’s impacts would be felt more negatively in Canada. Under CETA, Canada would be forced to make unilateral changes to its intellectual property regime for pharmaceuticals that would increase drug costs. For the first time in a Canadian trade agreement, CETA would apply restrictive procurement rules to municipal and provincial governments, which could undermine local and regional development initiatives. CETA could also come into conflict with the rights of Indigenous peoples, whose traditional lands are often the target of foreign resource companies. Other areas of Canadian concern include the impact of CETA on supply-managed agricultural sectors, and how the chapter on the temporary entry of business persons will affect the domestic labour market.

- RATIFICATION PROCESS

For the purposes of ratification in the EU, CETA has been presented as a ‘mixed’ agreement. This means that, following the decision of the Council of Ministers (expected autumn 2016) and the vote in the European Parliament (expected late 2016/early 2017), all 28 EU member states must ratify the treaty. Hower, the European Commission and many member states are pushing for ‘provisional implementation’ of CETA even before the national ratification processes. At all stages of the ratification process, CETA’s critics in Europe will have opportunities to organise against CETA’s implementation. Legal actions against the agreement have already started: CETA is being challenged before the European Court of Justice and, at the member state level, before the German Federal Constitutional Court. In Canada, CETA must be passed into law nationally before it comes into force, which will require the approval of both the elected federal Parliament and the appointed Senate. The current government is strongly in favour of CETA and will push for its ratification as early as autumn 2016, despite opposition from a variety of municipalities and public interest organisations.

Full analysis:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The big fraud behind the outrageously high natural gas prices revealed

globinfo freexchange   Speaking at the Greek radio broadcaster Real FM 107,1, the Greek economist, Yanis Varoufakis, revealed the real reason behind the outrageously high natural gas prices, which can't be justified only by the war in Ukraine and Putin's actions to cut supplies to Europe.    As he pointed out, the biggest part of the rise of natural gas prices is due to the stock market games. Prices should rise by 80% at most, not 800%. The rest of this hyper-profit is because big companies have already bought quantities of natural gas for the next two years. So, they don't sell it now in order to boost its price and sell it later at much higher price.    Yet, the worst part of the story is that these financial games often create bubbles - similar to the Lehman Brothers bubble in 2008 that led to the Wall Street collapse - so we are now to the point where the German government is forced to subsidize big companies with billions, exactly because they play these risky financ

Greek ‘Watergate’: Mitsotakis’ authoritarianism cannot be tolerated anymore

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is a “destabilising factor” for the country and citizens cannot stand his “authoritarian” attitude, senior socialist lawmaker Michalis Katrinis told EURACTIV after it was unveiled that the secret services bugged the phone of Greek socialist opposition leader and MEP Nikos Androulakis.   by Sarantis Michalopoulos   Part 2 - ‘Protecting’ the company which bought Predator   In July, the European Parliament services also found that there was an attempt to bug Androulakis’ phone with the illegal Predator spyware. A couple of months earlier, it was revealed that journalist Thanasis Koukakis was targeted by Predator, another nail in the coffin of the country’s dismal media freedom record under Mitsotakis. For Katrinis, the government is “protecting” the company that purchased the illegal surveillance spyware. “ A month after the scandal was revealed, no search has been made at the offices of the company that trades Predator, ” Katrinis said, adding tha

Day 1243: Julian Assange still in prison and under slow-motion execution by the Anglo-American imperialist criminals

failed evolution   On 11 April 2019, the Ecuadorian government of traitor Lenin Moreno, invited the Metropolitan Police into the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and they arrested Julian Assange . Since then, Assange is kept in Belmarsh high security prison in London, without actual charges.   The real reason world's number one political prisoner is still kept in this high security prison, is because he exposed horrendous war crimes carried out by the US imperialists and their allies.   The ruthless Western imperialist regime wants to punish the No1 real journalist in the world and make him an example for any Whistleblower or real journalist who will attempt to expose its big crimes in the future.   And the Anglo-American axis has now become officially a fascist coalition , framed by the rest of its Western pets. UK's Home Secretary Priti Patel, one of the most ruthless ever, decided to extradite Julian Assange to US. No surprise of course. The only question we had in mind is

One more Greek lawmaker files complaint over attempted phone hacking

A lawmaker in Greece's main opposition party filed a complaint with the top court's prosecutor on Friday over what he said were repeated attempts to infect his mobile phone with the Predator malware, the latest incident in a phonetapping scandal. Last month, Greek lawmakers voted in favour of setting up an inquiry commission to probe the phone tapping of a political opposition leader that led Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to sack the head of the country's intelligence service (EYP).   The scandal over the wiretapping of Nikos Androulakis, leader of the socialist PASOK party, Greece's third-largest political party, has turned up the heat on the conservative premier who brought EYP under his control after taking office three years ago. On Friday, Christos Spirtzis, a former minister and close associate of SYRIZA party leader Alexis Tsipras, said that last November two attempts to hack his phone were made via suspicious text messages prompting him to click on links. 

Greek ‘Watergate’: Mitsotakis’ authoritarianism cannot be tolerated anymore

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is a “destabilising factor” for the country and citizens cannot stand his “authoritarian” attitude, senior socialist lawmaker Michalis Katrinis told EURACTIV after it was unveiled that the secret services bugged the phone of Greek socialist opposition leader and MEP Nikos Androulakis.   by Sarantis Michalopoulos   Part 1   The Greek “Watergate” as described by international media caused a political earthquake in the Mediterranean country, sparking resignations from the prime minister’s secretary general and nephew, Grigoris Dimitriadis and secret services chief Panagiotis Kontoleon. “ Also, the resignation of the PM’s nephew and closest associate raises many questions since it was not done for reasons of avoiding the toxic atmosphere, as was initially said. The sacrifice of Mr. Dimitriadis probably hides a lot and remains to be investigated, ” Katrinis noted. Mitsotakis, however, is hanging on for dear life. “ Mitsotakis is now a destabilising f

The Queen and her legacy: 21st century Britain has never looked so medieval

by Jonathan Cook   Part 1   Anyone in the UK who imagined they lived in a representative democracy – one in which leaders are elected and accountable to the people – will be in for a rude awakening over the next days and weeks. TV schedules have been swept aside. Presenters must wear black and talk in hushed tones. Front pages are uniformly somber. Britain’s media speak with a single, respectful voice about the Queen and her unimpeachable legacy. Westminster, meanwhile, has been stripped of left and right. The Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties have set aside politics to grieve as one. Even the Scottish nationalists – supposedly trying to rid themselves of the yoke of centuries of English rule presided over by the monarch – appear to be in effusive mourning.  The world’s urgent problems – from the war in Europe to a looming climate catastrophe – are no longer of interest or relevance. They can wait till Britons emerge from a more pressing national trauma. Domestically, t

Liz Truss: worse than Margaret Thatcher?

failed evolution UK ruined the opportunity to elect one of the best PMs that would really work for the people: Jeremy Corbyn. Instead, the country got now one of the worst PMs ever: Liz Truss.

Congressional Democrats shun Ukraine peace campaign

The Grayzone   Veteran antiwar activists Medea Benjamin and Tighe Berry speak to Max Blumenthal about Code Pink's new campaign for negotiations between the US and Russia over Ukraine and a halt to billions in military aid. Benjamin and Berry discuss the chilly reception their advocacy received from even some progressive Democratic members of Congress and critique "America First" Republicans that claim to oppose the Ukraine proxy war. Benjamin and Berry also discuss the state of the US antiwar movement and the arbitrary post-1/6 restrictions which prevent the public from entering the US Capitol building to lobby members of Congress.

Day 1253: Julian Assange still in prison and under slow-motion execution by the Anglo-American imperialist criminals

failed evolution   On 11 April 2019, the Ecuadorian government of traitor Lenin Moreno, invited the Metropolitan Police into the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and they arrested Julian Assange . Since then, Assange is kept in Belmarsh high security prison in London, without actual charges.   The real reason world's number one political prisoner is still kept in this high security prison, is because he exposed horrendous war crimes carried out by the US imperialists and their allies.   The ruthless Western imperialist regime wants to punish the No1 real journalist in the world and make him an example for any Whistleblower or real journalist who will attempt to expose its big crimes in the future.   And the Anglo-American axis has now become officially a fascist coalition , framed by the rest of its Western pets. UK's Home Secretary Priti Patel, one of the most ruthless ever, decided to extradite Julian Assange to US. No surprise of course. The only question we had in mind is

The Chris Hedges Report: Ukraine and the crisis of media censorship

The Real News Network   Throughout the Ukraine war, Western news outlets have mindlessly parroted the opinions of a ruling elite and overseen a public discourse that is often unhinged from the real world.   Patrick Lawrence was a correspondent and columnist for nearly 30 years for the Far Eastern Economic Review, the International Herald Tribune and The New Yorker . He is the author of Somebody Else's Century: East and West in a Post-Western World and Time No Longer: America After the American Century .