'Toxic' trade deal CETA passed by European parliament despite widespread public opposition

Wednesday, 15 February, 2017

Responding to the news that MEPs had voted 408 to 254 to pass the EU-Canada trade deal CETA, Nick Dearden, the director of Global Justice Now said:

“Over three million people across Europe signed a petition calling for CETA to be scrapped, while hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of cities like Berlin saying they wanted no part of this toxic trade deal. So it’s shameful that so many MEPs in voting for CETA have come down in favour of the army of corporate lobbyists that have been howling for this deal rather than the voices of the ordinary people that they are supposed to represent. This trade deal will have terrible impacts on our public services, labour rights and consumer standards, so it is crucial that Fox stops thwarting democratic process and that proper scrutiny and debate of CETA takes places for UK MPs.

“MEPs may have voted in favour of CETA today, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story. The strength of public opposition to the deal meant that the commission conceded that national parliaments must agree before it comes into full effect, and there’s every chance that that won’t happen in countries like Austria and Belgium. In the UK Liam Fox has proven to be very cunning in ensuring that a full parliamentary debate hasn’t happened on CETA. We will continue to fight to stop CETA being ratified in Westminster – something that will require MPs to take their role seriously.”

A number of prominent MEPs from the UK including both SNP MEPs and a number of Labour MEPs voted against the deal.

Theresa Griffin, Labour MEP for the North West wrote an open letter to her constituents in which she explained, “The bottom line, for me, is that we should not support a trade deal if it’s a poor deal. CETA is risky for public services, weakens the rule of law and is not good enough for workers and the environment.”

Speaking in a video that he filmed in Strasbourg just before the vote Afzal Khan, Labour MEP, also a Labour North West MEP said: “I want our businesses to be able to grow and thrive. But it must never come at the cost of workers’ rights or social and environmental protections. I accept that this is a better agreement than TTIP but many concerns remain.  Many of you have cited the investor court system as a major concern about CETA - I share this view. We can’t have large corporations being able to sue governments for affecting future profits or having their own separate court system.”

Other UK MEPs who have been firm in their opposition to CETA include Jude Kirton-Darling, Paul Brannen, Lucy Anderson, Anneliese Dodds, Alex Mayer and Claude Moraes.

Over three million people across Europe have signed a petition calling for the deal to be scrapped, arguing that the deal will hand a raft of new powers over to corporations enabling them to influence and weaken government policies relating to the public sector, labour rights, consumer standards and the environment.

Liam Fox, the Secretary for International Trade has been accused of trying to dodge proper parliamentary scrutiny of the deal, after failing to fulfil a commitment for a parliament-wide debate and instead holding a smaller committee debate last Monday while the rest of parliament was debating the Brexit Bill.

An expert opinion on CETA and Brexit has shown that if the UK doesn’t formally leave the EU before CETA is ratified, then it would be tied into the ‘corporate courts system’ of the trade deal for a period of twenty years after announcing any intention to leave the deal.
Despite today’s vote in Strasbourg, the deal will still need to be approved in national parliaments across the EU, although large parts of the deal will start to come into effect on a provisional basis on the first of March.

CETA has been widely opposed by civil society groups across Europe and Canada because:

  • it contains a similar system to TTIP that enables corporations to sue governments for enacting laws and regulations that might harm their profits
  • negotiations have already laid the basis for tar sands oil – one of the world’s most environmentally destructive fossil fuels – to flow into Europe. If CETA comes into effect, the import and production of this toxic fuel will increase, devastating the environment.
  • it contains a ‘Regulatory Cooperation’ chapter which threatens to hand multinationals a greater role in the formulation of making laws, and sparking a race to the bottom in standards for important areas like food safety and environmental regulation.
  • it locks in privatisation and deregulation at current levels  for a wide range of services.

More information:

Global Justice Now briefing on CETA

Nick Dearden writing for the Independent last week, By signing CETA with Justin Trudeau, the EU isn’t undermining Donald Trump – they’re helping him.

Image - CETA protests outside the European parliament this morning