MEPs attempt to block legal scrutiny of new ‘corporate court’ system in EU-Canada trade deal
Date: 18 November 2016
European parliamentary leaders are attempting to block a move for the controversial new corporate courts system in the EU Canada trade deal (CETA) to be scrutinized by the European Court of Justice.
A group of 89 MEPs have tabled a motion that the proposed Investor Court System (ICS), that would enable corporations to sue governments for passing legislation that could harm their profits, should be subjected to proper legal scrutiny by the European Court of Justice before coming into force to ensure it is compatible with existing EU treaties and laws.
But the European Parliament’s Committee of Presidents have pushed forward the vote on the motion to Wednesday 23 November and are refusing for any debate about it to take place in parliament. The MEPs who have tabled the motion have expressed concerns that unless MEPs are allowed time to debate the proposal and articulate their concerns about the legality of ICS, the proposal is much less likely to succeed. It’s also been reported that the some MEPs who tabled the motion have been told directly by party leaders to remove their names from it.
A previous report on the proposed Investor Court System warned that it “could dangerously thwart government efforts to protect citizens and the environment.” Criticisms of the proposed system include:
- Under a comparable treaty, Canada has been sued 26 times, mostly for trying to introducing better environmental regulation. Billions of dollars are currently sought from Canada. In many ways, CETA gives corporations even clearer powers to sue.
- Canadian corporations have launched 42 cases against other governments, primarily by extractive firms, and currently have $20 billion in outstanding claims against governments including the US.
- Financial regulation is particularly under threat under CETA which hands big banks more power to challenge financial regulation they don’t like
- European states also risk being sued by thousands of the biggest US multinationals through their subsidiaries in Canada.
Guy Taylor, trade campaigner at Global Justice Now said: “The corporate court system that is being proposed as part of the EU-Canada trade deal would have enormous ramifications for current legal systems across Europe, so it’s an entirely sensible and appropriate proposal that it should be subject to thorough scrutiny from legal experts at the European Courts of Justice. The fact that political leaders in the EU are trying to prevent that from taking place shows how desperate they are to inflict this toxic trade deal on the people of Europe. It’s an underhand move that is sadly entirely in tune with the lack of transparency, accountability and democratic process that has characterised these negotiations.
“CETA would open up our government to a deluge of court cases by North American multinational corporations and investors. It presents a threat to our ability to protect the environment, to protect the public and to limit the power of big banks. It’s thoroughly undemocratic and must be stopped.”
Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, and one of those who have tabled the motion said: “The slogan ‘Take back control’ is still ringing in our ears but we need to pay close attention to the question of who is taking back control from whom? The system of secret, corporate courts proposed within the CETA trade treaty represents a massive power grab and it is particularly shocking that our democratic representatives at Westminster are being prevented from debating or voting on this trade treaty. The courts are likely to have a chilling effect on governments seeking to improve social and environmental standards, whether this is about controlling the use of antibiotic use on farms or ensuring that we have worker representatives on boards.”