130 civil society organizations reject Canada-EU CETA trade deal

by: Obert Madondo  | Published Sunday, Sept 28, 2014

Council of Canadians CETA Protest on Parliament Hill on Friday, Sept 26, 2014. (Photo: Council of Canadians/FACEBOOK)

Council of Canadians CETA Protest on Parliament Hill on Friday, Sept 26, 2014. (Photo: Council of Canadians/FACEBOOK)

More than 130 civil society organizations on both sides of the Atlantic have reiterated their continuing rejection of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement or CETA.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso signed the deal during an Canada-EU Summit in Ottawa on Friday. That’s after 5 years of secret negotiations.

In a joint statement issued on the eve of the signing ceremony, the organizations denounced the “outrageous democratic deficit” that accompanied the CETA negotiations. The organizations said CETA “grants excessive powers to multinational companies at the expense of people’s rights.”

“With one voice, we reject any attempt by Prime Minister Harper and his European counterparts to place our societies and parliaments before a fait accompli. The stakes of this agreement are such that we can not accept a handful of technocrats decide our future without a public debate can be held”, said Pierre-Yves Serinet, coordinator of the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC), one of the signatories to the statement.

The coalition said its statement was supported by “important social movements outside Canada and the EU, including Public Services International, a trade union federation of over 500 public sector unions in over 140 countries, the Citizens Trade Campaign, a wide coalition in the United States that contributed to stop fast track, and many organizations in South America that successfully blocked the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).” The group added that its opposition to CETA was “an additional step towards the greater articulation of social struggles on the free trade and investment regime, and its most recent expressions like the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).”

RELATED: BREAKING: German TV Leaks CETA Trade Deal Text

A version of the CETA text, leaked in August by Germany television show Tagesschau, confirms the concerns raised by the organizations. A recent study of the text by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) concluded that the deal favours multinational corporations and burdens consumers, the environment, and the greater public interest.

You can check out or download the study here: Making Sense of the CETA: An analysis of the final text of the Canada–European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

“Canadians are making a lot of sacrifices to get a deal that mainly benefits large multinational corporations,” said Scott Sinclair, the CCPA’s senior trade policy researcher and co-editor of the study. “Even more than past Canadian agreements, the CETA substantially constrains the democratic right of governments at all levels to implement public interest legislation, job-creation strategies, environmental protection policy, and new public services.”

Myriam Vander Stichele from the Amsterdam based organization SOMO, a member of the Seattle to Brussels Network in Europe, agrees.

“CETA rules undermine the power of parliaments and governments to regulate in the public interest. Different chapters restrict what measures and laws can be introduced and lock in new guarantees that future legislations are in favour of business interests only,” she said.

A few hours after the deal was signed, the CBC News declared that “Harper, EU leaders celebrate trade deal they haven’t sealed,” adding that CETA now faces “the rough road to ratification that looms in Europe.”

The CCPA concluded that the final CETA text “includes a controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that a large bloc of parties in the European Parliament, which has a veto over the deal, has indicated it will reject.”

“I would not bet any money on CETA coming into effect. Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, just said to demonstrators in Berlin that he does not see in the parliament a majority for a treaty that includes investor state dispute settlement,” said Jörg Haas of the German NGO Campact, who was in Ottawa for the Canada-EU Summit. “There is massive popular resistance against CETA and TTIP in Germany. Campact has now collected 630,000 signatures against TTIP and 387,000 against CETA in Germany, bigger numbers than any petition Campact has run before.”

Last week, EurActiv News reported that Germany would not sign the deal “unless an investment protection clause allowing companies to take cross-border legal action against governments is scrapped, Germany’s economy minister said on Thursday (25 September).” Germany had already registered its opposition to ISDS provisions that allow corporations to sue governments infringing upon their pursuit of profits.

The Council of Canadians, one the leading critics of the CETA deal, described the signing ceremony as a “little more than a face-saving exercise for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.”

Collaborating with the Canadian Maritime, Supply Chain Coalition, the Trade Justice Network, the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC), and Campact Germany, the Council of Canadians mobilized over 300 for a protest against CETA on Parliament Hill last Friday. The protesters demanded public debate on CETA.

“I think we have a fair expectation that we can derail the ratification process in the EU parliament,” said Brent Patterson, the political director of the Council of Canadians.

The transatlantic declaration of social movements is available

In English, at http://www.tradejustice.ca/?p=637

In French, at http://rqic.alternatives.ca/spip.php?article149

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.