Canadian academics’ open letter to Wallonia on CETA deal

by: Obert Madondo |  | Published October 22, 2016, by The Canadian Progressive

Protest against the Canada-EU CETA and TTIP mega trade agreements in Berlin, Germany, in November, 2014. Photo credit: Jakob Huber/ECI Stop TTIP! / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Protest against the Canada-EU CETA and TTIP mega trade agreements in Berlin, Germany, in November, 2014. Photo credit: Jakob Huber/ECI Stop TTIP! / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A bunch of Canadian academics sent the following open letter (version francais) to the Parliament of Wallonia and the people of Belgian on Monday. The academics expressed their support for Wallonia’s continuing historic rejection of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement or CETA.

According to Osgoode Hall Law School prof Gas van Harten, one of the letter’s signatories, the academics wrote the letter “after seeing weekend reports of the pressure tactics employed by Canadian politicians and business representatives to influence Wallonia’s decision-making on the CETA.”

Check out the full list of the letter’s signatories, plus links to relevant publications and articles HERE.

Here’s the full text of the academics’ letter:

These problems with the CETA’s foreign investor protections remain outstanding, despite the recent Joint Interpretive Declaration issued by Canada and the EU (in all of the various forms in which that Declaration became public).

We are heartened that your democratic processes in Wallonia have allowed for close and careful consideration of the CETA’s flaws as part of a genuine and thoughtful debate. We wish Canadians had been permitted to have a similar debate based on a vote in Canada’s Parliament and provincial legislatures, but that has not been the case under the Harper government or the Trudeau government. In contrast to the views expressed undiplomatically by some Canadian politicians and business representatives, it appears to us that Belgian democracy has been exercised responsibly, as it should be, to allow parliamentary votes on the quasi-constitutional structures created by foreign investor protection agreements like the CETA.

In Canada, our democracy has suffered because the federal government has insisted on pushing through agreements like the NAFTA and the CETA without legislative votes at the federal and provincial levels. As a result, and without the corresponding endorsements by our elected representatives, we have been left with a foreign investor protection system that binds all levels of government and that will bind all future elected governments in Canada for a very long time. Our experience hints at the dangers faced by European democracy in the case of the CETA.

Whatever decisions you take, we urge you not to succumb to the same types of tactics used to mislead and scare Canadians into undermining our democracy on behalf of foreign investors. Canada and the European Commission have been aware for years that the CETA faced significant public and academic opposition due to its foreign investor protections. Yet they declined to remove these non-trade elements from the CETA.

In a context where there is no credible justification for including ISDS or ICS in the CETA – given the greater reliability, independence, and fairness of Canadian and European democratic and judicial processes – it still surprises us how big business groups and governments acting on their behalf ferociously cling to such a deeply flawed and undemocratic model.

In case they are of interest, we have noted below a few additional documents indicating concerns with the foreign investor protection system. We have also listed a larger sample of relevant publications by the signatories.

From what we can see, you have shown great courage in opposing the CETA and, based on our observations of how the foreign investor protection system has been pushed on Canadians over the years, we wish to express our support for your democratic choices.

The CETA deal suffered two major setbacks since the letter was written. On Monday Wallonia’s opposition forced EU trade ministers to postpone a key decision on the deal. On Friday, negotiations seeking to convince Wallonia to accept the deal failed.

“This major setback for CETA is not just because of Wallonia alone. There is deep, widespread opposition to CETA and many millions of people agree with Wallonia’s stance. Thousands across Europe and Canada spoke up and took action to make this happen,” says Maude Barlow, the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “This collapse of attempts to reach a deal on CETA shows governments should listen to people instead of trying to push these deals through against the wishes of the people they’re elected to represent.”

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