Theres a lot of controversy surrounding the TTIP agreement but what about CETA

Published by Conor Mulvihill on

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       11th of July 2016

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a free trade agreement between Canada and the EU. The negotiations were concluded in August 2014 with the agreement to be approved by Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and potentially all EU member states. If this agreement is implemented it would eliminate 98% of the tariffs between Canada and the EU.  Similar to TTIP the economic and regulatory features of these agreements has brought them into conflict with domestic legislation.

Unlike TTIP, CETA has had very little controversy surrounding it because we see Canada as “more European”. But that’s changing. In just the last two weeks, governments and parliaments in Romania, Bulgaria, Austria, France, Greece, Belgium and Slovenia have all raised the possibility that they might not ratify CETA at the end of June. Concerns have been raised over the investor-state clause that would enable private firms to sue governments if their business is harmed due to government actions. This clause would enable Canadian or European subsidiaries of multi-national oil companies to sue either Canadian or EU governments over environmental and emission standards, which would possibly give corporations power over EU’s and Canada’s domestic environmental regulations.

If it goes through, CETA will open up the rules, standards and public spending priorities of provinces and municipalities to direct competition and challenge from European corporations. It appears issues surrounding the environmental implications are rarely highlighted, but a recent trade sustainability impact assessment commissioned by the European Commission has sounded alarms in several areas.

Trade lawyer Steven Shrybman has sounded a similar warning in a recent legal opinion, noting that CETA will give corporations the right to ignore or challenge existing or new rules aimed at reducing damage towards the environment. He highlighted how governments see international trade regimes as an important tool for defeating efforts to address climate change.

There are also report which highlights the possible negative impact on northern and first nations communities as the deal opens up massive new industrial, mining, forestry and energy development, leading to “water, air and soil contamination.” It appears that leaders from both Europe and Canada are seeking a comprehensive and aggressive global approach to acquiring the raw materials needed by its corporations. This includes fish. The EU is seeking to remove export restrictions and foreign investment limits from Canadian processing plants, as well as increased access to Canadian ports to bring the raw fish back to Europe for processing. Europe has overfished its own waters and is seeking uncontrolled access to ours; the impact report warns that CETA will likely lead to overfishing, especially in the Atlantic.

Both CETA and TTIP are a complex maze of political and economic issues which are being negotiated in secret and have the potential to change the rights of European and Canadian citizens. In the long term, Canadian and Europeans, not politicians, must decide if they want the positive aspects of CETA along with the possibility of multinational companies determining environmental laws.

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Conor Mulvihill

Conor is Communications Assistant with the Irish Environmental Network. His background is in science and he has a masters in international relations.