CETA Is Down, But Not Out

No CETAPunch-drunk CETA, the contentious Canada-EU trade agreement, is on its knees at the moment after the Walloons, who have held it at bay so far, agreed to an addendum to the deal — with the other Belgian regions. The other EU members — and Canada — have yet to approve these. The dispute over investor-state relations has delayed the proposed signing date of 27th October 2016 until the EU regional parliaments have approved CETA.

CETA might never be implemented

The Belgians are pretending they’ve got this in the bag.

But after the latest round of marathon talks, Mr Michel tweeted: “All parliaments are now able to approve by tomorrow at midnight. Important step for EU and Canada.”

He did not give further details, but the premier of the Flemish region, Geert Bourgeois, said the original text of the trade deal remained the same. – EU-Canada trade deal: Belgians break CETA deadlock, BBC

However, the Council of Canadians sees it differently: the Walloons didn’t cave in, they say, they got what they wanted.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted, “CETA deal has been made. Must see what it says. Will not be an easy ride even now. Horrible flawed deal and process. CETA ‘deal’ likely includes no ICS (ISDS) to be adopted right away which means it might never be in CETA at all! This would be huge.” – CETA moves forward, but without controversial ‘investment protection’ provisions, by Brent Patterson for the Council of Canadians

In any case, the ICS (Investment Court System) conceived by Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström to assuage concerns about ISDS is going to be referred to the European Court of Justice for a ruling on whether it is compatible with EU treaties. And Belgian regions can still block or veto efforts at regulatory cooperation. Basically, the Belgians have kicked the can at least three years down the road. It’s not anywhere near the bag, is it? Even if the deal were ratified by the EU Parliament tomorrow, CETA would then have to be ratified by the member states’ parliaments, during which time it would be provisionally applied. If the Canadians don’t back down over ISDS, etc., CETA would be reduced to a bonsai agreement; artificially contstrained to fit the narrow definitions imposed upon it by the will of the European people.

Canadians have realised the sword swings both ways

Meanwhile, a Canadian constitutional challenge against CETA has been launched in the Federal Court of Canada.

On Oct. 21, renowned constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati filed the statement of claim against CETA on behalf of the Hon. Paul Hellyer (former Minister of National Defence) and two co-plaintiffs, Ann Emmett and George Cromwell (members of the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform). At the Oct. 25 press conference, Galati referred to the corporate sector as “the new royalty,” and he stated, “What this treaty does is literally revert us back to the divine right of kings, but they are multinational corporations now.”

Galati’s statement of claim argues that CETA is unconstitutional for several reasons, including the fact that it was never given Canadian Parliamentary approval, while “the treaty places the rights of private foreign investors over those of the Canadian Constitution and Canadian citizens.” – Canadians Launch Constitutional Challenge Against CETA, by Joyce Nelson for Counterpunch

Mr. Galati is as concerned about the effect of the competition rules, which might declare state-sponsored social programs monopolies and demand that they be broken up, and the investor-state dispute system as we are. Apparently some Canadians believe that the CETA sword is double-edged and could swing back their way. Indeed, my anti-CETA graphic reflects Canadian concern about rapacious European corporations taking control of their water services from local municipalities. It also mocks the patronising handwaving by supporters who claim that nobody is stealing the water. It’s precisely this refusal to properly address the concerns of the people that is holding the agreement back; they’re not even willing to discuss them.

Big business doesn’t like this

Economist writer “Charlemagne” has decried the success of the Walloons in derailing CETA, claiming that we’re now in the age of “vetocracy.” Effectively, they’re asking why some tiny province has the right to stop the deal going through while skipping merrily past concerns over standards and ISDS, as if they don’t really matter. He also dismisses opposition as “leftist,” anti-American (implied), and “anti-trade.” These people don’t negotiate, they butt heads. It’s just as well, then, that CETA didn’t actually “squeak through.” Across the Pond, Canadian neoliberals are also unhappy.

Thirty years after jumping into free-trade waters with the sharks of U.S. capitalism, Canadians aren’t just unworried trade deals might bring foreign corporations to swindle and sicken us, we’re the ones hunting most hungrily for more. Anti-globalization crusaders might find it all too easy to peddle fears about foreigners, business and — scariest of all — foreign business everywhere from Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump rallies to Berlin and Namur. But not here. Whatever Canadian values are, they’re driven far less by a fear of the world than are Europe’s. – Europeans fall for same paleo-leftist fears over CETA that Canadians no longer worry about, by Kevin Libin for the Financial Post

If nothing else, these articles prove the legitimacy of our struggle against CETA. If we don’t look out for our own interests, nobody else will. Negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic are doing their best to ram this through one way or another, and TTIP is waiting in the wings. We must keep the pressure on until they both collapse.

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