IMG_5146 by campact (CC BY-NC 2.0)

IMG_5146 by campact (CC BY-NC 2.0)


CETA Talks Break Down: “It is Evident that the EU Is Incapable of Reaching an Agreement”

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has walked out of talks aimed at addressing Belgian opposition to the Canada-EU Trade Agreement, stating:

I have personally worked very hard, but it is now evident to me, evident to Canada, that the European Union is incapable of reaching an agreement – even with a country with European values such as Canada, even with a country as nice and as patient as Canada. Canada is disappointed and I personally am disappointed, but I think it’s impossible. We are returning home.

Leaving aside the odd reference to how nice Canada is, this is remarkable language that lays bare the obvious frustration and disappointment for the government which prioritized the CETA agreement above all others. The prospect of the deal falling apart has been evident for months. I wrote in July that the agreement was in more trouble than the Canadian government would admit, noting that opposition from any national or regional government could kill CETA altogether. Canadian officials downplayed the risk, but it was obvious that CETA faced stiff opposition that would not be easy to overcome.

Yet to focus exclusively on the political dimensions (which should also include how disingenuous the Conservatives’ claims about their trade deals were) is to miss the broader concerns with trade agreements such as CETA. The Stop CETA protests across Europe tend to focus on broader opposition to trade agreements that extend far beyond reduced tariffs. Indeed, few oppose reduced tariffs. The concerns instead typically point to the wide range of regulatory measures and dispute settlement mechanisms that may prioritize corporate concerns over local rules. The fear of these aspects of the agreement are what lies at the heart of opposition to CETA, as well as to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TTIP.

The insistence that such provisions remain in the agreement is what is truly puzzling. Given that Europe and Canada both offer reliable, respected court systems, there is little reason to insist on ISDS rules at all. Further, expanded trade should not require Canada to face increased health care costs (as would result from CETA’s extension of patent protections) or Europe to confront changes to various food and safety regulations.

The CETA setback in Europe has strong echoes to the 2012 defeat of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Trade negotiators and governments similarly downplayed mounting protests and concerns associated with ACTA, but the European Parliament ultimately rejected the agreement in a landslide. Killing ACTA – much like the potential death knell for CETA – isn’t about Europe’s ability to conclude deals or how nice Canada is. It is about the expansive approach to traditional trade agreements that it is increasingly out-of-step with local regulation, the balance between government and corporate rights, and public opinion.

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  1. Devil's Advocate says:

    “The insistence that such provisions remain in the agreement is what is truly puzzling.”

    It’s really not puzzling at all.

    These supposed “trade deals” were never about trade. They’re designed to dismantle the sovereignty of every country fool enough to agree to that, in order to install a global corporate ruling system.

    People need to call these things out for what they really are. Alas, not very many are actually paying attention.

    • Islandcynic says:

      Fully agree! But that’s never how the politicians sell it to us.

      • Devil's Advocate says:

        No, and that leads to what actually puzzles me about all the governments participating in these deals… What do THEY think they stand to gain from it all?!

        Once corporations are free to bleed everyone dry, without pesky things like labour laws or environmental concerns getting in their way, where do these politicians think they’re going to fit in? Or, what purpose will be left for government itself, other than being a protectionist racket for the psychopathic, insatiable, profit-seeking Corporate Machine they’re empowering.

  2. Let’s be sharp about this. CETA is a coup d’etat of trade administrations, directed against their own democracies. It is a model treaty for a new type of trade documents which dismantles the state and democracy (being the rule of the demos).

    Example? Something harmless, Article 4.6(1):

    “Each Party shall ensure that transparency procedures regarding the development of technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures allow interested persons of the Parties to participate at an early appropriate stage when amendments can still be introduced and comments taken into account, except where urgent problems of safety, health, environmental protection or national security arise or threaten to arise.
    Where a consultation process regarding the development of technical regulations or conformity assessment procedures is open to the public, each Party shall permit persons of the other Party to participate on terms no less favourable than those accorded to its own persons.”

    1. Companies from Canada will get rights into writing European technical regulations, rights that members of Parliament did not enjoy v-a-v CETA where all MEP could just say yes (or no). Companies that are not part of the European constituency.
    2. Companies from the EU will get rights into Canadian technical regulations that members of Parliament did not enjoy v-a-v CETA. Companies that are not part of the Canadian constituency.
    3. It does not matter anymore if a company and its owner is part of the constituency or not.

    As a Canadian it is simply not your business to mingle into the internal affairs of the EU, as a European citizen or company it is not your business to mingle into the internal affairs of Canada. Because you are not a member of the Demos, and that being a member of the demos is elementary to Democracy.

    A right given to foreign corporations to “participate at an early appropriate stage when amendments can still be introduced and comments taken into account”
    is exactly what our elected MPs did not enjoy with CETA!

  3. I’m really disappointed by the way Trudeau and Freeland handled this. We did everything wrong, and then we blame people who actually want to make a good deal for their citizens. (How dare they!)

    Yes, it’s worth crying over, because our government is so wrong.

    • Devil's Advocate says:

      “…we blame people who actually want to make a good deal for their citizens”

      If that’s not sarcasm, it should be.
      There’s nothing in these “deals” that would even resemble benefit for “citizens”.

  4. Good news, and well-timed with the recent $25M fine assessed by the NAFTA tribunal against Ontario. A prime example of the sort of corporate overrides enabled by bad trade deals.

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