Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why I hope CETA fails

Michael Geist in today’s Globe & Mail gives cogent reasons why the EU-Canada trade deal is bad for Canada, and for our democracy. This bad trade deal has not been discussed in detail by Canadians; was born in secrecy, negotiated in secrecy; diminishes our democratic rights; and is being  pushed by the political and economic elite without due consideration of the long-lasting impact on our country.

I hope the Walloons stick to their rejection, that the German courts oppose these very terms, and that the agreement fail until such time as these unnecessary anti-democratic provisions are totally stripped from the agreement.

Here is his exceptionally clear and journalistically sound analysis of the anti-democratic provisions:

If CETA were limited to tariff reductions, it would be relatively uncontroversial. The discomfort with the agreement lies in the mandated changes to domestic regulations and the creation of dispute settlement mechanisms that may prioritize corporate concerns over local rules.

Regulatory provisions in CETA mean that both parties face the prospect of changing national laws to accommodate foreign businesses. For example, CETA requires Canada to expand patent protections, largely due to demands from European pharmaceutical companies. The required changes would add billions to Canadian health-care costs by extending the term of protection for popular drugs. Similarly, European countries would face the prospect of altering food and safety regulations.

The insistence on including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions are particularly puzzling. These rules, which allow companies to seek damages where local regulations interfere with their economic expectations, are commonly found in foreign-investment treaties with developing countries whose court systems are unknown or viewed as risky by potential investors.

There are no such risks in Canada and Europe, however, since both offer reliable, respected court systems that are widely used by companies from around the world. 

Moreover, Canada has first-hand experience with the dangers associated with ISDS as it infamously lost a major environmental case involving Delaware-based Bilcon, which had proposed the expansion of a quarry on the shore of the Bay of Fundy in September, 2002, that was rejected by the Nova Scotia and federal governments after a joint review panel recommended it not proceed. The government also faces hundreds of millions of dollars in liability stemming from a patent claim by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.
Canada and the EU have sought to assuage concerns over the ISDS provisions with some legal tinkering, yet the underlying problem is that the provisions prioritize the rights of foreign investors over domestic companies without a compelling argument for their inclusion at all.

Thank you, Mr Geist: you have done Canadians a service by your analysis of these dreadful terms.

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