Thousands of ‘Stop TTIP and CETA’ protesters march in Brussels, 20 September 2016. Image: Wikimedia Commons.
The controversial Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations between the EU and Canada have been the subject of new criticism with the secretive agreement now accused of being a backdoor access point for the US to the EU market.
The newest round of discussion on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and US have commenced this week in New York, however CETA is set to be signed during the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Brussels on October 27.
Unlike TTIP, the signing of CETA is going ahead with little political opposition.
Public protests have occurred in several European countries in the last fortnight, with consumer and environmental groups voicing their opposition to both agreements. This is due to concerns over the loss of democratic power and the potential decrease in EU living standards through the deregulation of health and environmental standards.
Director of the Centre for Research on Globalisation and Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa, Michel Chossudovsky said CETA “constitutes a TTIP in disguise” and this agreement will form the foundation of a “global imperial trading structure.”
“The Canadian economy is fully integrated with the US under the North American Free Trade Agreement … if CETA goes ahead it would automatically trigger mechanisms for the acceptance of the bilateral agreement with the United States” Professor Chossudovsky said.
TTIP has been the focal point of negative public opinion due to Canada’s influence being considered less of a threat to European way of life than the US.
EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström stated in a speech to the European Commission in Belgium “Canada is a country that, more than most others around the world, shares our European values.”
“To put it another way, Canada is not the United States … and that means that this agreement needs to be assessed on its own merits” Commissioner Malmström said.
In both the EU and Canada “the same sectors: small and medium enterprises, the farming, the service economy … realise that ultimately what’s going to happen is the corporatisation of this entire economic landscape” Professor Chossudovsky said.
“This is a battle against regional enterprises, irrespective of location.”
Another major concern surrounding CETA is that it will allow Canadian businesses and US companies with Canadian subsidiaries to privately sue the EU before a special tribunal known as the Investment Court System (ICS). Originally known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement under the TTIP treaty, ICS was retitled in CETA to deter controversy.
The ICS can influence governments to act against their own national interest by discouraging the creation of new legislation for fear of being sued by corporations. This private court would also pose a threat to democracy and the sovereignty of European nations as it will contradict pre-existing EU laws.
The imminent signing of the CETA will not only allow for the adoption of the TTIP treaty but will clear the way for the closing of other similar trade deals with Japan, Singapore and Vietnam.