Canada’s Chrystia Freeland has spent the last few weeks trying to reassure Canadians CETA doesn’t mean what it says. And, trade ministers from Canada and the European Union have drafted an “interpretive declaration” they claim will address the many long-standing criticisms of this dangerous trade pact. But a copy leaked last week confirms the declaration is not worth the paper it’s written on.
There are no guarantees any declaration is legally binding. Even if it were, it does nothing to change the CETA provisions that are most dangerous to the interests of Canadian workers.
Last month, CUPE co-signed an open letter with other Canadian unions outlining the many problems with this trade pact, and calling on the federal government not to ratify it. Our demands to make the deal better include:
Remove all investor rights rules.
There is no need to bypass our public court system and use extra-judicial arbitration that favours corporations. CETA’s proposed Investor Court System is not a real improvement on flawed investor-state dispute resolution systems in NAFTA and other trade deals.
Protect public services from privatization.
CETA puts our public services at risk by making it harder to reverse failed privatizations or expand public services in the future.
Stop pharmaceutical patent extensions.
CETA’s patent protection provisions could increase the annual cost of pharmaceuticals in our health care system by $1 billion or more.
Protect procurement across services and sectors.
Currently, any government service or sector not explicitly excluded is swept into CETA. This limits the rights of provinces, municipalities, and other entities to get the most out of their procurement spending by favouring local goods and services.
Include a real mechanism for enforcing labour rights.
Currently, violations of labour rights are not subject to any meaningful sanction – a marked contrast from the provisions that address the rights of investors.
Our demands were not met in the leaked declaration. CUPE is still fundamentally opposed to CETA.
Meanwhile, millions of Europeans are opposing CETA in the streets. EU trade ministers are meeting next week to vote on CETA support. If they support the deal, representatives of the EU and Canada (likely Prime Minister Trudeau) will sign the deal in Brussels later this month. The European Parliament will vote on ratification later this year or early in 2017. If that happens, much of CETA – but not its most contentious aspects, including the Investor Court System – will come into operation on a “provisional basis.”
Even if CETA is accepted at all of these levels, it’s still important to note that dozens of parliaments of all EU countries (and some regional governments) will still have to ratify CETA. If any of the EU national or regional governments rejects the ratification of CETA, we will be in unchartered waters regarding its implementation.
CETA also needs to be ratified in Canada. CUPE is calling on the federal government and every provincial government to not ratify CETA until the concerns we outline have been addressed.
CUPE members understand that CETA still threatens public services, good jobs and our communities. We support fair trade, not trade agreements like CETA that favour corporations over Canadians.