While it is disappointing to see that Wallonia has dropped its opposition to the CETA deal, thus paving the way for signing and ultimate ratification, all may not be lost, at least for the Europeans, according to Thomas Walkom. Morever, this imbroglio has brought forth some interesting facts, facts that again raise questions about Canada's underlying motivation in so aggressively pursuing the deal.
... the deal as written contains a fundamental imbalance. European firms would be able to challenge, at special investment courts, Canadian laws and regulations that interfere with profit-making.Think about that for a moment. The EU has structural protections built in to permit or exclude such challenges, while our own federal government raises not one objection to them. Indeed, you may recall how International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeladn has described CETA as "gold-plated," after tinkering around the edges of the investor state dispute settlement process, tinkering that was, for all intents and purposes, cosmetic.
But Canadian firms would have the same rights only in those EU countries that specifically allow such challenges. That’s because the EU treats the proposed Investment Court System as a matter of national, rather than Pan-European, concern.
In Canada, on the other hand, investment courts need only the imprimatur of the federal government to come into effect.
Walkom cites Osgoode Hall law professor and trade expert Gus Van Harten, who says,
Ottawa may want to put the investment court portion of the deal on ice until the EU nations decide which of them will agree to it.However, investor rights are only the most egregious part of a very flawed deal:
The Guardian reports that as part of its deal with Wallonia, Belgium has agreed to ask the European Court of Justice whether the investment court dispute settlement proposal is even legal.
A 2010 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimated that removing tariffs on European cars and trucks would cost the Canadian auto industry between 28,000 and 150,000 jobs.So what does the deal come down to for Canadians?
According to one 2013 estimate, drug patent rules envisioned by the treaty would end up costing both individual consumers and provincial governments up to $1.6 billion each year, making it even more difficult to set up a national pharmacare plan.
Canadian dairy farmers would be hurt as would fish processors. Canadian beef and pork producers would probably benefit from exporting more to Europe — although the scale of this has been called into question.
The main economic benefit of CETA may be that it would allow Canadians to buy European luxury goods at marginally cheaper prices.Ordinary Canadians have every right to demand an explanation for why Canada is so content with protecting the investor rights that will so hamper our sovereignty, as has been our experience with NAFTA.
Otherwise, this never was a compelling deal. Even without CETA, the EU is already Canada’s second-largest trading partner.
Government rhetoric and neoliberal enthusiasms notwithstanding, we all deserve much, much better from the people we elected to protect and advance our interests.