Thursday, September 22, 2016

CETA - A Threat We Should All Be Aware Of

A recent post I wrote contrasted the apparent indifference/ignorance of Canadians toward CETA with the furious involvement of the Europeans, most recently the Germans, in open protest against the deal. It is a pact that will see even greater erosion of our ability to enact strong legislation to protect labour, the environment and a host of other realms thanks to the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions that protect multinationals at the expense of citizens. It will further undermine our increasingly fragile sovereign rights.

And sadly, it is a deal the the Trudeau Liberals are avidly embracing.

Scott Sincleair and Stuart Trew write a trenchant reminder of CETA's dangers:
Much more than a trade deal, CETA is a sweeping constitution-style document that will restrict public policy options in areas as diverse as intellectual property rights, government procurement, food safety and environmental protection, financial regulation, the temporary movement of workers, and public services.
My previous post noted the weak language governing some of the above, including platitudes like commitments to cooperate, provisions encouraging Canada and the EU to continue developing our resources in a way that is environmentally sustainable, establishes shared commitments to promote trade in a way that contributes to the objectives of sustainable development in Canada and the EU, etc.

All part and parcel of what Liberal International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland calls "a gold-plated trade deal."

As Sincleair and Trew observe,
While CETA’s safeguards for labour and the environment are mainly voluntary and weak, the investor protections are strong and fully enforceable. Such an agreement could only be considered enlightened in an upside-down world.
The devolution of our sovereignty began long before CETA, however.
Canada’s experience with investor-state arbitration under NAFTA is pitiful. We are the most-sued NAFTA party despite our highly developed legal system and strong protections for private property. Many of these challenges involve environmental protection policies that were legally enacted, but which upset an investor’s plans or profits.

Just last year, Canada lost a disturbing NAFTA dispute over an environmental assessment that recommended against a massive quarry in an ecologically sensitive part of Nova Scotia. Canada currently faces a raft of claims as a result of progressive policies, such as banning natural gas fracking in the province of Quebec.
The pending deal promises more of the same, a source of puzzlement to European progressives:
European labour unions, environmentalists and human rights advocates question why Canada and the EU would want to expand this anti-democratic process through CETA. Despite being rebranded as an “investment court system” with pretenses to judicial independence, the substantive protections afforded to foreign investors remain largely intact. This will expose taxpayers in both Canada and the EU to huge financial liabilities and have a chilling effect on future progressive public policy.

European progressives are also asking important questions about the interplay between CETA and public services. CETA contains no clear protections for governments hoping to expand public services into areas where there is currently private sector competition, or to bring previously privatized services back under public control. Doing so can actually trigger foreign investor claims for compensation, effectively locking in privatization.
All the warning signs are there. Whether the vast majority of Canadians can rouse themselves enough to care is an open question.


  1. Lorne, Trudeau & Company are, like their predecessors, on autopilot when it comes to these deals. They don't want to hear the warnings emanating from Stiglitz, Forbes, the Financial Times, the IMF, more recently the World Bank, even our own Ralston Saul. They don't even address these critics perhaps because they know the globalism argument is one they cannot win.

    Sal put me on to Thomas Homer-Dixon's "The Upside of Down." He began writing it in 2003 and it was released 3 years later. While it's a decade out of date I find it, like Ralston Saul's treatise on globalism, better for the passage of time. They detail the conditions on which their conclusions are based. We have the benefit of the intervening years that invariably reinforce their past findings, adding to their credibility.

    Homer-Dixon's book concludes that collapse in some form is inevitable. He also sees that as a necessary precursor for reform, a "reset" button - if we're wise enough to seize the opportunity. If not, the default option is chaos.

    I think you and I agree that neoliberalism is so deeply embedded in our political economy as to be intractable. We don't have much chance of escaping it. Perhaps then there's a silver lining in these escalating trade deals bringing us ever nearer that still distant "reset" button.

    Then again perhaps I am just whistling past the graveyard.

    1. I am having a hard time these days separating the neoliberal agenda with the effects we are experiencing thanks to climate change, Mound. It seems we are certainly headed for a precipice leading to collapse, but my sense is that the collapse will be within our environment, something for which there is no reset button.