Sunday, September 18, 2016

UPDATED: Thank You, Germans, For Fighting What Should Also Be Our Battle

While Canadians by and large seem content to sleep through the entire CETA negotiations, uttering nary an objection to a deal that will severely compromise our sovereignty, ordinary Germans are turning out en masse to protest its dangers:
Demonstrators took to the streets of Berlin and six other German cities Saturday to voice their displeasure with pending trade deals, one between the European Union and Canada and another with the U.S.

The treaties they’re concerned with are the yet-to-be ratified EU pact with Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the EU’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) [the Canadian version is called the Trans Pacific Partnership, but carries essentially the same perils] deal with the U.S. that is still being negotiated.

While the deal between the EU and Canada has escaped the same scale of criticism and widespread outrage among the Canadian public, it continues to be a hot button political issue in Germany and one that protesters are hoping to stop from being ratified sometime in the fall.
In broad terms the critics say that CETA would give multinational corporations too much power within European Union markets and they object to a dispute resolution mechanism that has been proposed in the framework agreement.

This dispute resolution mechanism would allow companies to bypass national courts in both countries, allowing then to argue their cases in front of international arbitration panels instead.
Despite the fact that we have access to the same information about the dangers of these free-trade deals, few seem upset by the unbridled enthusiasm that both Justin Trudeau and his poodle Chrystia Freeland profess for them:

Despite Freeland's rhapsodic recitation of the improvements that have been made in the CETA deal, a quick check of the facts reveals something quite different, unless motherhood statements and feel-good empty rhetoric are your thing. I would encourage you to read about these 'improvements' yourself under the pertinent sections, but here are a few highlights:
Dispute Settlement

CETA includes a more robust voluntary mediation mechanism than has been included in Canada’s previous trade agreements. Mediation is a cost-effective and expeditious way to resolve disputes without the need for a third party to decide the outcome. When parties choose arbitration rather than mediation, CETA improves on the WTO dispute settlement mechanism by streamlining and shortening the process. In addition, CETA includes an accelerated arbitration procedure for cases requiring urgent resolution, such as those involving live animals and perishable or seasonal foods.
So in other words, the great improvements Freeland was extolling have nothing to do with changing what might come under dispute, such as environmental and labour laws, but only offers a faster and potentially cheaper way to resolve conflicts. There is nothing that protects our national sovereignty here, nothing that prevents the signatories from suing governments that enact legislation that may hamper the profits of corporations.

Similarly, the language dealing with labour, environment and sustainable development are peppered with 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 in all, empty language that enables the Trudeau government to lie to Canada's citizens. But at least our Prime Minister has a nice smile, perhaps something to dream about as we continue our long, collective snooze.

UPDATE: Be sure you read Owen's excellent post today on Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanisms.


  1. Different party, Lorne. Same agenda.

    1. Sadly, that is becoming abundantly clear to those not dazzled by Trudeau's pearly whites, Owen.

  2. Or, as I have chosen to call this government, the Bottomless Well of Cognitive Dissonance. How, in just the span of one year, could they have done so much to break faith with us?

    1. The fall has been long and precipitous, Mound. I am finding it increasingly hard to have much faith in our future. The fact that the Liberals lie with such facility, as if most Canadians are blithering idiots, is deeply discouraging.

  3. I remember calling Trudeau "Harper Lite" and being piled on by apparent Liberal party supporters. Some of the latter have now even piled on Michael Harris over at iPolitics (see the comment secton of his article today) pointing out that Trudeau has not taken much action to keep his promises.

    It was not so long ago that many of these apparent Lib supporters were praising Harris for his objectivity, his speking truth to power, and his principled stands against Harper. Now they criticize Harris for either being wrong or too impatient with Trudeau. Most amusing. :)

    BTW, even Althia Raj and the Huffington Post, two of the strongest cheerleaders of Trudeau, have today admitted that the first 5 months of his government were the least productive of any government in decades:

    1. Thanks for your comments and the link, Anon. I, too, have been puzzled by the lack of critical thinking and scrutiny being directed at Trudeau. Perhaps it has something to do with the long decade of darkness we suffered under Harper, so that when light returned, we were and, to some extent, still are, blinded by it. It does the health of our democracy absolutely no good to be intellectually dishonest and not hold Trudeau to the same standards we held Harper; if his actions (or inactions) merit criticism, it is incumbent upon all of us to issue such rebukes.

  4. I don't understand the insertion that "the Canadian version [of the TTIP, presumably] is called the Trans Pacific Partnership". Was this description in the original? I could go along with a description of the CETA a Canadian version of the TTIP or, conversely, with a reference to the TTIP as an American version of the CETA.

    Am I not getting something here?

    1. Sorry for the confusion, John. What I tried to say is that the trade deal as it applies to Canada is with the Pacific nations (hence TPP), whereas for the EU, the deal with the U.S. is the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. My point was that what the Germans are battling is essentially our battle as well, since both trade deals are fraught with challenges to national sovereignty, especially with regard to investor dispute-settlement mechanisms.