|Today Lord Price, the UK’s minister for trade, starts two days of meetings with ministers across the EU in Bratislava castle and the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA) is top of the agenda.
This week the TUC General Secretary wrote to Trade Secretary Liam Fox calling for the UK government to oppose CETA and for Lord Price to make this clear in Bratislava.
Lord Fox has shown he is concerned about the impact of trade deals on public services in the past. He was one of the almost 50 Tory MPs that threatened to derail the Queen’s speech in May by calling for an amendment to make clear public services would be protected in TTIP. A basic look at CETA reveals that the deal contains very similar threats to public services as TTIP.
It also contains the same special Investment Court System as TTIP which will allow foreign investors to sue, or threaten to sue, countries for policies that are bad for business. And because 80% of American companies operating in Europe have bases in Canada, this means it’s not just Canadian but American businesses that will be able to use CETA to sue our governments for millions of dollars compensation. Workers, by comparison, are not given any powers in CETA to enforce their rights.
The European Council are expected to vote on CETA in October. However, the date hasn’t been confirmed because some European countries still have objections.
Romania and Bulgaria continue to say they will not sign the deal unless restrictions on visas for their citizens in Canada are lifted. Slovenia wants guarantees its citizens have the right to water. Belgium is not able to approve the deal due to an anti-CETA motion passed by one of its regional governments in Walloonia. A joint declaration by the German and Canadian trade ministers is also likely to need consideration.
Delays may also be caused by uncertainties about which parts of the deal should be ‘provisionally applied’ – which means they come into force if the deal is approved by the European Parliament – and which parts need to be voted through by national parliaments at a subsequent stage in order to apply.
However, reporting this week (£) suggested countries were generally in agreement that the parts of the deal covering investment protection (including the Investment Court System) and financial services would require ratification by member states to come into force.
While delays are helpful, trade unions in the UK and across the EU want CETA stopped for good. The agreement of CETA make it easier for other deals that hurt workers, public services and regulations like to TTIP be agreed.
It’s very worrying that David Davis, the Brexit minister, has advocated CETA as a possible model for a future EU-UK deal. A CETA-style deal would not only significantly reduce the UK’s access to EU markets but also increase the power of investors to carve up public services and tear down employment, health and safety and environmental regulation.
That’s why the TUC is continuing to campaign against CETA, lobbying ministers, MPs and MEPs to vote against the deal and, as Owen Tudor wrote on StrongerUnions this week, marching with unions from across the EU against CETA in Brussels.
The ETUC also has made clear it’s opposition to CETA with Liina Carr, ETUC confederal secretary saying today in a statement that was also signed by public sector unions and consumer groups:
“Under CETA, workers are second class citizens compared to investors. Labour and environmental protection is not enforceable under CETA, whereas investors are given a special legal procedure to enforce their rights. CETA will do nothing to promote quality jobs and decent pay, while presenting a threat to the delivery of high-quality public services.”
The waves of popular protests against CETA in Brussels, Germany, Austria and beyond will continue and show the extent of concern against the trade deal.
Rather than rushing through a bad deal like CETA, trade ministers meeting in Bratislava on Friday would do well to discuss how to change course on their approach to trade deals as a whole.
Instead of deals negotiated in partial or (like CETA) total secret until they are finished, politicians need to involve trade unions and civil society groups from the start so that the deals don’t threaten protections we need to ensure safety and decent treatment at work but stimulate good jobs and fair distribution of wealth.