Justin Trudeau takes a break during a 2012 charity boxing match. Photo: Justin Trudeau (Creative Commons)
Is the EU-Canada trade deal on the ropes?
The election of a charismatic young Liberal Prime Minister – Justin Trudeau – is just one development that has cast doubt on the future of the Canada-EU trade deal negotiated under his Conservative predecessor Stephen Harper. Although firmly committed to signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Canadian Government has come under pressure to revise the Canada-EU deal known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA.
The main point of concern is the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision in CETA. Last year, the European Parliament went some way to expressing popular opposition to ISDS, and the European Commission was forced into a public consultation and then tabling an ‘alternative’ to ISDS called the Investment Court System (ICS). The ICS has been proposed as part of the negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU, but most critics of ISDS are similarly critical of ICS, while supporters of ISDS like the US Trade Representative are not convinced that ICS is preferable either.
Trudeau has indicated privately that Canada would be willing to consider an alternative to ISDS in CETA, but it’s unlikely that this will satisfy critics in either Canada or the European Union, and certainly the trade union movements in both Canada and the EU are oppose to ISDS. It’s especially unlikely that this sleight of hand will work if it is portrayed simply as a minor legal adjustment.
Opponents of the ISDS provisions of the new-style so-called ‘trade’ deals will continue to press for its exclusion, and CETA is likely to be the first decisive battleground, as it is due to come before the European Parliament before the end of 2016.