From the TUC

Canadian & European civil society oppose EU-Canada trade agreement

28 Nov 2016, by in International

Over 450 public interest groups from across Europe and Canada – including the TUC – today published an open letter urging legislators to vote against the EU-Canada ‘trade’ deal known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). They joined forces to defend people and planet against the threats posed by the agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament. Should EU parliamentarians give the trade deal the green light in the New Year, ratification votes in national and regional parliaments across Europe – including Westminster – would follow.

The letter has been signed by European trade unionists representing over 17 million workers, not just in the UK but also in Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy and Spain (as ever, non-signature doesn’t mean non-agreement: some union movements just don’t sign letters like this.) A number of Canadian unions also signed the letter, which expresses serious concerns about CETA, the ratification of which could weaken protections for workers and the environment, and provide foreign investors with extreme tools to attack public interest regulations.

The open letter highlights that CETA is no progressive trade deal, as some have claimed. And it would be extremely dangerous if used as the model for an eventual UK-EU deal.

Trade unions have been joined in signing the letter by farmer associations, environmental and public health groups as well as human rights and digital rights organisations from both sides of the Atlantic. Their firm rejection of CETA is exemplary for the growing opposition to the controversial agreement, which has also been criticised by legal scholars, small and medium-sized businesses, as well as a number of economists.

Larry Brown, President of the Canadian National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) who also signed the letter, added:

“We stand with European workers and members of civil society who are mobilizing against this corporate-driven trade deal, which will not benefit people. We will continue to fight the deal in Canada. We want our political leaders to move away from the failed model of past trade agreements and promote trade that benefits people and the environment.

The General Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), Jan Willem Goudriaan, another signatory, commented:

“Trade unions have provided ample input to the CETA negotiations in order to protect public services and strengthen labour rights. But despite last-minute concessions to clarify the possible interpretation of the agreement, our concerns are not addressed in the text. CETA has become a deal that is actually detrimental to the interests of people. We therefore urge Members of the European Parliament to stand up for citizens, public services and our democracy and vote against CETA.”

Trade campaigner Pia Eberhardt on behalf of signatory Corporate Europe Observatory said:

“Ratifying CETA would give corporations a carte blanche to push through their interests no matter what. CETA contains powerful tools for corporations to bully decision makers and sue for compensation if they introduce policies to protect people and the environment that may affect company profits. We would essentially see corporations hindering governments from doing the job for which they were elected. In times of catastrophic climate change, rising social inequality and growing anger of those who no longer feel represented by politicians, more rights for corporations is the last thing we need.”

The TUC will make sure the letter reaches British MEPs as well as those MPs who are awaiting a debate on CETA in the House of Commons, and the possible vote on the issue later in 2017.