From the TUC

Globalisers’ response to popular concern on trade agreements? Shut down debate

19 Nov 2016, by in International

When the Walloons finally agreed to accept the passage of the Canada-EU so-called trade agreement, or CETA, one of the concessions they secured was that the legality of the investor protection element of the deal (known as ICS) would be tested in the European Court of Justice. Despite that, the deal’s supporters in the European Parliament are trying to press ahead with ratification before the Court has ruled. Now, 89 MEPs have put forward a resolution for decision this Wednesday demanding the Court’s view should come before the Parliament votes, and the TUC and ETUC are backing them. Please let your MEP know that you do too, and ask them how they’re going to vote.

ICS is bad news for two reasons. First, it would enshrine a privileged system for foreign investors (which in Canada’s case would include the many US corporations operating in the EU with Canadian operations, as well as all the EU companies operating in Canada) to challenge the decisions made by democratic governments if they think their right to profit has been infringed. Ignore the fact that sometimes they lose: often they win, and they shouldn’t even have this special right in the first place. Workers don’t, nor consumers, nor environmentalists.

Second, what goes in the Canada-EU agreement could end up in whatever deal the UK eventually does with the EU post-Brexit. Politicians who think Canada conjures up images of cute and harmless unarmed Mounties rather than rapacious US corporations have already proposed it as a model. It would take workers’ rights out of the agreement we have with the EU (contrary to the views of both leave and remain v0ters) and give all the rights to rich investors and privatising vulture companies.

Refusing to wait for the ECJ to rule on the legality of ICS could be considered contempt of the court, but it’s more serious than that. It’s contempt for the people, who have shown their hostility to elite-favouring trade agreements by voting to leave the EU, voting for Trump in the US, and turning out in their tens of thousands in protests all over Europe. The people who support CETA know that the longer the debate about the deal goes on, the more people oppose it. The days of trade agreements negotiated in secret are over, but some politicians haven’t got the memo (as Dani Rodrik writes brilliantly here, many economists who should know better are also in denial.)

The MEPs who have backed the call for the ECJ to rule before the Parliament votes on the deal include 6 Labour MEPs led by Jude Kirton-Darling, Green MEP Molly Scott Cato and ex-trade unionists from across the EU like Dutch Agnes Jongerius and Austrian Evelyn Regner (not being one of the 89 doesn’t mean others don’t support the motion, by the way, it had to be submitted in a hurry.) In response, leaders of the European Parliament who are desperate to ram the deal through have denied a debate on the motion [UPDATE: it now appears that there will be a vote on Monday about whether there will be a debate on Wednesday. Farcical!], and excluded all committees bar International Trade from discussing the deal overall. Hardly getting the message that people want more transparency in trade negotiations!

UKIP have also been strangely silent on this issue, despite having opposed CETA before, because it was an EU agreement. Perhaps they really are so viscerally opposed to everything European that they are against any role for the European Court of Justice. But in reality, they’re probably now backing the deal because they are utterly content with the UK ‘taking back control’ from Europe in order to give it away to private investors and vulture capitalists – like Trump, they’re no way the voice of working people.

So, get on the phone or email or social media, and tell your MEP you want them to check that what they’re being asked to do is legal.