Many consituents have been writing to me about CETA, the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, with many. Here is a short update on where things stand.
As a champion of global social justice and sustainable development, and as a supporter of the Alternative Trade Mandate, I believe that trade must always put people and planet before profit. I have therefore been vocal about my grave concerns regarding trade agreements like TTIP, TiSA, and CETA. Of these, CETA is at the most advanced stage, with the final text almost ready for signing. And indeed, looking at the text in its current form, there is much I and my Labour colleagues are concerned about.
The signing of the agreement by the EU Council of Ministers is expected in October 2016, but this may be delayed, as we are still awaiting a legal opinion from the European Court of Justice on whether CETA affects policy areas which are shared by the EU and the national governments. This would make CETA a “mixed” agreement, and would mean that sections of the agreement would need to be voted on separately in national parliaments. After the Council’s signature, the European Parliament will have the final say on whether CETA is ratified, and MEPs have the power to reject the deal.
As things stand, the CETA text is not yet finalised and the text that will be submitted for ratification may be quite different to the texts that have already been published. In March 2016 a new version of the agreement was published, which notably includes changes to the investment protection chapter. But this version may very well change as we are still working to secure improvement. I am therefore not in a position to make a final judgment until I can see the final text, which may not happen until a few months from now.
I can nonetheless reiterate my concerns about the text that was published in 2014, which I've raised consistently together with my Labour colleagues in the European Parliament.
We oppose ISDS in any shape of form, and we have based our criticisms of the Commission's overall approach of the issue of investment protection on the basis of the provisions contained in the CETA text. As it stands, these provisions are clearly unacceptable. On this matter, I would also like to remind you that Labour MEPs voted against a European Parliament resolution on TTIP in July because it did not clearly reject ISDS.
We have other concerns regarding CETA, with public services being a key issue. We believe that the protections offered to public services are insufficient, and that future renationalisation of public services by a Labour government could be at risk from legal challenges due to the way these provisions are drafted.
Other parts of the text are also problematic, in particular the lack of enforceable labour rights in the agreement as well as the extensive protections given to pharmaceutical patents, which could act as a deterrent to the universal access to medicines.
For the sake of balance, it should also be pointed out that the agreement contains a number of provisions that would significantly benefit the UK's economy in opening up the Canadian market to our businesses, in particular when it comes to agricultural products. Crucially, the agreement also foresees extensive access to Canadian public procurements for EU businesses.
Many thanks for your interest and concern regarding this matter. My Labour colleagues and I will continue to raise our concerns in the European Parliament in the coming months, and keep you informed of further development as the process continues.