CETA and the great unknown

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Federal minister Rob Moore swept into town in mid-January to talk about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), but not to ordinary citizens or our elected representatives.

He lunched with Board of Trade members, followed by closed door meetings with specific business, labour and post-secondary representatives. Throughout, the minister repeated government’s mantra that the trade deal will create tens of thousands of jobs in Canada and give Canada a competitive edge.

What I’m pretty sure Minister Moore didn’t talk about was the corporate assault on Canadian sovereignty at the heart of CETA.

We now know that that assault is much deeper than groups like Citizens Against CETA and the Council of Canadians have been trying to detail.

That’s thanks to a December presentation to the parliamentary trade committee by Howard Mann, senior international law adviser for the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Mr. Mann talked about three “boxes” in the CETA treaty.

In the first box is a defined list of areas government wishes to protect, like, for example, public health care programs.

The second box defines the legitimate expectations of corporate investors. Both boxes existed in past treaties, like NAFTA.

But CETA proposes a third box, which refers to any breaches of “Fair and Equitable Treatment” as found elsewhere in international law customs. The problem is that this area is undefined.

According to Mr. Mann, this is “an open invitation for arbitration lawyers, investors and tribunals to figure it out, with high risks for governments.”

CETA is also unique in that it allows the provisions of prior treaties to be adopted by EU investors in the case of disputes.

So even though our governments, both provincial and federal, may have included clauses to protect the regulatory and lawmaking ability of governments, investors could use provisions and language from older treaties that were not as carefully drafted to get around those clauses.

Under the terms of CETA’s Investor-state Dispute Settlement mechanism, these challenges to our traditional democratic rights will take place in offshore tribunals.

There, conflict of interest and corporate bias rule; Canadian law counts for nothing; and the right to appeal is non-existent. Originally, an EU Commission study recommended not including an Investor-state Dispute Settlement system, arguing that both Canada and Europe have respected judicial systems that can deal fairly with disputes.

Canada’s position, which prevailed, was that offshore tribunals were necessary to encourage corporations to invest in Europe and Canada. Except that, according to Mr. Mann, there is no empirical evidence to link increased corporate investment with investor-state treaties.

Our government’s claim is fabricated.

Hardly surprising, given that our government’s other claim that CETA will create tens of thousands of new jobs is also a fabrication, justified by a simulation study with multiple design flaws.

Even the corporate sector (the Royal Bank and Capital Economics) have acknowledged that the gains will be modest to very small.

CETA is a treaty characterized not just by misinformation but by extreme secrecy.

Howard Mann was invited to speak to the parliamentary committee because of his international reputation. However, even he was not allowed to see a copy of the agreement.

His analysis had to be based on material he managed to garner from leaked documents, some of which he received just days before his presentation.

My point is that his revelations may well be just the tip of an iceberg. What else is hidden?

There has to be a reason for the unprecedented lack of transparency in these negotiations. I think that it’s to conceal from Canadians the subversion of our traditional democratic rights by powerful corporate interests and the people behind them.

That we have a federal government in power that would do this is unpardonable. Some might call it treachery.

That we have provincial MHAs who have enthusiastically signed on to CETA without having seen and studied the details of the document is incomprehensible. At the very least this is wilful neglect.


Marilyn Reid writes from

Conception Bay South.

Organizations: Board of Trade, International Institute for Sustainable Development.Mr, EU Commission Capital Economics

Geographic location: Canada, Europe

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Recent comments

  • Cashin Delaney
    January 28, 2014 - 02:17

    Bill Barry's Nov. 8th letter explains everything you need to know about CETA, his bid for Tsar of the Mink Farms, our province etc, but you have to be fluent in Batweendalines... this is the courtly language of our elite word-twisters. Bold-faced liars we used to call them, in less civilized times. We need leaders in government - not Mink Farmers trying to get a Salmon-farm-insurance-scam situation, or an EU fine, whatever. We got quite enough of these types of bums in power already. Bill Barry, go lie down.

  • SayWhat
    January 27, 2014 - 11:32

    But what about some EU members and their contempt for Canada and CETA. For example, as of this date, Romania has made it clear it is voting against CETA because of a visa regulation controversy. Then the British Conservative Party has its own contempt for Brussels. There is a significant minority of Conservative MP's (about 30) who were pressuring Prime Minister Cameron to hold his EU referendum this year. Cameron has stated that if he is re-elected with a majority in the 2015 election, there will be a referendum on membership within the EU. Bottom line is that CETA is a far from done ratified process that may never see the light of day.

  • CETA will not be good for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
    January 27, 2014 - 10:47

    That we have provincial MHAs who have enthusiastically signed on to CETA without having seen and studied the details of the document is incomprehensible. At the very least this is wilful neglect". And to think Paul Moist and Maude Barlow from The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Council of Canadians came to St. John's on June 29, 2011 to host a public meeting on CETA at The Lantern on Barnes Road to apprise and warn our provincial politicians of the upcoming downfalls if that agreement was signed off on by our province is painful to me. The warnings were dire, yet not one provincial politician showed up to hear what was being said. Both talked especially of not entering the fishery into the agreement any further than it was, they said if we did the European Union would have the same rights to come to our shore lines and operate in the same manner as our Newfoundland and Labrador fishers. I am completely shocked that our provincial government did what they were advised NOT to do, knowing full well that it is an agreement that will do nothing for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, if any good comes out of it at all, again, it will be jobs for Central Canada based on a Newfoundland and Labrador resource. Why do our politicians always ignore the people who voted them in? Again Newfoundland and Labrador will be shafted in an effort to build an appreciable economy from its own natural resource base, especially fish. Ottawa gave the province $280 combined with $120 Million dollars from the province's of Newfoundland and Labrador's own contribution to cover the down sides in the agreement according to this article below. http://news.ca.msn.com/canada/dollar400m-for-newfoundland-fishery-after-ceta-1 As a few articles I read said it is all about meat and cheese and technology contracts for Ottawa. Newfoundland and Labrador have very little of these industries. http://www.europenow.ca/show-info/blog/item/20-tactic-to-resolve-ceta-block

    • a business man
      January 28, 2014 - 07:17

      Honestly, I know CETA will not be good for Newfoundland. However, I fully support CETA because it will be good for Canada as a whole, and more importantly, most importantly, it will be good for my business ventures. I stand to make a great deal of money as a result of CETA, so I am okay with CETA being disasterous for Newfoundland. I was born and raised in Newfoundland, but I will always put my own interests first. I beleive that we have to give foreigners more access to our raw fish and other resources, because I want access to the resources in their countries. In reality, one possiblility is that Newfoundland suffers while everyone else prospers, and I am perfectly fine with that as a taxpayer and voter.