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Free-trade agreement between the European Union and Canada: CORPORATIONS MUST NOT MAKE THE LAW

Free-trade agreement between the European Union and Canada:

CORPORATIONS MUST NOT MAKE THE LAW

October 2011

We, the undersigned unions and civil society organizations, ask our political leaders to stopimmediately the current negotiations for a free-trade agreement between the European Union and Canada.

This agreement, called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), would
encourage the privatization of the public sector, weaken and prevent social, health and
environmental regulations, and protect even more investors’ rights at the expense of democratic rights.

While the ninth negotiating session is now concluded in order to sign the CETA by early 2012, our organizations say NO to this agreement which has been negotiated for the sole benefit of transnational corporations, at the expense of people’s rights and of the protection of the environment.

This agreement is being negotiated in the greatest secrecy, without hearing from civil society except for business leaders Neither the European Union nor Canada has ever informed their populations of what is really at stake in these negotiations. Requests and offers from each party have never been discussed nor revealed to the public. These negotiations are thus clearly a total denial of democracy.

This agreement brings back to life the MAI (Multinational Agreement on Investment) and reinforces the Chapter 11 of NAFTA by broadening its reach, the EU-Canada agreement will incorporate an international mechanism of “investment protection” directly inspired by the highly controversial Chapter 11 of the NAFTA (North American Free-trade Agreement) and the MAI (Multinational Agreement on Investment), secretly negotiated in 1998 at the OECD, and rejected thanks to public mobilization.

An investor-to-state dispute settlement process in CETA would allow foreign investors to directly sue governments or local authorities in Europe, and federal, provincial or municipal governments in Canada, if regulations were to threaten their anticipated profits. Thus through international private courts, a corporation could challenge and abrogate regulations democratically voted and implemented by elected governments. Such a mechanism seriously threatens the power of elected authorities to regulate and our democratic rights, enabling transnational corporations to sue states if they consider some of their
laws as a threat whereas they have in fact been enacted to protect the public interest. It could also discourage states from taking such measures in the first place, knowing they could be sued through this dispute resolution mechanism.

This agreement will open public markets in Canada at every level of the government
EU negotiators are demanding a near total opening of public markets in Canada. They have asked for a greater opening which will force numerous local authorities at the federal, provincial and municipal levels to open government procurement contracts above a given financial level to bids from European transnational corporations. Some very strict rules will prevent the use of public markets, that is to say taxpayers’ money. as a local development tool favoring local businesses,jobs and products, or the adoption of high environmental and social standards.

This opening, which again favors more private involvement and privatization of services, is all the more unacceptable in that it has been negotiated in a context of a loss of expertise and democratic ethics regarding public markets, which is currently at the heart of a great crisis in Quebec.This agreement encourages public services liberalization through the “negative list” approach. Under the negative list approach adopted in the CETA negotiations, states, provinces and territories are asked to include only these sectors they wish to exclude from liberalization commitments.

Under these conditions, any sector not specifically excluded is therefore recognized as a candidate for privatization. Through this process of negotiations using the “negative list,” any sector which is not mentioned on the list is therefore covered by the agreement, including those which could have been forgotten or even those which did not exist at the time of the agreement. In other words, the EU and Canada are opening the way to a totally uncontrolled liberalization and privatization of services. Furthermore, neither the EU nor Canada plans to make this list of service sectors public. This is a totally unacceptable lack of transparency.

This agreement would greatly harm the regulatory powers of state, provincial, municipal and local authorities. The agreement could lead governments to self-censorship in terms of regulations in the social orenvironmental areas. This is because of the privileges granted to investors who could sue governments through international courts if they thought such regulations were an obstacle to trade or an obligation to get results, or if they could be considered as an expropriation. Moreover, in the case of the privatization of a public service (for example water management) it would be almost impossible for local governments to roll back liberalization policies and to re-municipalize such services for the well-being of the population.

This agreement seeks to weaken social, environmental and health regulations
The Canadian government considers that European standards are too complex and that the precautionary principle is a protectionist measure. Environmental and health regulations implemented by the European Union are thus in the firing line in the CETA negotiations.

Under pressure from transnational oil extraction companies, Canadian negotiators have taken a particularly aggressive line on the tar sands issue, one of the most polluting oil extraction processes known and a heavy contributor to global warming. They want the EU to lift the current obstacles keeping oil derived from Canadian tar sands out of Europe and are strongly lobbying against the European Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), thereby paralyzing any effort against climate change. With the CETA, oil companies could exploit tar sands in Canada as much as they want and sell those highly polluting fuels without any restrictions!

The same logic applies to regulations concerning use of hormones in livestock production and the REACH directive (strict regulation of chemical products) that Canada is explicitly trying to weaken. Generally speaking, from now on any environmental, health or social measure will be threatened by a possible lawsuit filed by a corporation previously established in the country. This is all the more pernicious since this agreement clearly aims at placing in competition social, environmental and health rules in Canada and in European countries. The predictable result is to force standards downwards with no possible turning back. European workers’ rights that are more protective than
those of Canada, which has refused to sign numerous ILO conventions, will be the first to suffer. On the other hand, European transnational corporations will be free to make a grab for the numerous till public services in Canada.

This agreement would reinforce intellectual property rights (IPR) at the expense of food
sovereignty and the right to health The European Union is asking the Canadian government to comply with European intellectual property norms which allow for a longer period of patent protection on drugs, food and other products. This would strengthen the intellectual property rights on seeds. Farmers could be prevented from storing, reusing and selling their seeds, and be placed more than ever under the dependency of agribusiness and biotechnology corporations. This extension of intellectual property rights will also have far-reaching consequences on the right to health since such a provision will delay the marketing of generic drugs and would therefore make the cost of medicines far higher. This price increase will go hand in hand with the opening up of public markets in the health sector to European investors who are much more interested in their
own financial health than in that of Canadian citizens. Moreover, measures negotiated through the NAFTA to protect the Canadian health system will be greatly weakened.

This agreement will jeopardize cultural diversity For the moment, the cultural sector has not been specifically excluded and is thus fully covered by the agreement, despite the fact that both the EU and Canada have been strong supporters of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity, which aims at protecting the “cultural exception”. This is unacceptable and there is a serious threat that cultural
diversity will not long resist an overall movement to commercialize all cultural expression and succumb to the domination of powerful cultural industries.

Conclusion

This agreement is democratically and socially regressive. It gives more tools to corporations to permanently blackmail states and local governments in Europe as well as federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada, threatening them with the possibility of taking legal action to condemn them if they ever think of regulating commercial activities coveted by these companies.

This agreement will have tremendous consequences on the environment, making it easier for the productivist and extractivist system to perpetuate itself even though everyone knows it is a failure and a threat to humankind’s future.

This agreement aims at establishing a free trade zone between the European Union and Canada which will force down environmental and health regulations and other social standards.

In view of these threats we, the undersigned unions and civil society organizations, declare:
- that what has already been refused collectively in the past cannot be agreed upon
today;
- that trade agreements must promote cooperation and recognize common well-being,
public interest, and human and environmental rights as more important than shortterm
private interests which benefit only transnational corporations;
- that democracy must not be compromised by such a trade agreement and that social
and environmental regulations must be implemented by public, transparent and
democratic decisions.

We therefore ask Canadian federal and provincial representatives as well as representatives from the European Parliament and from the different national parliaments to refuse to ratify the CETA, and to act in total transparency regarding this agreement which is selling off our social rights, threatening environmental regulations and, more generally speaking, democracy itself.

Signatories:

Europe:
Amis de la Terre - France
Association Internationale des Techniciens, Experts et Chercheurs (Aitec-IPAM) - France
Attac-France
Attac-Spain
Balkan Agency for Sustainable Development (BASD) - Bulgaria
Collectif citoyen Ile-de-France ≪ Non aux gaz et petrole de schiste ≫ - France
Comite pour l’Annulation de la Dette du Tiers Monde (CADTM) - France
Confederation paysanne - France
Convergence des Collectifs de Defense et de Developpement des Services Publics - France
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) - Europe
Ecologistas en Accion - Spain
Federation Syndicale Unitaire (FSU) - France
Fondation France Libertes - France
France Amerique Latine (FAL) - France
PowerShift - Germany
Seattle to Brussels network (s2bnetwork) - Europe
Resistance sociale - France
Transnational Institute (TNI) - Netherlands
Union Syndicale Solidaires - France
War on Want - UK

Canada :
ACEF du Haut Saint-Laurent
Alberta Federation of Labour
Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada
Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la sante et des services sociaux (APTS)
AmiEs de la terre de l’Estrie
AmiEs de la Terre de Quebec (ATQ)
Association canadienne des avocats du mouvement syndical
Association quebecoise des organismes de cooperation internationale (AQOCI)
Attac-Quebec
Canadian Auto Workers
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)
Canadian Health Coalition
Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Centre des femmes d’ici et d’ailleurs
Centre des femmes italiennes de Montreal
Centre de femmes l’ERIGE
Carrefour de participation, ressourcement et formation
Centrale des Syndicats democratiques (CSD)
Centre justice et foi / Revue Relations
Centre St-Pierre
Citizens in Action Montreal
Collectif d’action populaire Richelieu-Yamaska
Collectif pour un Quebec sans pauvrete
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada
Conseil central du Montreal metropolitain (CCMM-CSN)
Cooperative de solidarite Les Editions Vie Economique (EVE)
Council of Canadians
Eau Secours !
Federation des femmes du Quebec (FFQ)
Federation etudiante collegiale du Quebec (FECQ)
Federation etudiante universitaire du Quebec (FEUQ)
Federation interprofessionnelle de la sante du Quebec (FIQ)
Femmes en Mouvement, le Centre de femmes de la MRC de Bonaventure en Gaspesie
Front d’action populaire en reamenagement urbain (FRAPRU)
Illusion-Emploi de l’Estrie
Indigenous Environmental Network
Ligue des droits et libertes
L’R des centres de femmes du Quebec
Mouvement d’education populaire et d’action communautaire du Quebec (MEPACQ)
Maison des femmes des Bois-Francs
Manitoba Federation of Labour
National Union of Public and General Employees
New Brunswick Federation of Labour
Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions
Ontario Health Coalition
Polaris Institute
Presse-toi a gauche
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario
Reseau quebecois des groupes ecologistes (RQGE)
Reseau quebecois sur l’integration continentale (RQIC)
Saskatchewan Federation of Labour
Sierra Club Canada
Sierra Youth Coalition
Solidarite populaire Estrie
Solidarite populaire Richelieu-Yamaska
Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique . Quebec / SCFP-Quebec
Syndicat canadien des communications, de l’energie et du papier / Quebec (SCEP-Quebec)
Syndicat de professionnelles et professionnels du gouvernement du Quebec (SPGQ)
Table regionale des centres de femmes de Montreal metropolitain-Laval (TRCFMML)
Table ronde des organismes volontairesJd’education populaire de l’Estrie (TROVEPE)
Toronto Climate Campaign
Toronto & York Region Labour Council
Trade Justice Network
Union des consommateurs
Union paysanne
United Steelworkers


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