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German parliament ratifies CETA, urges other countries to follow suit

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Euractiv | 2 décembre 2022

German parliament ratifies CETA, urges other countries to follow suit

by Jonathan Packroff

The Bundestag has officially ratified the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which has been under provisional application since 2017.

Only after the adoption of all EU member states can the agreement come fully into force, including provisions on investment protection, which proved controversial in the past.

“11 countries are still missing,” said Verena Hubertz, vice-chairman of the Bundestag group of Germany’s leading governing party SPD. “But we’re optimistic, now that we’re leading the way, that others will follow quickly,” she said.

In 2016, tens of thousands have protested against CETA alongside TTIP, the then-sought trade and investment agreement between the EU and the USA, as they feared investment protection could impede governments’ ability to regulate companies, such as for consumer or environmental protection.

“Why did we wait for so long?” Hubertz asked in the parliamentary debate. “We’ve waited for a ruling of the federal constitutional court. Also, it’s 1,300 pages. If you look closely, you’ll see that it’s not only about customs, it’s already about sustainability, about social standards,” she said.

“But we also addressed some concerns, and those are very relevant, that those arbitration courts, where large companies can just pick the judge with money, that we leave those behind us,” she added.

In contrast to previous investment protection agreements, CETA creates a permanent and institutionalised dispute settlement tribunal. Judges will no longer be appointed ad hoc by the parties who are involved in the dispute but will come out of a standing pool.

However, critics say that this does not address their core concerns, calling legal arbitration in CETA only “slightly better” than in other investment protection agreements. “More important are actually the material protection standards granted to investors,” Cornelia Maarfield of Climate Action Network Europe, an NGO, told EURACTIV. “In CETA as well, this does not only address direct expropriation but also ‘indirect expropriation’,” she said.

“It also grants investors a ‘right to fair and equitable treatment’, something which is interpreted by many arbitral tribunals to mean that regulatory environments must remain stable. But as states are called upon in the wake of multiple crises, the regulatory environment can change significantly,” she said.

Industry representatives, in contrast, cheered the decision. “The ratification of the agreement is an overdue step,” said Siegfried Russwurm of the German Industry Association (BDI). “It must now give the EU new momentum in trade policy. Germany and the EU need open markets, especially in times of increasing protectionism,” he said.

 source: Euractiv