EU Council of Ministers urged to say No to EU-Canada free trade deal on Tuesday by Council of Europe (in committee statement)
Statement issued by the committee on the Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development on the 13 October 2016:-
The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly, meeting in Strasbourg on 13 October 2016, expressed its concern over the planned signing of the Provisional Agreement on the EU Council of Ministers meeting on 18 October 2016.
The Parliamentary Assembly pf the Council of Europe has provisionally scheduled a debate on the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its implications for social rights, public health and sustainable development”, as well as on “Human rights compatibility of investor-State arbitration in international investment protection agreements” for its January 2017 part-session (23-27 January 2017)
At a hearing held today, the Committee was informed by experts that the Provisional Agreement on CETA would bring into force (with immediate effect) new power for the transnational investor companies to sue EU member of states for laws they pass which affect investor profits, including those designed to protect public health, the environment and workers’ rights.
The Committee considers that such provisions would unacceptably restrict the powers of national parliaments to adopt legislation on matters within their remit, and thus calls for the postponement of the signing of the Provisional Agreement.
Speaking after the Statement (above) had been issued, Committee TTIP Rapporteur Geraint Davies MP (UK) said
“We have taken evidence and expert witness statements as part of our report into the EU-US Free Trade Agreement (The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP) for which CETA will be a template.
“We have profound concerns over the impact of this Agreement. If signed, the Provisional Agreement of CETA will give immediate powers for three years to investor companies to sue member states in arbitration courts, through the Investor Court System, for laws countries pass to protect public health, the environment and workers’ rights if such laws had an impact on company profits.
“This would mean big business having the power to intimidate democracies from bringing forward protective laws for which they have a democratic mandate and punishing those that do.
“These corporate powers, if agreed on Tuesday by the EU Council of Ministers, would come into force before member states can ratify the Agreement. In fact, member states may never be allowed to ratify the agreement as the European Court of Justice is yet to decide whether EU member states are entitled to ratify such agreements in next year’s judgement of the Singapore Trade Agreement case. So any decision on Tuesday to sign the Provisional Agreement may mean there is no turning back for member states from being vulnerable to massive future financial penalties.
“Arbitration panel judgements will be primarily based upon investor protection above and beyond other considerations of public and contract law previously established in Europe. This means investor interests will trump other considerations including our environmental climate change obligations agreed at the Paris COP21.
“In practice this could mean that if tax concessions and planning advantages for fracking in Britain were reversed in favour of renewable energy by a future Government then the new Government could be sued by US fracking companies operating through Canadian subsidaires.
“Such companies have a habit of using such powers. In Canada Lone Pine sued the Canadian Government for hundreds of millions of dollars in response to the moratorium on fracking in Quebec.
“Similarly, Mexico faces claims for compensation from manufacturers for introducing a sugar tax on fizzy drinks. Therefore, an agreement on Tuesday would make Britain liable for compensation claims if it proceeds with plans for a fizzy drinks tax to curb obesity and diabetes.
“The remit for the Council of Europe is to defend and enhance democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Our evidence suggests that this Provisional Agreement would do the opposite. We understand that there may be a small aggregate gain in collective GDP of 0.5%. However, gains will not be distributed evenly and this gain only amounts to the price of a cup of coffee per person per week.
“We should say yes to trade but no to trading our liberty and democracy into the hands of big business. In the circumstances, we cannot support the Provisional Agreement of CETA on 18th October and believe it must be properly scrutinised and the rights of member states to ratify it guaranteed.”