This week, as TUC spokesperson on Europe, I handed in a petition to MEPs in the European Parliament from constituents asking them to reject the trade deal the EU is currently finalising with Canada, known as CETA.
You may not have heard of CETA, but perhaps you have heard of TTIP, the EU-US trade deal currently under negotiation which represents the largest handover of power from elected governments to global corporations ever seen, threatening workersâ€™, consumersâ€™ and citizensâ€™ rights as well our NHS and other public services, alongside safety and environmental protection.
But unlikeÂ TTIP, CETA negotiations have concluded and directly threaten both our NHS and wider public services.
CETA is TTIPâ€™s dangerous cousin. The text of the agreement contains inadequate exemptions to prevent continued NHS and public service privatisation while enabling global corporations to sue democratically elected governments that attempt to bring our services back in-house. The TUC is opposed to CETA, which is likely to come to the EU Parliament early next year. Thatâ€™s why we are raising concerns with MEPs now to make sure that when the deal comes before them, they vote to reject it.
Amongst many unacceptable provisions contained with the CETA, is an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision which would allow any foreign investors with bases in Canada to sue EU countries for compensation â€“ not simply for actual, but for assumed future losses, if they feel their business interests have been challenged by a particular law or regulation. In the past companies have used ISDS to sue Egypt for raising the minimum wage, Germany for ending its nuclear programme and Australia for introducing plain packaging on cigarettes.
No wonder a UN expert this week concluded that the â€˜investor-state dispute-settlement [has] adversely impacted the international order and undermined fundamental principles of the UN, state sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law.â€™
Irrespective of TTIP, the adoption of CETA will allow US investors with bases in Canada to sue our governments for billions too â€“ a very real threat given that 80Â per centÂ of US companies operating in the EU have bases in Canada. In reality they wouldnâ€™t need TTIPâ€™s ISDS to sue, they could simply sue via the proxy of a Canadian operation.
While foreign investors get special, secret international courts to claim their rights, CETA gives workers, citizens and consumers nothing: no courts or sanctions against those who violate core international labour standards, product safety or environmental protections.Â In other words, corporate interests get all the rights, opportunities and protections without any responsibility for their actions or having to exercise any social responsibility for the welfare of their workers.
If CETA is voted through it will make it easier for deals like TTIPÂ to further weaken workersâ€™ rights, threaten public services and democratic decision making on social, consumer, environmental and industrial policy.
Thatâ€™s why MEPs must take notice of the concerns of their constituents that signedÂ the petition we delivered yesterday and say no to CETA and all trade deals not in the public interest.