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Act now to stop CETA!

CETA protest

CETA is a working class issue

The first misleading thing about CETA is its name: Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Far from being a trade agreement, it is the last in a long list of international deals between corporations and governments meant to ensure the transfer of power from elected governments to corporations.

It has been negotiated in secret between Canadian and EU business and political leaders, without the slightest shred of input from trade unions, environmental groups and civic society in general – not even the UK MPs have had a look in, in spite of repeated requests and the claim from Liam Fox of being working to wrestle sovereignty back to Parliament from the EU.

If CETA is approved before the UK leaves the EU and a UK government wanted out, it would take up to 20 years before that happens. However, the current government has indicated that they would sign up to CETA from outside of the EU. So this is one of the things that would be very difficult to undo and will suck the blood of the working class and local communities before its head is cut off and a stake is driven through its heart.

So what’s so toxic about it and how does it affect us? Here’s a brief list:

  • It will further remove the provision of public services from democratic control. It is explicitly meant to reduce regulation on business. Governments will be in breach if they impose regulations that “unduly complicate or delay” a corporation’s activity. Clauses that protect the environment, workers’ rights, public health, communities and public services are barriers to trade and as such likely to get the government that dares imposing them in trouble. National and local governments’ ability to legislate in the interest of ordinary people would be irretrievably lost.
    If history is anything to go by, then we should heed the signs: Oceana Gold is a Canadian mining company that is currently suing El Salvador for $301 million because it declared a moratorium on mining in the country. In 2015 the water giant Suez successfully sued Argentina for $405 million for trying to reverse the privatisation of water. Next time you fight to save a council-run childcare service or a school from closure and privatisation, your City Council will be able to correctly state there is nothing they can do about it (unless they are prepared to spend the next 15 years’ budget to defend their decision in court).
  • CETA includes a “ratchet clause” according to which any future attempt to reverse privatisation would be in breach of the terms of the agreement.
  • CETA includes a diabolical provision that allows corporations to sue governments if they pass legislation that might curtail their projected future profits. This is done through the creation of an Investment Court System (ICS) in which judges are appointed on a case-by-case basis on an hourly pay. Given that only corporations can initiate procedures in the ICS (governments can’t use it to sue corporations), it means that judges will have a vested interest in encouraging and allowing cases to be heard and drag on and on and on, with an in-built advantage for corporations.
  • The ICS will obviously work as a deterrent to discourage government from passing legislation that might attract multi-million lawsuits from well-funded corporations, and encourage the already common practice of consulting corporations on government intentions before a bill goes to parliament.
  • The Canadian companies pushing more aggressively for CETA to be signed are mining and drilling companies. This means more fracking in the UK, with the government telling protesters that it would be illegal for it to stop the fracking. Apart from the fact that all classes need a planet to live on and that sooner or later they will have to understand that you cannot eat or breathe money, climate change is a working class issues because it affects the working class disproportionately all over the world, both directly (e.g., working class people live closer to polluting factories) and indirectly (e.g., congestion charges clear roads for those who can afford them; working class communities have to absorb economic migrants displaced by desertification or land ending up underwater as the sea levels rise).
  • The EU claims that the deal will benefit investment and trade, and quote outdated figures from 2011 and 2013, which were generated before the deal was even drafted. The truth is that they haven’t carried out a cost/benefit analysis, nor have the more recent data been used to make a better assessment. The reasons behind CETA are entirely ideological.

CETA protest

CETA must be stopped.

If you’re reading this before November 23, 2016, please note: a group of 89 MEP is trying to force the EU to submit the ICS to the legal scrutiny of the European Court of Justice and have tabled a motion to that end. Germany’s largest association of judges has said that the ICS does not meet the international requirements for the independence of courts, and the European Court of Justice is likely to find the same. So to prevent the motion from even being discussed, the EU is trying to push the vote forward from its original December date to November 23.

Please write to your MEPs demanding legal scrutiny of CETA by signing here:

For more information about CETA, please go here:

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