Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA): More than 130 civil society organizations reiterate their rejection of an agreement that’s disastrous for people and the planet


(Ottawa and Montreal, September 25, 2014)– Within one day of the opening of the Canada-European Union Summit to be held in Ottawa, over a hundred social organizations on both sides of the Atlantic are launching a joint statement denouncing the outrageous democratic deficit that surrounds the negotiations of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union, and reject an agreement that grants excessive powers to multinational companies at the expense of people’s rights.

“With one voice, we reject any attempt by Prime Minister Harper and his European counterparts to place our societies and parliaments before a fait accompli. The stakes of this agreement are such that we can not accept a handful of technocrats decide our future without a public debate can be held”, said Pierre-Yves Serinet, coordinator of the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC).

The consolidated version of the text, leaked in mid-August 2014, confirms the concerns expressed by the organizations : excessive rights granted to investors, inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, further liberalization of services and inclusion of provisions that limit the power of government to regulate or to remunicipalize public assets, dangerous burden on peasant agriculture, regulatory cooperation mechanisms that will bypass the monitoring of democratic institutions …

“CETA rules undermine the power of parliaments and governments to regulate in the public interest. Different chapters restrict what measures and laws can be introduced and lock in new guarantees that future legislations are in favour of business interests only”, said Myriam Vander Stichele from the Amsterdam based organization SOMO, a member of the Seattle to Brussels Network in Europe.

“The promise of CETA creating thousands of jobs is a sham. This agreement will have a severe negative impact in many sectors of the economy, as will be the case in the Canadian Maritime Industry where thousands of Canadian jobs will be eliminated by weakening and abolishing the Cabotage Laws in order to open domestic trade to foreign carriers”, said James Given, President, S.I.U. of Canada and Chair of the Canadian Maritime and Supply Chain Coalition recently created to oppose CETA.

“The opposition movement against excessive protections for multinational companies is expanding in Europe”, said Jörg Haas from the German NGO Campact that sent a delegation to Ottawa to accompany Canadian and Quebec organizations towards the Canada-EU Summit. “Even the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, says he does not see a majority in parliament for a treaty that includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS),” he added. More than a million signatures were collected in Germany only against the two transatlantic agreements that Europe is negotiating with Canada and the United States.

“Canadians and Europeans alike are being asked to accept the conclusion of a deal we’ve never been allowed to see and never had a chance to influence. But we know there’s a third option, which is to say no to CETA, and no to all deals negotiated without citizen involvement and input. On both sides of the Atlantic, that’s the choice civil society has made”, said Scott Harris, coordinator of the Trade Justice Network in Canada (TJN-RCJ).

Hundreds of protesters are expected tomorrow on Parliament Hill in Ottawa at noon to demand a public debate on CETA and denounce the powers that the agreement seeks to give to large companies at the expense of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of the peoples.

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This statement received the support of important social movements outside Canada and the EU, including Public Services International, a trade union federation of over 500 public sector unions in over 140 countries, the Citizens Trade Campaign, a wide coalition in the United States that contributed to stop fast track, and many organizations in South America that successfully blocked the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). This support is an additional step towards the greater articulation of social struggles on the free trade and investment regime, and its most recent expressions like the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).