Where we are in opposition to the EU-Canada Trade Agreement #CETA

by Graham H. Cox last modified 2014-10-01T15:37:38-04:00
At the Canada-European Union Summit on September 26 in Ottawa, Harper marked the conclusion of the negotiation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union and released the draft text. However, unlike the narrative outlined in news reports, this is not the end of the deal's negotiation process and CETA was not signed or ratified.

There is growing opposition in Europe to both CETA and the EU-US Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement because of the inclusion of the corporate rights provision called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). This provision, like Chapter 11 in NAFTA, allows corporations to challenge democratic laws of countries through private international arbitration systems. The inclusion of ISDS has also prompted European trade unions to oppose the deal.

Since the release of the full text and the full implications of the CETA are being realized, there are growing opposition in areas not seen before. For example, on Friday, September 26, the seafarers, longshoremen and warehouse workers unions new coalition against CETA marched on the Hill. Also, over 100 Canadian and EU Groups signed a last minute letter strongly opposing CETA's corporate rights provisions.

Temporary movement of EU workers in CETA goes beyond the rights afforded to temporary workers under the TFWP. In fact, the labour mobility aspect is less about labour rights and more about corporate rights to move their workers across boarders.

The CETA confers the right for corporation to reposition workers across boarders who have "specialized" knowledge or "uncommon" knowledge. This movement across boarders is similar to  the intra-corporate transfers in the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. However, the intra-company transfer under CETA is different from the TFWP in that Canada has given-up the right to have a labour market "means" test. That is, EU corporations will not have to check whether there are workers in Canada that have the uncommon/specialized knowledge before they bring in their workers. Essentially, a boarder guard will have to decide whether the worker can come into Canada, not Immigration. (Thankfully, healthcare is exempt from this provision.)

A similar right is conferred under NAFTA and this right has a history of being abused under NAFTA. There are tens of thousands (maybe as many as 60,000) workers in Canada under the NAFTA provision at any one time.

The CCPA CETA analysis document describes it like this:

"The CETA will give new rights to corporations to move certain categories of workers across borders. These workers are exempt from economic needs tests and other measures designed to ensure a strong and stable domestic labour market."


The deal will have to be ratified by all EU countries. EU Socialists and Democrats parliamentary group, Germany Social Democrats and Austrian parliament have indicated that they are against the ISDS provision and my vote against the deal.

Work is now focused on:

  • - debunking the myth that this deal is "done" and/or "signed"
  • - continuing to build opposition to the deal in Europe
  • - explaining that CETA and TTIP are linked
  • - explaining that even if ISDS is taken out of TTIP, US/EU countries can still use ISDS in CETA to sue their respective countries
  • - outlining the growing understanding of the negative implications of CETA for workers
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