Ottawa and Montreal - Canadian and Quebec civil society groups have sent a letter to French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault outlining international opposition to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The letter, sent to Mr. Ayrault ahead of his first official visit to Canada and Quebec this week, focuses on the investment chapter and investor-state dispute settlement process in the agreement and comes as negotiators try to finish a deal in Brussels this month.
“We will vigorously oppose any transatlantic agreement that compromises our democracies, human and Indigenous rights, and our right to protect our health and the planet,” says a February 5 transatlantic statement, endorsed by more than 70 organizations, and shared with the French Prime Minister. “We urge the EU and Canadian governments to follow the lead of the Australian government by stopping the practice of including investor-state dispute settlement in their trade and investment agreements, and to open the door to a broad re-writing of trade and investment policy to balance out corporate interests against the greater public interest.”
Investor-state dispute settlement allows a firm in one country to sue the government of the other country outside the regular court system if the firm feels its generous investor rights have been violated. These investment rules create a parallel legal system for multinational corporations and private investors to challenge environmental, public health and other government policies that undermine their profits. The Australian government decided in 2011 it would stop including these rights and investor-state dispute settlement in its trade and investment agreements. South Africa, India and most Latin American countries are also rethinking their investment treaties.
In 1998, European and Canadian opposition to investor-state dispute settlement put an end to the planned Multilateral Investment Agreement (MAI), which would have extended these extreme investor protections to the entire OECD region. In 2011, the European Parliament expressed its preference to include only a state-to-state dispute process in CETA and a Sustainability Impact Assessment of the deal recommended against investor-state arbitration. Canadian and Quebec groups are urging French Prime Minister Ayrault and the French government to insist “that the EU and Canada cease negotiating investor rights and an investor-state dispute settlement process into the CETA.”
To read the Transatlantic Statement Opposing Excessive Corporate Rights (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) in the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), see either http://tradejustice.ca or http://rqic.alternatives.ca/spip.php?article99 for the French version.
Pierre-Yves Serinet, Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale (RQIC) : +1 (514) 276-1075 ; [email protected]
Stuart Trew, Trade Justice Network : [email protected]