"Players, absentees and spectators in the CETA ambush"

**The final part of Cutting Through the Spin on CETA, originally published in the Independent.

Who supports the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, and why? Who might have opposed it, but hasn’t? Are there prospects for stopping it? 

Persuading the average Canadian to take a closer look at the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is an uphill challenge, partly because people are skeptical about how damaging a trade agreement can actually be. Tariffs and quotas, imports and exports – where’s the deep menace in that?

Of course, readers who have persevered through my last four articles in this series on CETA know the menace is hidden behind the rhetoric about trade. The devil is in the details, and the details are not being discussed by government.

What about the agreement offends those who most oppose CETA? Is it the deliberate inclusion of  the “most favoured nation” and “fair and equitable treatment” provisions in CETA that will allow corporate investors to use language from other treaties to ambush governments’ possible attempts to protect themselves? Is it the offshore private tribunals riddled with conflict of interest that will effectively allow corporate lawsuits against government to bypass our own judicial system? Is it the biased negotiating process that has excluded civil society groups but welcomed input from the corporate sector? Or is it that we have a government in Ottawa that has not only allowed, but enthusiastically supported, all of the above?

Who supports CETA?

From the beginning the transnational corporations have pushed for CETA. In Europe, the big players are the pharmaceutical companies, along with water and waste water service delivery corporations. The Europeans have also targeted energy delivery as a service area of interest. Indeed, according to the European Commission, “50% of the total expected gains for the EU are related to trade in services.”
In Canada, support for CETA also comes primarily from global corporations. The agribusiness sector is hoping the agreement will breach European resistance to North America’s genetically modified crops, and to cattle and beef dosed with the drug ractopamine. Our Canadian mining companies love trade agreements because they can use the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, with its offshore tribunals, to sue countries who oppose or try to regulate their practices. Then there are our financial corporations – the banks and insurance companies. They don’t need CETA to gain access to Europe because they are already there, big time. One presumes they support CETA because they’ve allied themselves with the increasingly offshore, corporate, financial world that fuels globalization.

So too, it seems, has our Canadian government. Did you know it was Canada, not an initially reluctant European Union, that pushed for the inclusion of the ISDS section in CETA? That our provincial and territorial governments have gone along with all this is puzzling, given the limited benefits CETA will bring them, and the increased risk of lawsuits they will face.

Also troubling, of course, is the performance of our two main federal opposition parties. The Liberals have indicated they are “broadly supportive of CETA,” while the NDP originally said they would not support any trade agreement with an ISDS mechanism but appear to have backed off from that position. According to the Globe and Mail, “the NDP’s position is now that it ‘welcomes’ the deal but is staying neutral until a final text is released in a few months.”

Prime Minister Harper must be delighted with the response of the NDP and Liberals, especially since almost all of the political debate around CETA has focused on trade issues to the exclusion of the real elephant in the room: the assault on our legislative and judicial sovereignty. You have to wonder how many of our MPs and MHAs have taken the time to read the leaked documents or consult with experts who could interpret them.

In Europe the situation is slightly different. The driving force behind CETA has been the European Commission – the bureaucrats in Brussels. The European Parliament has been much more ambivalent and uneasy, in particular about the ISDS mechanism. It remains to be seen whether they will pass CETA in the agreement’s present state.

Our disengaged intelligentsia

Disappointing and surprising is the apparent absence of analysis or public debate about CETA among academics. To be fair, the Canadian Association of University Teachers has joined the Trade Justice Network in opposing CETA’s investment rights and investor-state dispute mechanism. There are, as well, individual professors vocally opposing CETA, most notably law professors Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa and Gus Van Harten of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. Their contributions to informed debate about CETA have been invaluable.

On the other hand, the response to CETA from within the university community has been, well, overwhemingly non-existent. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the business schools, economics and political science departments across the country. The very people you would expect and want to add their expertise to the debate either say nothing or choose to talk only about narrow trade aspects of the agreement. There seems to be reluctance on campuses to analyze concerns about the implications of the investment chapter and the ISDS mechanism.

Where do we go from here?

For groups like the Council of Canadians, the Trade Justice Network and Citizens against CETA here in Newfoundland, opposing CETA has often been a lonely and frustrating journey. The implications of the treaty are rarely analyzed or scrutinizes by the corporate press. The result is that, after almost five years of negotiations, most Canadians still know almost nothing about this agreement. Consequently, if the Europeans okay CETA, this treaty will quickly become law in Canada with barely a whimper from the public. Two things could prevent this outcome:
  • Full disclosure of the CETA draft document to the public, followed by organized town hall meetings around our province so that government and citizens can discuss the treaty openly.
  •  A provincial referendum on CETA. Let the people decide if this treaty is in our best interest.
Of course this won’t happen unless ordinary people push for it. So how do people mobilize? Here are some suggestions for groups that could be started by people of all ages and backgrounds:

Teenagers against CETA: It’s your future CETA is messing with, guys. Protest it.
Grandparents against CETA: Who better to speak up for our children’s future?
Lawyers against CETA: Rise up against the ISDS mechanism and offshore courts!
Musicians against CETA: How about giving us a marching song!
Academics against CETA: Who better to analyze the real consequences of this deal!
Citizens against CETA: We exist. Consider joining us!


CETA is not a trade agreement in isolation; it’s just one tentacle of a global corporate octopus whose intent is to squeeze the power out of democratically elected governments everywhere. Other Canadian “trade” tentacles yet to be passed by our federal government include the 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Partnership Agreement and a host of smaller FIPAs.

I think we have become the “unconscious civilization” that John Ralston Saul identified so eloquently in his 1995 Massey Lecture. Preoccupied with our daily trials and distractions, we cannot foresee that we are creeping towards the day when we become subjects, not citizens. We fail to notice that those who insist to us that all these trade agreements are in our best interest use ideology, not logic, slogans, not rational debate, and stealth rather than disclosure. We may be better educated than previous generations but we’re letting ourselves be outsmarted.

To use a sports analogy, it’s time to get off the couch and switch from spectator to player.

Forfeiting control and the right to litigate

Originally published on the Indpendent.ca as Part 4 in the five-part series Cutting Through the Spin on CETA.
The federal government doesn’t want us to know how much we’re giving up for CETA. Presented as a “trade agreement” with the European Union, provisions in CETA’s investment chapter undermine our right to regulate and hold transnational corporations accountable for the consequences of their actions.
Ask critics of the Canada Europe Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) what they most oppose in the agreement and chances are they’ll name the investment protection chapter with its investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. Past investment “protections” related to NAFTA have led to big corporate lawsuits in offshore tribunals where Canadian law counts for nothing. Approximately 80 per cent of Canada’s payouts or projected payouts in damages have so far had to do with Newfoundland and Labrador.

Under the Atlantic Accord, oil companies were required to spend some of their profits on research and development in this province. When the province tightened up their guidelines after judging that the oil companies were not meeting their obligations, Exxon Mobil and Murphy Oil demanded $65 million in damages. What is noteworthy about this case is that the ISDS decision supporting the corporations came after three levels of Canadian courts had rejected arguments that the companies were being unfairly treated by the new guidelines.

Litigation followed the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s expropriation of Abitibi Bowater’s paper mill and related hydro power plant in Grand Falls-Windsor, and the rescinding of water and timber rights on crown land. The province did this after the company closed its last mill in the province, gave minimum compensation to laid-off workers and pensioners and demonstrated no intentions to clean up the environmental damage it had caused. The out of court $130 million settlement with Abitibi Bowater set a troubling precedent for future investors’ rights disputes over natural resources and water on crown land.

Should we consider these and other investor-state decisions unacceptable? In his CETA presentation to the Parliamentary Trade Committee last December, Dr. John Curtis stated:


The Investor-state provisions trouble me, not only in this agreement but in general. I’m not sure previous Canadian governments were right in the NAFTA proceedings….. There’s been a huge bite-back and it’s not clear to me that it’s in Canadians’ national interest to have these provisions.

Dr. Curtis was representing not, as you might expect, one of the left wing think tanks, but rather the corporate-financed C.D. Howe Institute. He is right to be concerned though. CETA’s investment protection section opens up far more avenues for lawsuits than the drafters of NAFTA ever envisioned.

What right to regulate?

Leaked documents published online just a few days ago reveal that, contrary to the claims of the European Commission and Canada, CETA does not reaffirm the right to regulate in its investment protection section. Instead, the right to regulate clause, which is actually found in the preamble to the agreement, does the reverse: “Recognizing the right to regulate within their territories in a manner consistent with this Agreement to achieve their public policy.” According to legal opinion from the Seattle to Brussels Network this formulation quite clearly subjects all government regulations to the terms of the agreement and opens the door to ISDS lawsuits, thereby subverting the democratic process.

Who really qualifies under CETA?

CETA’s Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause allows any corporation whose home country has signed a trade agreement with Canada that includes an unqualified MFN clause to be grandfathered in to reap CETA’s corporate benefits. That’s not just Mexico and the United States.  Since 2006 the Harper government has signed trade agreements with nine countries, and is engaged in negotiations with 25 others outside of the EU. How many of these countries will have unqualified MFN status? We don’t know.

Then add in the Asian, Latin American, and other transnational corporations that have subsidiaries in Europe. Given this presence may well give them the same rights as European corporations, CETA really starts to look like a global corporate rights treaty, doesn’t it?

How the investment chapter of CETA undermines the rest of the treaty

An MFN clause in CETA’s investment chapter allows corporations to cherry pick provisions from treaties Canada has signed with other countries. They can then use these provisions to pursue lawsuits against CETA restrictions they don’t like. In other words, weak government protection in past treaties can be used by corporations to try and nullify improved wording (at least from government’s point of view) in CETA.

Then there’s CETA’s “Fair and Equitable Treatment (FET)” clause. FET allows corporate challenges to be made based on what has been established as fair and equitable treatment in customary international law elsewhere. So far there have been over 600 ISDS lawsuits worldwide, with many varying interpretations as to what constitutes ‘fair and equitable treatment’. “It’s open season for the lawyers,” said Howard Mann of the International Institute for Sustainable Development in his critique of FET to the Parliamentary Trade Committee last December.

What’s wrong with bypassing the Canadian court system?

All investment arbitration will take place not in Canadian courts, but in offshore, private tribunals which are deeply flawed. A 2014 report by the European Parliamentary Research Service itemized the complaints against the investor-state dispute settlement process:
  • The loopholes and vague formulations of major provisions in treaties leave a wide margin of interpretations to arbitrators.
  • Arbitrators can be guilty of conflict of interest and impartiality.
  • Erroneous awards are aggravated because there is no appeal court.
  • Banks, hedge funds and insurance companies now invest in corporate lawsuits for a share (20-50%) of the rewards. This has led to an increase in frivolous cases.
  • Awards can be huge. The largest known award hit Ecuador in 2012:  $2.4 billion in damages and interest expenses to Occidental Petroleum.
  • The threat of having to pay compensation has had a chilling effect on state regulatory power as every new policy begins to be looked at through the prism of possible lawsuits.
CETA: Our very own Trojan Horse

CETA is like a Trojan horse, isn’t it? It’s packaged and presented to us as a straightforward trade agreement. But peel back all the different layers of this agreement and you begin to see what it really is. At its core, CETA is a surreptitious way of reducing the power of governments at all levels to the benefit of transnational corporations. It’s a power shift operation.

Prime Minister Harper and his cabinet know that. They just don’t want the rest of us to catch on to what’s happening. That’s why, after almost five years of negotiations and an agreement in principle, they refuse to release any drafts of CETA. That’s why they are trying to camouflage the dubious economics of CETA with exaggeration, partial information and an almost exclusive focus on trade. That’s why they are offering to appease the provinces with financial Band-Aids (i.e. to help Ontario with increased drug costs, Quebec with losses to its cheese industry and our province with job losses due to the sacrifice of minimum processing requirements).

It’s a strategy that seems to be working. Among Canada’s elected politicians it’s really only our municipal councilors who have stood up against CETA. The provinces have acquiesced and the Liberal and NDP parties have chosen to talk about trade issues but ignore the elephant in the room: the loopholes that subvert the democratic process in the investment protection section.

The politics and psychology surrounding CETA are truly alarming. If government increasingly sees us as a disengaged public whose opinions can be shaped and massaged by one-liners, half-truths and superficial summary statements, we ought to ask ourselves: why is that? And, what do we do about it? That’s the subject of next week’s final article on CETA.

Presentation to the Standing Committee on International Trade Concerning the Relevance of CETA to the Inshore Fishery and Coastal Communities

 November 26, 2013
 Halifax, Nova Scotia

**Prepared by Winston Fiander, Community Fisheries Advocate of Portugal Cove – St. Philip's, NL in collaboration with Sharmane Allen, a PhD student at Memorial University’s Geography Department.

My presentation will focus on the potential impact of CETA on the rural fishing communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, an aspect of our commercial fishery that receives little attention from fishery managers, policy makers, and trade negotiators in Ottawa and in St. John's.  

Newfoundland and Labrador is blessed with some 40,000 kilometres of coastline which has hundreds of communities situated adjacent to some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. In 2012 we had nearly 5000 fishing enterprises operating in the inshore fleet which comprises vessels less than 65 feet.  Inshore fish harvesters are self-employed fishing enterprise owners that employ some 10,000 skippers and crew members in the communities in which they live. This does not include processing jobs nor the spin-off jobs created indirectly by these entrepreneurs. In 2012, this fleet landed $370 million worth of fish, which was 60% of the province's total landings. Between 2000 and 2012, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans recorded that the average annual landings of this fleet was $360 million, accounting for 66% of the total catch. This fleet has proven to be the foundation of a way of life in our Province.  

For 500 years this fishery has been and it remains today the centerpiece of the economic, social, and cultural life of our coastal communities. Not only that, this fishery makes a much needed contribution to the food security of our coastal communities and the province. Throughout the east coast (i.e. in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec combined) there are some 10,000 inshore enterprises, which in 2011 produced $1.8 billion in landed value and created more jobs than any other employer.

These fishing enterprises are embedded in the economic, social and cultural fabric of rural coastal communities. This fact was acknowledged with the introduction of the Fleet Separation Policy in 1979 and the Owner-Operator Policy in 1996 -- two long standing policy instruments crucial to the survival of our fishing communities. Combined, these polices restrain the purchase of quotas and licenses by corporate entities and others who have the financial power to buy them up, consolidate them, and remove them from communities. These twin policies have acted as a bulwark which has ensured the viability of hundreds of fishing communities in our province, the Maritime Provinces, and Quebec. They have prevented the shutdown of enterprises, saved jobs, and enabled owner-operator fisheries to remain the economic engine in our coastal communities. 

In addition to the Owner Operator and Fleet Separation Polices, new and innovative fishery legislation, policies and programs are needed to address other serious threats to the viability of our communities as they evolve. One such threat, and arguably our greatest currently, is most of our fishermen are nearing retirement age, and want to sell and convert their quotas and licenses into a retirement fund. But aspiring young fishermen can’t afford to buy their enterprises to enter the industry. Creative policies initiatives are needed to ensure that fishing jobs and incomes stay in our communities. Some of these are already in place. Examples include community investment enterprises such as the St. Anthony Basin Resource Institute (SABRI), the Labrador Shrimp Company, and the Fogo Cooperative. Of-the-Hook, a Nova Scotia contractual arrangement that enables fishers to supply local households with fresh fish at a pre-arranged price on a weekly basis, is another example. 

Cooperative ownership arrangements that allow fishermen or communities to pool licenses and quotas and lease them back to members, at reduced or fair trade cost, is another. Even lending institutions such as the South Coast Community Development Corporation has recognized the importance of offering affordable lending options to young fish harvesters in order to support the continuance of inshore fishing in their region. Will CETA consider these polices subsidies and challenge their continuance?  

I am concerned that CETA may become a barrier to implementing policies and programs such as those mentioned above, and indeed others that may be needed in the future to accommodate food security and food sovereignty issues In fact, I am not confident that the long standing and necessary Owner Operator and Fleet Separation Policies are safe. It is held that they are protected because they have 
been made an Annex 2 reservation to the agreement. But Scott Sinclair who authored a study called Globalization, Trade Treaties, and the Future of the Atlantic Canadian Fisheries, cautions that having the policies listed in Annex 2 may merely mean that they are safe for now but they can become a target for attack later on. Once they come under attack, they may be referred to the World Trade Organization for judgement thus removing Canada's control over them. 

Given this, CETA could potentially jeopardize Canada’s ability to retain or introduce the kind of creative legislation, policies and programs which are needed to ensure sustainability of independent fishers and the coastal communities where they are based. Given the thousands of fishery workers and communities that could be impacted, the details of CETA should make crystal clear that Canada reserves the right to manage the fishery for our own benefit. We cannot afford to be complacent about our right to maximize the economic and social benefits we derive from the fishery within our 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. If we fail to clarify this in CETA, we will be putting at risk the long-term sustainability of the fishery of NL and the rest of Canada.

A current initiative being undertaken by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations calls on nations to recognize and protect our small scale fisheries by adopting the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication. The objectives of the Guidelines are “… to provide advice and recommendations, establish principles and criteria, and information to assist states and stakeholders to achieve secure and sustainable small-scale fisheries and related livelihoods”. This initiative is a concerted effort to recognize and protect the economic, social and cultural importance of small-scale fisheries throughout the world. I recommend these guidelines to the drafters of CETA as a tool that would help us retain the protective policies we currently have in place and enable us to introduce new ones for the benefit of our fishers, the communities where they live, our food security and our sovereignty.

In closing I want to thank the organizers of this hearing for inviting me to attend and present my concerns about CETA. But I also want to admonish you for not holding these hearings in NL where CETA's potential impact on the fishery will be greater than any other province. The best evidence of future negative effects on Newfoundland and Labrador is the $280 million payment that will be made to Newfoundland and Labrador by the Government of Canada to counteract those effects.(Incidentally no information has been provided to the public as to why the payment is necessary.) I am concerned that the payment will not address potential negative economic impacts that rural communities in the Province will face if processing jobs are lost or the Owner Operator and Fleet Separation Polices are dismantled.

It is a sad commentary on our democratic process when this committee, an instrument of our Parliament, cannot find the time to come to our province and hear the voices of those who will be significantly impacted. I want to remind you that it is not too late to correct that serious flaw in your consultations by scheduling hearings in NL to both inform us and hear what the people have to say.

Part 1 of Cutting Through the Spin on #CETA!


This just out! Read the first in a 5-part series, Cutting through the spin on CETA, published in the Independent!

Excerpt:

They are pushing it because CETA is not about trade. Trade is the camouflage. Hidden under the fa├žade of trade are some very unpleasant directions that government does not want to talk about, and which we know about only through leaked documents.

#CETA and the great unknown

January 27, 2014, Letter to the Editor Via The Telegram

Federal minister Rob Moore swept into town in mid-January to talk about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), but not to ordinary citizens or our elected representatives.

He lunched with Board of Trade members, followed by closed door meetings with specific business, labour and post-secondary representatives. Throughout, the minister repeated government’s mantra that the trade deal will create tens of thousands of jobs in Canada and give Canada a competitive edge.

What I’m pretty sure Minister Moore didn’t talk about was the corporate assault on Canadian sovereignty at the heart of CETA.

We now know that that assault is much deeper than groups like Citizens Against CETA and the Council of Canadians have been trying to detail.

That’s thanks to a December presentation to the parliamentary trade committee by Howard Mann, senior international law adviser for the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Mr. Mann talked about three “boxes” in the CETA treaty.

In the first box is a defined list of areas government wishes to protect, like, for example, public health care programs.

The second box defines the legitimate expectations of corporate investors. Both boxes existed in past treaties, like NAFTA.

But CETA proposes a third box, which refers to any breaches of “Fair and Equitable Treatment” as found elsewhere in international law customs. The problem is that this area is undefined.

According to Mr. Mann, this is “an open invitation for arbitration lawyers, investors and tribunals to figure it out, with high risks for governments.”

CETA is also unique in that it allows the provisions of prior treaties to be adopted by EU investors in the case of disputes.

So even though our governments, both provincial and federal, may have included clauses to protect the regulatory and lawmaking ability of governments, investors could use provisions and language from older treaties that were not as carefully drafted to get around those clauses.

Under the terms of CETA’s Investor-state Dispute Settlement mechanism, these challenges to our traditional democratic rights will take place in offshore tribunals.

There, conflict of interest and corporate bias rule; Canadian law counts for nothing; and the right to appeal is non-existent. Originally, an EU Commission study recommended not including an Investor-state Dispute Settlement system, arguing that both Canada and Europe have respected judicial systems that can deal fairly with disputes.

Canada’s position, which prevailed, was that offshore tribunals were necessary to encourage corporations to invest in Europe and Canada. Except that, according to Mr. Mann, there is no empirical evidence to link increased corporate investment with investor-state treaties.

Our government’s claim is fabricated.


A Wolf in Trade Agreement Clothing

 Letter to the Editor via The Telegram Nov 16, 2013

 There’s the sales pitch around the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).  And then there’s the reality.

Two weeks ago, the Royal Bank suggested that CETA, recently signed in principle between the European Union and Canada, might not live up to the hype that’s being used to sell it to Canadians.

Capital Economics, a research organization for the corporate sector, went further, judging the benefit could be “very small.” Citizens’ based think tanks like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have actually predicted a decrease in GDP and job losses.
Primarily, that’s because few trade barriers exist for Canadian exports to Europe. While there may be isolated exceptions, such as Atlantic shellfish, generally we send them raw materials on which there are very low tariffs.

Pitching CETA as a trade agreement is misleading. CETA is really about giving transnational corporations greater access to public spending and the delivery of essential services, and then ensuring that there is minimum regulatory control that might interfere with corporate profits. The procurement chapter of CETA allows European corporations to bid on all government contracts over a threshold value of $340,000, right down to the level of municipalities. No favouritism or preferential treatment to local industries will be permitted, unless specifically negotiated in the agreement. Over 50 Canadian municipalities, including the largest in the country, are so alarmed by all the implications of this that they have asked their provinces to exempt them from CETA. Of course, that won’t be allowed to happen.

 Then there’s the service sector. The latest update by the European Commission reveals that over half the overall GDP gains for the EU under CETA will come from access to the delivery of Canadian services. Expect an increased push towards the partial privatization of public services like water and waste-water management in a post-CETA world. If CETA follows the FTA and NAFTA pattern, also expect takeover attempts of Canadian businesses delivering services like light and power. In support of this last point, I refer to a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study. It found that, between 1988 and 2002, 96.6 per cent of American investments in Canada took the form of takeovers rather than the creation of new businesses. That period was also characterized by downsizing into precarious (part time and contract) employment. Should we expect more of this also under CETA?

All of this bodes badly, in my opinion, for citizens, for local businesses and for the right of governments at all levels to make decisions in the interest of the public and the environment. Once CETA is signed and ratified by parliament, governments will be bound for decades by rules that they cannot ignore, override or amend at risk of lawsuits.
Corporate lawsuits relating to procurement would take place under the umbrella of the Canadian court system. However, If the European corporations were service providers, they would be considered investors and  entitled under CETA’s Investor-State chapter to sue the Canadian government in an offshore tribunal where Canadian law counts for nothing. According to the 73-page 2012 report “Profiting from Injustice” by Corporate Europe Observatory, corporate bias and conflict of interest among the arbitrators are widespread in these tribunals.

In all probability, it won’t be just European corporations that use the Investor-State mechanism. Many large Canadian companies have affiliates across the Atlantic. Under CETA, they could conceivably initiate Investor-State lawsuits via these affiliates in order to compel their own government to refrain from introducing regulations they dislike. Furthermore, under NAFTA rules, Mexican investors and service companies will get the same preferential treatment that is being offered to their European counterparts, even though their countries don’t have to offer anything in return to Canada.  

The most insidious characteristic of these lawsuits is not the  cost to taxpayers of litigation and damages. It is the impact they will have on democratic decision-making. The mere threat of a lawsuit acts as a substantial deterrent to the development of government policy that would be in the interest of the public or our environment. Everything begins to be seen through the prism of potential litigation, frequently in offshore tribunals.

Our government has done three things throughout the negotiating period that suggest they are serving the interest of global corporations. Most Canadians don’t know that it was Canada, not an initially reluctant EU, that insisted on the CETA Investor-State chapter with its recourse to offshore tribunals. The Canadian government has also made it easier for global corporations to take over Canadian businesses by raising the threshold from $344 million to $1.5 billion before any foreign transaction is reviewed. Finally, it’s becoming harder and harder for Canadian municipalities to gain federal funding for infrastructure projects if they don’t engage in public-private partnerships with corporate investors. Those investors tend to be global corporations, because local businesses find it difficult to come up with the substantial financial backing necessary to participate in these partnerships. All of the above lead to the threat of more Investor-State lawsuits.

I believe that there is a creeping and secretive power shift going on. It’s leading away from sovereign nation states and democracy and shifting towards corporate empire. Trade agreements like CETA are one of the most effective tools global corporations have to dismantle sovereignty. So here’s the big question: why is our own government apparently facilitating this?

Marilyn Reid

CETA deal not all positives — CBC radio interview

**Listen to Marilyn Reid of Citizens Against CETA being interviewed on CBC Central Morning Show.


What’s Wrong with CETA?

CETA undermines our rights as citizens


1. Loss of Sovereignty: CETA will restrict the right of elected governments at all levels to introduce regulations in the interest of the public if they violate any of the rules laid out in the agreement. This makes it difficult for governments to react to unforeseen crises or environmental hazards. 

2. The Corporate Hijacking of the Law: The Investor Rights chapter of CETA will allow European corporations to bypass the respected Canadian court system in favour of offshore tribunals over which we have no control. “Profiting From Injustice,” A 2012 report by Corporate Europe Observatory details the rampant conflict of interest and corporate bias of these tribunals. 

3. A Biased Negotiating Process: Over the four-year negotiating period, no discussion took place between the public and governments around CETA issues in spite of repeated requests. But lobbyists for over 600 global corporations were privy to, and helped shape, the negotiations.  

CETA has been designed to increase the power and profits of corporations 


1. Loss of Jobs. Independent studies indicate that the 2008 computer model used by the federal government to predict future employment in a post-CETA world is seriously flawed and certainly out-dated. The 2010 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study (itself out-dated given the deteriorating economic situation in Europe) indicates Canadian job losses of 30,000 to 150,000 (depending on currency values), mostly in the manufacturing or processing sector.

2. Increased corporate access to public spending: Expect increased access by European corporations to public spending right down to the level of municipalities and school boards. Water and waste- water management may be particularly at risk of being partially privatized given the federal government’s enthusiasm for linking municipal funding to P3s. P3s disadvantage local businesses that don't have adequate investment capital. 

3. The illusory benefits of increased investments and increased exports: Most Canadians don’t know that 90% of American investments in Canada in the first 10 years after NAFTA did not create new businesses. They were for “takeovers” of existing businesses (often followed by downsizing and precarious employment). Or that when farm exports increased by 300% post-NAFTA, the benefits went to foreign corporations. Farm debt actually increased by 300%. Without knowledge of the details of CETA, how do we calculate the real costs and benefits to our economy?

Many of us feel that there is a creeping and silent power shift going on. It’s leading away from sovereign nation states and democracy and shifting towards corporate empire. Trade agreements like CETA are one of the most effective tools global corporations have to facilitate this shift.

Trade Justice Network wants Harper to release CETA text


Canada-EU Deal: Trade Justice Network wants Harper to release CETA text; launches online petition demanding public review

Ottawa – The Trade Justice Network and 30 other organizations have sent an open letter to Prime Minister Harper calling for the immediate publication of the draft text of the Canada–European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The federal government has just announced that negotiations on the Canada–EU deal have concluded.

“Texts from the CETA negotiations leaked over the past four years show that this agreement will have far-reaching negative implications for citizens and local communities. This is mainly because of how the deal will restrict public policy space at the request of multinational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic,” says the letter to Prime Minister Harper. “Economic assessments of the deal published since the start of negotiations have also cast serious doubt on the value of CETA to Canadian exporters and workers.”


The Canada-EU CETA will likely undermine democratic control over public services, provide extensive investor rights for European corporations and the ability to enforce those rights through unaccountable and secretive arbitration, extend patent protections on brand name drugs with an associated sharp rise in drug costs, eliminate buy-local options for municipal governments, and put even more roadblocks in the way of passing effective climate and environmental protection policies.

“We have gone to great trouble to see as much of the CETA text as possible, and what we have seen strongly suggests it is a bad deal for Canadians,” says the letter. “Making the full, concluded text public would give you an opportunity to potentially prove us wrong.”

The network is calling on other groups to endorse the call for transparency and has launched an online petition demanding a public review of CETA before it can be signed by the federal government.
The Trade Justice Network includes a broad cross-section of Canadian labour, environmental, farmers’, student, health, human rights and public interest organizations concerned with the negative impacts of Canada signing a free trade deal with Europe.

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More information: TJN.RCJ@gmail.com; 647-222-9782 (EN) or 438-396-6284 (FR)

Sleeping through trade agreements, waking up to empire

via The Independent

In the old days, back in the 20th Century, most discussions on unfair trade focused on how World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and corporate  monopolies placed Third World countries and their people at a severe and unfair disadvantage. It was assumed the bad guys, those who profited, were us, via our governments. After all, those big corporations making enormous profits at the expense of poor and hungry people in the Global South all had their head offices in rich countries – and so must be ours.

But they really aren’t, are they? Whether it’s the way big corporations now constantly outsource to the cheapest location, use tax havens to avoid paying taxes, or play regions off against one another, multinationals show no allegiance to countries or communities.
Actually, it’s much more serious than that. There is an enormous and deliberate power shift taking place, away from the control of nation states and into the hands of an increasingly interconnected web of multinational corporations.

How interconnected? By analyzing the Orbis Data Bank of 30 million shareholders, a landmark 2011 Swiss study found that 147 corporations held control of 40% of the world’s 43,000 multinational corporations. Given that three quarters of these 147 corporations were financial, it’s highly probable their real power to control is much greater.

Investor-state “trade” agreements: Corporate Empire’s most powerful tool

So, why talk about this growing corporate empire on World Fair Trade Day? Because trade agreements are one of the principal tools corporations are using to usurp the power of nation-states and democratically elected governments.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that the real reason for the existence of trade agreements is to establish corporate friendly rules. These rules are carefully drafted to limit governments’ ability to pass legislation that in any way interferes with corporate profits and corporate empire building. The enforcement weapon is Investor-State clauses that allow corporations to sue governments in offshore tribunals where national laws have no weight. For more information on just how biased and slanted in favour of corporations this whole process is, read Corporate Europe Observatory’s 2012 report, “Profiting from Injustice”. It’s an eye-opener.

Read the rest of the article here:
http://theindependent.ca/2013/05/11/sleeping-through-trade-agreements-waking-up-to-corporate-empire/

Discussion: "Trade Treaties, Globalization and the Future of the Atlantic Fisheries"

Scott Sinclair, Senior Research Fellow, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, will be discussing his brand new publication (January 2013) "Trade Treaties, Globalization and the Future of the Atlantic Fisheries."

Check out the Facebook event page for more info!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
 A1045, Arts & Administration Bldg.
Memorial University Campus

Parking is available in Lot 15B (next to the School of Music)

 “When properly regulated within sustainable ecological limits, international trade is vital to the economic well-being of the Atlantic Canadian fisheries. Unfortunately, the broad scope of new trade and investment treaties, such as the Canada- EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), poses considerable threat to fisheries regulation. At stake is the ability of Canadians to pursue public policies that curb domination of the fisheries by large corporations and help spread benefits more widely among independent fishers and coastal communities.”