Friday, February 24, 2017
Last week in Strasbourg, the European Parliament voted on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a trade deal of the European Union with Canada. All ECPM MEPs either abstained or voted against the deal.
The goal of trade agreements as CETA and TTIP has been presented as an opportunity for growth in terms of GDP. In the last few years we have seen many times that the issues we face are not simply solved by GDP growth. We face crises in our environment, security and family life. If GDP growth does not contribute to improvement of these situations (or even make them worse), then GDP is just a number for the few who can profit from it. GDP growth needs to be translated into improvements that really matter, not just in more consumption. Issues as sovereignty and democracy are equally important.
There are elements in CETA that seem to contradict democratic principles. There is still unclarity over the effects of ‘indirect expropriation’ which means that taxpayers can be charged for potential losses of companies via governments. The unelected ‘Investment Court System of Multilateral Investment Court’ appears to have the same effect on sovereignty and democracy. This means that core elements of CETA can easily have a negative impact on common citizens who do not own companies or are not at the stock markets.
Concerns about the Investment Court System (ISD)
ECPM Interim President and Slovakian MEP Branislav Škripek abstained from voting. “Co-operation with Canada is not primarily formed by vast and sometimes not totally transparent contracts. It is first of all built on mutual respect and agreement on fundamental principles. That is also why the co-operation with Canada is on such a good level today. I consider further co-operation in the areas of terrorism prevention, defence and trade as needed and beneficial for both sides."
"At the same time the CETA trade agreement concerns me", Škripek continues. "I am glad that this almost 1600 pages long agreement now includes some of the good things that have been negotiated. For instance, the protection of traditional foods and overall European standards on all agricultural products. What is still an area of some concern, is the legal disputes adjustment mechanism: the so-called the Investment Court System (ISD). It is my concern and it would be interesting to know how would a court of let’s say 15 international judges decide in an international dispute of uranium mining in Jahodná village in Eastern Slovakia? I do not think giving up our sovereignty in this area is a good idea.”
Dutch ECPM MEP Peter van Dalen shares his concerns and abstained from voting for the same reason. “I am in favour of free and fair trade, but also of policy freedom of elected representatives and governments. In this time where transatlantic relations are under pressure, I do not want to vote against CETA. However, I would have liked the last version of CETA, so with the permanent court, to have been reviewed by the European Court of Justice. Since this has not happened, I cannot support CETA.” Polish ECPM MEP Kazimierz Ujazdowski abstained as well.
Global trade has to be a fair trade
Our other Dutch MEP, Bas Belder, voted against the trade deal, as did MEP Marek Jurek and MEP Arne Gericke. Gericke said his ‘no’ to CETA is rather a clear ‘yes’ to a fair, transparent and modern world trade, bringing both sides clear advantages. “To the very last, it has not been possible to overcome existing and raised concerns about international jurisdiction, regulatory cooperation, guaranteeing and sustaining compliance with environmental and social standards, public services of general interest (Article 191 TFEU), local self-administration and the negative impact on medium-sized, family-run agriculture in Europe in particular. The EU Commission and the Canadian negotiators have missed the opportunity to take the criticism seriously and to jointly launch a new start that would set new standards in international trade.”
He concludes: “From my and the Christian point of view, global trade has to be a fair trade that puts humans in the centre. Global trade needs a high rate of corporate and personal social responsibility. New and fair trade agreements have to put this at the core, following the Christian ideal of the honourable merchant.”