Analysis of the Canada – EU Trade Agreement

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada was announced as a “done deal” in Ottawa on September 26, despite the fact that the text had never been made public till that time.

The agreement abolishes almost all tariffs and reduces many non-tariff barriers, but most controversial is the chapter on investment protection, which includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. The ISDS mechanism gives foreign corporations the ability to sue Canada or a province, if the companies allege that domestic health or environmental policies and regulations interfere with their right to make a profit.

The Council of Canadians has been a vocal opponent of CETA because of these ISDS provisions and released a new book in November. Trading away Democracy (co-published by a number of other organizations, including Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Union of Public Employees, European Federation of Public Service Unions, Friends of the Earth Europe).
The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development in Geneva has published a detailed review which includes a summary of the Environment and Labour chapters of the CETA . The article points out a departure from past trade agreements such as NAFTA: disputes under the Environment or Labour chapters cannot be initiated by civil society, but only by a government- to -government mechanism specifically defined in each chapter. See “Unpacking the EU Canada Free Trade Deal” in Bridges (Nov. 3).

Also see the Government of Canada website relating to CETA, including a link to the text of the agreement (English version / French version).

Ontario Green Energy Act Loses Final Appeal at WTO

The World Trade Organization has upheld its original decision and ruled that the domestic content regulations of Ontario’s Green Energy Act violate international trade law.  Existing contracts signed under the Act will continue, but the WTO decision calls for the Green Energy Act to be amended to remove the requirement for local production in future renewable energy contracts.   “Ontario loses final WTO appeal on Green Energy Act” by Shawn McCarthy, Globe and Mail (May 6) is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/ontario-loses-final-wto-appeal-on-green-energy-act/article11731010/  .

A summary of the WTO proceedings, including a link to the review decision (file #WT/DS412), in English and French is available from the WTO at http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds412_e.htm  . The Council of Canadians reaction is at “Ontario urged to defy unreasonable WTO ruling against Green Energy Act” at http://www.canadians.org/media/trade/2013/06-May-13-2.html , and the United Steelworkers union also urges Ontario to continue to fight, stating that “This is just the latest example of trade agreements being used to override our sovereignty and our freedom to implement environmental and economic development initiatives.” (see press release at http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1159683/wto-ruling-must-not-end-fight-for-green-jobs-steelworkers ).

The Ontario Ministry of Energy has not yet made a formal response to the decision; however, in a related announcement on May 6th, it announced a 6-month review of the regional energy planning process to be more inclusive of municipal and local input.  (See http://news.ontario.ca/mei/en/2013/05/new-ontario-government-strengthens-energy-planning.html ).

Proposed Terms of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Could be Used to Challenge Canadian Fracking Bans

A May 6 briefing by Corporate Europe Observatory, the Council of Canadians and the Transnational Institute “highlights the public debate around fracking, the interests of Canadian oil and gas companies in shale gas reserves in Europe, and the impacts an investment protection clause in the proposed CETA could have on governments’ ability to regulate or ban fracking.”   A similar provision investment protection clause in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the basis for a current challenge by Lone Pine Resources to a fracking moratorium in Quebec. See the briefing, The Right to Say No: EU-Canada Trade Agreement Threatens Fracking Bans (May 6) at  http://corporateeurope.org/publications/right-say-no-eu-canada-trade-agreement-threatens-fracking-bans .