STOP #CETA: Lessons from Canada

Canadians are not clamouring for CETA.  My fingers are crossed; I’m one nice patient Canadian who hopes Belgium will hold fast and continue to refuse to sign the CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).

I really don’t get why our Government is pursuing this Trade Agreement sought by the Harper Conservative Government.  Because the fact is, Canada has indeed suffered from “free trade” agreements, as pointed out in the Council of Canadians video below. I cannot comprehend why Canadian Governments are so willing to sign these things. Investor State Dispute Settlements are not good for democracy.

The Economist says:

IF YOU wanted to convince the public that international trade agreements are a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people, this is what you would do: give foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever a government passes a law to, say, discourage smoking, protect the environment or prevent a nuclear catastrophe. Yet that is precisely what thousands of trade and investment treaties over the past half century have done, through a process known as “investor-state dispute settlement”, or ISDS.

— The Economist Investor-state dispute settlement: The arbitration game

There is a lot more information about why CETA as it stands in a letter written by a group of Canadian academics”

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PARLIAMENT OF WALLONIA AND BELGIAN VOTERS ON THE PROPOSED CETA AND ITS FOREIGN INVESTOR PROTECTION SYSTEM

“To the Parliament of Wallonia and Belgian voters:

“We are Canadian academics with extensive collective expertise in investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and related issues under Canada’s trade and investment agreements. We are also among a small group of Canadian experts in this field who do not work in law firms or government as ISDS lawyers/ arbitrators.

img_5503“We write after reading news reports this past weekend about the scare tactics employed by Canadian politicians and business representatives in an effort to influence your legislative and government processes. We do not think that these voices represent accurately Canada’s experience under the foreign investor protection system that the CETA would expand. We are aware that many Canadians have expressed deep concern about this foreign investor protection system due to Canada’s experience with a similar system under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and in debates about the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), among other agreements.

“While we focus here on adverse consequences of the foreign investor protections in the CETA, we are also aware that the agreement will impose new constraints in many other areas of public policy beyond what we discuss. They include but are not limited to pharmaceutical regulation, public health, agriculture, government procurement, public services, labour rights, and market access. We note that other academics have raised significant concerns about the CETA in these areas.

“Since the NAFTA came into effect in 1994, Canada has been and remains the only Western developed country that has agreed to ISDS on a comprehensive basis while in the more vulnerable capital-importing position. In the case of NAFTA, Canada agreed to ISDS on this basis with the U.S. and Canada has since faced more foreign investor claims than all but a handful of countries, has paid compensation in response to numerous claims, and has altered government decisions or decision-making processes in order to accommodate foreign investor interests and to reduce risks of potentially massive liability.

“Business spokespersons who have defended these concessions of Canadian democracy and sovereignty often represent foreign companies in Canada or Canadian companies that may own companies abroad and be interested in bringing claims against Canada. It is perhaps understandable, though still very regrettable, that large businesses are keen to acquire special rights and special access to public money through ISDS.

“Reforms to ISDS in the CETA, relied on by Canadian officials to describe the CETA misleadingly as “progressive”, are inadequate to address major concerns about the CETA. The major concerns
include the undermining of democratic regulation, the special privileging of foreign investors, the lack of judicial independence and procedural fairness in the adjudicative process, and the lack of respect for domestic courts and domestic institutions. In particular, the “Investment Court System” (ICS) in the CETA does not remove the financial threat posed by foreign investor claims to democratic regulation, does not alter the unjustified and gross favouring of foreign investors over anyone else who has a conflicting right or interest, and does not establish a proper court with the usual safeguards of independence and fairness.

“These problems with the CETA’s foreign investor protections remain outstanding, despite the recent Joint Interpretive Declaration issued by Canada and the EU (in all of the various forms in which that Declaration became public).

“We are heartened that your democratic processes in Wallonia have allowed for close and careful consideration of the CETA’s flaws as part of a genuine and thoughtful debate. We wish Canadians had been permitted to have a similar debate based on a vote in Canada’s Parliament and provincial legislatures, but that has not been the case under the Harper government or the Trudeau government. In contrast to the views expressed undiplomatically by some Canadian politicians and business representatives, it appears to us that Belgian democracy has been exercised responsibly, as it should be, to allow parliamentary votes on the quasi-constitutional structures created by foreign investor protection agreements like the CETA.

“In Canada, our democracy has suffered because the federal government has insisted on pushing through agreements like the NAFTA and the CETA without legislative votes at the federal and provincial levels. As a result, and without the corresponding endorsements by our elected representatives, we have been left with a foreign investor protection system that binds all levels of government and that will bind all future elected governments in Canada for a very long time. Our experience hints at the dangers faced by European democracy in the case of the CETA. Whatever decisions you take, we urge you not to succumb to the same types of tactics used to mislead and scare Canadians into undermining our democracy on behalf of foreign investors. Canada and the European Commission have been aware for years that the CETA faced significant public and academic opposition due to its foreign investor protections. Yet they declined to remove these non-trade elements from the CETA.

“In a context where there is no credible justification for including ISDS or ICS in the CETA – given the greater reliability, independence, and fairness of Canadian and European democratic and judicial processes – it still surprises us how big business groups and governments acting on their behalf ferociously cling to such a deeply flawed and undemocratic model. In case they are of interest, we have noted below a few additional documents indicating concerns with the foreign investor protection system. We have also listed a larger sample of relevant publications by the signatories.

“From what we can see, you have shown great courage in opposing the CETA and, based on our observations of how the foreign investor protection system has been pushed on Canadians over the years, we wish to express our support for your democratic choices.”

The original letter including the complete list of signatories and links to supporting documents can be found in this PDF

Michael Geist talks about TPP at CIGIOn the European side you need look no further than the FFII blog, whose most recent article is, “A deceitful attempt to get CETA signed”

If all of this is too highbrow to grasp in one sitting, check out BUZZ FEED: The Court That Rules The World

The point is really that CETA is a bad deal for citizens on both sides of the pond.

Michael Geist has been talking about (and highlighting the flaws in) “trade deals” like CETA for years, so I’ll leave the last word to him: CETA Failure Reflects Public Rejection of Sweeping Trade Deals: Don’t blame EU unreasonableness for saying no to bad agreement with Canada.

 

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Why the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a Bad Idea

cows in an Ontario field

The Harper Government is giving Canada CETA, (the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) which they tell us is “the most ambitious [Free Trade Agreement] Canada has ever attempted, encompassing every sector of the economy from automobiles to financial services, intellectual property to government procurement” as reported by the CBC in Stephen Harper signs EU trade deal in Brussels. Although the details are sketchy, there is a slick website designed to sell CETA to Canadians. Canadian reporters were “briefed” with what the government wants them to know about the deal before today’s press conference.

It isn’t just reporters being kept in the dark.  As Michael Geist points out, Canadians don’t know what the actual terms of CETA are. Instead of releasing the full text of the agreement, our government has only issued summaries, essentially a press release. The deal has been in the works since 2008, and enough dribs and drabs of information have been leaked to raise quite a few red flags. This is the opposite of government transparency; instead of consultation, Canadians are being told in glowing terms what our government does in our name after it is already done.

Democracy?  I think not.

We are being told CETA paves the way for a large increase in Canadian meat exports to the EU, but it will come with a cost to the Canadian cheese industry which faces a dramatic increase in EU cheese imports.  Now we know which Canadian cows had the more powerful lobby group.

But a free market?  Hardly.  But CETA is so much more than that.

THE COPYRIGHT QUESTION

Last year there was a great deal of concern that CETA was being used as a backdoor mechanism to revive ACTA.

But now the Harper Government says CETA is in line with Canada’s current Copyright Law. We are told we won’t need to implement the onerous copyright provisions once contemplated in order to make Canada ACTA compliant in earlier CETA drafts.  These provisions were supposed to have been removed because of strong ACTA opposition in the EU.  

Apparently the EU listens to its citizens.  Democracy, eh? 

Since they have not released the text of the CETA agreement, the reality is that we won’t know what CETA will do to Canadian Copyright Law until after the deal is ratified and made public.

COUNTERFEIT LAW

CETA is expected to increase border powers to seize counterfeit goods that allegedly infringe trademark, copyright or patent law without a court order.

This is the physical good equivalent to DMCA take downs, which treat copyright infringement allegations as though they are evidence.  This streamlines the process, dispensing with that inconvenient idea of innocence until guilt is proven.  After the web page or website has been taken down, (and your business is disrupted, and its reputation damaged) the accused must demonstrate innocence to get their website restored. But at least people can get it back.

Will the same be true at the border? Or will the seized goods be destroyed ~ as counterfeits routinely are ~ before it can be shown they have not infringed anything?

BRANDS

The sparkling wine pioneered in Champagne, France came to be known throughout the world as “champagne.” But the vintners in the Champagne region felt hard done by when sparkling wines made elsewhere were called “champagne,” so in recent years the LCBO has labelled it “sparking wine” at the LCBO unless it actually comes from France.  Hundreds of European items enjoy this kind of “brand protection” and CETA will extend it further.

They call this “Geographical Indications,” and what it means governments are dictating what language we humans are allowed use.

INTERNET SURVEILLANCE

Electronic commerce (page 27)
“Canadians shop and plan holidays online, and buy and download software and entertainment content, including movies, television and music. Advertisers are making increased use of “smart advertising” on the Web to track our shopping habits and promote specific deals likely to interest us.”

Do Canadian citizens really need to be subjected to even more internet surveillance?

TELECOM

Improved competition ensures greater choice for consumers  (Page 24)

“CETA will ensure that all players in the telecommunications market have fair access to networks and services, and ensure that regulators act impartially, objectively and in a transparent manner. Service providers and investors will benefit from increased transparency and predictability of the regulatory environment and secure, competitive marketplaces.”

Many Canadians know the CRTC has not protected our interests, effectively putting us at the mercy of the telecommunication companies for Internet, Broadcast television or Cell phone systems.  We already pay some of the highest prices in the world for insufficient to mediocre service.   Sounds like CETA will only make this worse.

PATENT LAW

CETA will allow large pharmaceutical companies to extend patent terms and keep generic medicines off the market for longer.  But instead of reinvesting increased revenues in advances, Michael Geist points out that the research and development in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry has decreased as patent “protection” increases.

Critics say this “could drive up costs for provincial drug plans and consumers by about $1 billion.”

FREE TRADE

Canadian Flag

The Harper Government is talking about compensating the industries for the losses CETA will cause as though this is a reasonable solution.

This means the same taxpayers who have not been consulted will foot the bill for CETA’s corporate welfare.

Canadians have seen the damage so-called free trade agreements can do.  Free Trade has made Canada the sixth most sued country in the world.

But CETA doesn’t just give away our natural resources, it threatens our health care.   Why do our governments keep doing these things?  It isn’t about free markets, or democracy, this is another winner takes all tale.  Once agaisn the most powerful lobby group wins, and leave the citizens to pay the piper.

Canadians need Proportional Representation if we’re ever to have democracy.

“If signed, CETA could unfairly restrict how local governments spend money and ban “buy local” policies, add up to $3 billion to the price of drugs, create pressure to increase privatization of local water systems, transit and energy, and much more.”

— The Council For Canadians: Canada-EU (CETA)

The only question Canadians need ask is, who will CETA benefit?

Not us, certainly.

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Further Reading:

Proposed CETA deal will put small cheesemakers out of business—DFC

Harper’s CETA Priority Is to Protect Big Corporations, Not Human Rights

Canada-EU Free Trade Deal: European Drug Demands Would Cost Canadians Up To $2B A Year

Excessive corporate rights in Canada-EU trade deal are unacceptable to broad section of European, Canadian and Quebec society

Michael Geist: Canada – EU Trade Agreement Reached “In Principle”, Part One: Now Release the Text

Canada – EU Trade Agreement Reached “In Principle”, Part Two: The Intellectual Property Provisions

CETA Reached “In Principle”, Part Three: Meaningless Claims on Telecom & E-commerce
CETA Reached “In Principle”, Part Four: Pharma Gets Patent Extension Despite Declining R&D in Canada

Canada-EU trade deal: Sell-out or celebration? Public needs a veto on massive corporate rights treaty

The Council of Canadians: Canada-EU (CETA)

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Free Trade: does CETA have it right?

 Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

The Globe and Mail article “At the gates of Europe: Canada’s top negotiator on EU free-trade” set off some warning bells for me. I have not looked into CETA nearly as closely as I have Bill C-32, but I’ve been hearing disturbing rumblings over the last months… or years, now.

Aside from the fact that previous Free Trade Agreements gave away a lot without perceptible returns, the funny thing is, a great many Canadians were disappointed with the actual lack of actual freedom in previous Free Trade Agreements. It’s very hard to see Canada’s “free trade” with the US has been beneficial when the customs duties supposedly removed still seem to exist under other names, and Canadians need passports to cross the border (not to mention having to choose between health risk or sexual assault if we choose to fly there).

Canadian Flag

Interestingly, while Canada stood mute on ACTA, the European Union very firmly put the breaks on ACTA by calling for transparency.

Who’s zooming who?

It is important for Canadian negotiators to negotiate for Canadian best interests. The following is my comment on that article:

Before Canada signs another so-called “free trade” agreement, we need both transparency and public consultation. Trade agreements made secretly are rarely in our best interest.

A disturbing trend over the last few years has been misleading “titles” of a legislation and trade agreements, with corresponding double think interwoven in the sound byte summaries that tend to run counter to the substance which are used to lull the citizens of this great land into allowing our interest to be sacrificed.

Like, for instance, ACTA. The so-called “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.” As it turned out, ACTA was really an attempt to get Hollywood’s wishlist for Global copyright laws– preferential to the USA– imposed on on the rest of the world. Yet there was not a word about copyright in the title. Serious efforts were made to at suppressing the content of the agreement, even to the point of preventing duly elected members of the supposed democratic governments from being privy to the content being negotiated.

Another egregious example would be “Bill C-32, The Copyright Modernization Act” which seeks to legislate away the freedom inherent in modern technology so it can be locked down to fill the corporate media industry business model of the last century. Whatever Bill C32 is, it is certainly not “modernized.”

I have serious reservations when Canada’s chief negotiator starts talking about the EU’s concerns with Intellectual Property, including copyrights, patents and pharmaceuticals, the warning flags go up for me. It’s even worse when he says things like:

“Our copyright laws haven’t been updated for some time.”

WikiLeaks logo

That’s one of the bits of classic propaganda stemming from south of the border as part of the American Copyright Lobby’s efforts to influence Canadian domestic copyright law (Bill C-32). That’s almost as troubling as people supposedly representing Canadian Interests citing the American 301 as ‘evidence’ of Canadian ‘IP Piracy,’ when the facts clearly show the United States (with it’s more draconian DMCA copyright law) has far more incidence of piracy than Canada does.

The fact that our copyright law hasn’t been updated in a while is not justification for change, particularly change imposed to satisfy foreign special interest groups. Canada has suffered serious inequities in the other supposed “Free Trade” agreements. The fact that the CETA chief negotiator believes that is a good reason to change our already over strong copyright law, and cites erroneous propaganda about it, undermines his credibility to negotiate in Canada’s best interest.

Before Canada signs any CETA agreement, I want to see what the WikiLeaks cables have to say on this topic. Maybe then I’ll be able to believe the people supposedly negotiating on our behalf are being honest with us.”

— Laurel L. Russwurm, comment on Globe and Mail article:
At the gates of Europe: Canada’s top negotiator on EU free-trade

To answer the title question? I’d have to say “No.”

Something so secret is very unlikely to be good for us. If it was, they’d be trumpeting it from the rooftops.

And no way should trade negotiators be writing Canada’s domestic copyright laws.

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