August 2017        

CETA is TTIP by the back door

Jimmy Doran

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada was agreed and signed last October. It now has to be ratified by all twenty-seven national parliaments before it can be fully implemented.
      In the meantime, however, it can be provisionally implemented, which will allow most of the arrangements to be brought into use now; and it’s looking increasingly likely that the Government is about to do this in the near future, despite the fact that Seanad Éireann has already rejected provisional application.
      This means that even if the deal is not ratified eventually we can still be sued for expropriation carried out during the period of provisional implementation.
      There are multiple reasons why we must rigorously oppose this deal, not least that the main reason for the agreement is to support transnational corporations in their never-ending quest for new markets and increased profits through deregulation and the removal of trade barriers that they see as restricting their potential profits.
      This will be done at the expense of workers’ and consumers’ rights, the environment, health and safety and national sovereignty by rolling back the ability of governments to regulate and make laws in the public interest.
      CETA and similar trade agreements are the latest tool in the capitalists’ box for expanding the imposition of imperialism globally. The agreement is designed to increase the accumulation of the wealth created by the many for the few by transferring decision-making powers from national parliaments to global corporations in a parallel legal system.
      CETA also opens up the entire state sector to competition and privatisation from transnational corporations, unless the government has excluded a specific service; and the Irish government has excluded very few. Everything is up for grabs: health, education, transport, housing, water, to name but a few.
      All regulations and standards are now called into question as the two systems are converged. A corporation need only demonstrate a potential loss of future profit to challenge regulatory obstacles, whether reducing or removing regulations governing food safety, health and safety at work, the environment, financial services, data protection, or others.
      Canada is the third-largest producer of genetically modified food in the world. This will put huge pressure behind the pro-GMO lobby here.
      This agreement is very strong on investors’ rights, and they are enforceable, but there are no such arrangements for employment or environmental rights. Everything—collective bargaining, working conditions, labour contracts, minimum wage, sickness and holiday pay, social welfare protection—is open to be challenged.
      The parallel legal system known as the investment court system or ICS—in other words, private courts—allows corporations to sue governments for potential loss of profits. This is a direct attack on our sovereignty, as it gives corporations the power to stop governments changing laws or regulations that could affect future profits: for example, raising the minimum wage, or banning zero-hour contracts, or anything else that could be perceived to negatively affect profits.
      CETA spells disaster for health and the environment. It creates a nightmare for governments resisting privatisation. Corporations can sue governments to eliminate non-tariff barriers, namely the laws and regulations constructed over decades of struggle to limit corporate power and to support services and policies needed to defend workers, citizens, and the environment.
      For decades, organised labour has been fighting purely defensive battles against the neo-liberal trade and investment agenda. Crisis stagnation and the global financial crash will not be reversed through stronger doses of neo-liberalism.
      As a result of the “austerity” inflicted on our people, substantial schemes of public investment are now needed to address mass unemployment, inequality, precarious work, disintegrating public services, and climate change. If CETA were introduced, the Government would be precluded from this type of public investment.
      This agreement attacks the common good in many ways, purely to bolster the profits of big business. It must be resisted at all costs. It will accelerate the race to the bottom and complete the neo-liberal coup.
      And it brings the EU, as its negotiator, into conflict with the Constitution of Ireland: • article 15.2.1, which vests the sole power to make law in the Oireachtas • article 34.1, which vests the power to dispense justice in the Irish courts • article 34.3.2, which makes the High Court and appellate courts the sole courts in which a law may be questioned.
      The investor-state mechanism must surely contravene these provisions.
      Since the election of Donald Trump, the threat of TTIP has diminished for the time being; but we must not let it come in the back door in the guise of CETA. More than half of all American corporations have a base in Canada, and all they need do is open an office in Canada to facilitate them in their quest for global dominance and come under the CETA deal.
      For all those in the North arguing to retain a customs union after Brexit, they might want to rethink this and realise that if a customs union is retained, CETA and all the other trade agreements being negotiated will be part of it. Maybe they will want to jump back over the fence and take up their previous stance against British and European imperialism.
      Unless we kick off the yoke of imperialism, Ireland will never have economic independence. If the Six Counties were to be united with the rest of the country, independent from Britain but as part of the EU, we would only have changed one imperialist yoke for another.
       If CETA is resisted and not introduced it will provide the people of Europe with a breathing-space before the inevitable next attack by imperialism. This is the nature of the EU: there never can be democracy or economic independence as a member, because its purpose is to represent the interests of the elite at the expense of the working class.
      Stopping CETA will only slow down the neo-liberal agenda, not stop it. To break the stranglehold on our people we must leave the EU. Only then can we regain our sovereignty, win back economic independence, and advance our struggle for a socialist republic.
      The EU cannot be reformed. It must be dismantled.

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