Dublin MEP and CETA critic, Nessa Childers, railed in strong terms against the claim that opponents of the EU-Canada trade deal have no grounds for serious concern.
Speaking from Strasbourg today, Ms. Childers said: “Those decrying a hullaballoo over nothing keep accusing opponents of jeopardising the best EU trade deal ever but have actually failed to confront the issues raised.
“First and foremost is the creation of special arbitration courts to allow multinational investors to sue governments when their expected profits under the terms of the trade deal are threatened by decisions and laws decided by public authorities.
“This sort of expedient was invented decades ago to safeguard western investors from expropriation when they set up operations overseas, in countries with such poor governance that many would have referred to as ‘banana republics’.
“Such schemes mushroomed beyond their original purpose and have fed a private arbitration industry. Governments ended up sued by big business over matters ranging from cigarette packaging through the discontinuation of nuclear power plants, to the removal of neurotoxins from petrol.
“CETA’s supporters will tell you that there is nothing to worry about any longer, now that the Commission was dragged kicking and screaming into reforming that system into a semi-public arbitration scheme, with some important exceptions for public health and other matters.
“Never mind that they had claimed there was nothing wrong with this system long before the outcry of European civil society forced them to retreat.
“The real question is why we should grant companies an exclusive legal avenue to entangle governments in lengthy and protracted parallel procedures when both Canada and the EU have perfectly fine legal systems and courts?
“I am yet to hear of a company across the Atlantic which refrained from investing in Europe for fear of abuse at the hands of a hostile, lawless government, or vice versa. Much to the contrary, they are heartily welcomed, and even given tax breaks.
“Multinational corporations have form in using these fora for spurious and vexatious purposes when their bottom line is at stake, and governments can be, and indeed have been, chilled into inaction when such retaliation looms.
“This is not the only reason for concern, but it alone is a good example that, on it’s own, warrants opposition to CETA in its current form.
“Other critical areas stem from the fact that this trade deal, as the one under negotiation with the US, is about shaping global standards and aligning regulations across markets, as tariffs are no longer much of an obstacle to trade.
“These are matters that absolutely deserve more than a parliamentary rubberstamp.
“Those Irish politicians railing against the Walloon parliament should show a bit more sympathy. Yesterday, it was they who were fighting alone against the rest of their EU peers in apoplexy over the Apple tax ruling.”