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If it seems like the Trans-Pacific Partnership is practically dead and buried, Canada can breathe a little easier when it comes to the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Just recently at the end of November, the free trade deal cleared another important hurdle on its way to implementation as the European Parliament rejected a motion put forward to ask the top European Union court to rule on the legality of the agreement.
This move by Euro Parliamentarians is an indication that lawmakers are warming up to CETA and seem to want to see the deal move forward. The objective being that CETA would be partially enforced as of early 2017.
Rejected by 419 votes to 258, the motion was brought forward by members of the Greens and some left-wing groupings as well as Italy’s %-Star Movement, well known for its anti-establishment stance. They were accompanied by 31 Social-Democrats and two liberals.
The main argument brought forward by the CETA-contradictors on which they were hoping to obtain a favorable ruling from the court, was that they believed that the court system proposed inside the agreement, was not compatible with current EU laws. They brought forward the fact it the proposition in the agreement contravened provisions that companies should be treated like normal people in law and rules on the operation of national and EU courts.
“The system of secret, corporate courts proposed within the CETA trade treaty represents a massive power grab and it is particularly shocking that our democratic representatives at Westminster are being prevented from debating or voting on this trade treaty”, said Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, one of those who tabled the motion.
Had the court sided with the group, that CETA breached EU laws, the planned partial enforcement for early 2017, would have been delayed by up to two years.
Pro-CETA supporters inside the EU Parliament have said that the institution’s own legal service had reviewed the 1,598 pages that compose CETA and had advised that the agreement was perfectly in line with current European Union laws.
The investor court system proposed by CETA is built upon the WTO model and pro-transparency trends in arbitration. The court system provides notable feature such as the right to regulate and precise investment protection standard and to offer an effective, fair and transparent investment dispute resolution system. In a nutshell, the system would have the power to decide on disputes between states and foreign investors. This is the main factor that has been the battle horse of CETA opponents since the very beginning. Critics argue that such a system would give the ability to multinationals to dictate public policy related to the environment or labour laws for example.
CETA’s Road is Rocky
CETA since its beginnings, has had a rocky relationship with various regions and countries in the EU. Just recently, the deal was saved by long negotiations which included an intervention by Canada’s International Trade Minister. The 28 members of the EU only signed on once the kerfuffle caused by the Wallon region in Brussels was dealt with.
The European Parliament needs to assent CETA in order for it to bring the agreement into force provisionally which means cutting or removing import tariffs to start off. Full implementation of CETA, including its controversial court system, will only happen once the deal has cleared more than 40 national and regional parliaments.