Trade deal predicted to spell economic disaster for UK And Europe hangs in the balance

22 September 2016 - 5:45pm
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Mark Dearn is Senior Trade Campaigner at War on Want. This article appeared in Huffington Post.

After tens of thousands of people once more took to the streets of Europe to protest secret trade deals this week, the EU faces a critical moment tomorrow (Friday).

Leaders from across the continent will meet in Slovakia tomorrow to discuss the fate of controversial EU-US deal, TTIP, and its less well known but equally dangerous parallel deal with Canada, CETA.

It is CETA that will be central to this meeting - and whether you’re a ‘Brexiter’ or ‘Remainer’, the deal should be on your radar due to its profound implications for the future of a UK outside the EU, as well as for the EU bloc as a whole.

A new study of CETA makes for gruesome reading. It shows that CETA spells economic doom for the EU: hundreds of thousands of lost jobs across the continent, lower wages for workers, and damage to trade between EU countries, including the UK.

While the European Commission has ignored the findings, staying the course with its groundless mantra of ‘jobs and growth’, some national governments and members of the European Parliament are alive to CETA’s huge threat.

Just this week, 92% of the members of Austria’s social democrat party rejected CETA, joining the Belgian government which remains unable to sign the deal due to opposition from its regional governments. Serious concerns about CETA are growing Eastern Europe.

And last month - after being contacted by thousands of people in the UK - Labour MEPs spoke out in Brussels to highlight their strong concerns with CETA. They zeroed in on the deal’s negative impacts on workers’ rights, its agenda of locking in public services - whether health, railways or water - to privatisation, and its ‘ISDS corporate courts’ mechanism which will allow tens of thousands of US corporations to join Canadian companies in suing our government for creating rules and regulations that affect profits - including those yet to be made.

There is a particular sting in the tail for the UK. If the CETA deal goes through its full ratification process, the UK could be sued for up to 20 years after Brexit. Far from Brexit meaning we take back control, parliamentary sovereignty would be sacrificed on the altar of profit, effectively creating taxpayer-funded corporate risk insurance with no escape for two decades, regardless of what any parliament may want.

At a global level CETA will have profound implications for the for the poorest and most marginalised: the very existence of the deal is an affront to the fight against climate change, making a mockery of Canadian premier Justin Trudeau’s claim that Southern countries “shouldn’t be punished for a problem they didn’t create“.

CETA negotiations only progressed after the European Commission shelved crucial climate change legislation which stopped the entry of high-polluting fossil fuels into Europe, in particular Canadian tar sands oil, which emits 23% more greenhouse gases over its lifetime than traditional fossil fuels. While Trudeau’s rhetoric builds the image of commitment to fighting climate change, his policies are geared to ensuring an increasing market share for tar sands oil - while research shows that 85% of the high polluting fuel must be left in the ground to meet climate change commitments.

Canada spent $30 million lobbying against the rules, securing 110 meetings in two years. It was supported by the USA (where tar sands oil is refined), the UK and Big Oil companies - BP, for example, was “bending the ear“ of then transport minister Norman Baker to demolish the “regulatory burden”. 

By June 2014, the first tar sands oil shipment arrived in Europe. As an EU trade committee vice-chair explained, the legislation: “... effectively vanished into obscurity for close to five years. And the CETA negotiations proceeded.”

He outlined that it was only after CETA was concluded that the now diluted legislation re-surfaced: “Coincidence? Of course not.”

From its five years of negotiations carried out in the utmost secrecy, through to its huge impacts on the law, democracy and our battle to stop millions of unnecessary deaths from climate change, CETA has been the model of how not to do a trade deal.

If CETA is forced through, the consequences will be dire. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and admit defeat on this most toxic of trade deals.

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