Photo of fruit in shopping basket to illustrate story saying CETA close to collapse one day before trade agreement due to sign

CETA close to collapse on eve of deal signing

The EU-Canada trade deal is on the verge of collapse, 24 hours before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due to arrive in Brussels to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Last week, the Belgian region of Wallonia rejected CETA over fears about welfare, agriculture and the way investor rights are protected over those of citizens and the environment.

The Walloon Parliament also questioned the legality of investor rules ISDS and ICS, saying that rule of law in the EU and Canada is sufficiently strong to protect investors without the need for a separate court system.

In 2015, ClientEarth analysis showed that ISDS and ICS, which would effectively create a court system available only to foreign investors, is incompatible with EU law.

Wallonia called for state-to-state dispute settlement, rather than investor-state dispute settlement. It is also worried that the precautionary principle – which lets policymakers protect people and the environment from things that are suspected to cause harm – is being eroded.

ClientEarth lawyer Laurens Ankersmit said: “Wallonia’s opposition shows that citizens’ concerns need to be taken seriously, and that trade policy should put people and planet before profit.

“Investor rules in CETA and its US equivalent, TTIP, allow non-EU companies to sue governments over public interest decision-making, including decisions to protect the environment. We cannot allow public protection to come second to the interests of big business.”

Yesterday, ClientEarth wrote to Walloon Prime Minister Paul Magnette, warning that attempts to address Wallonia’s concerns over ICS in CETA have little legal value and don’t provide meaningful guidance on how to interpret investor rules.

The letter concludes: “Based on the latest available documents, there is little evidence that the EU and Canadian authorities are committed to do more than a mere public relations exercise on the investment chapter.”

ClientEarth recently launched a law suit against the Commission, because it refused to share official analysis of whether ISDS and ICS are legal. The Commission said disclosure of the legal reflections would undermine its negotiating position in trade agreements. This contravenes EU transparency laws. The case continues.

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Brooke Cagle