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ClientEarth Communications

21st October 2016

Rule of law
Access to Justice for a Greener Europe

Belgian region halts EU-Canada trade deal

The Belgian region of Wallonia has rejected the controversial EU-Canada trade and investment deal (CETA).

Concerns over agriculture, welfare and the investor settlement mechanism led Wallonia to vote against CETA.

ClientEarth analysis shows that the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism in EU trade agreements – like CETA and and the EU-US trade deal (TTIP) - is illegal under EU law.

Without Wallonia's backing, the Belgian federal government cannot sign the deal, which was to happen next week. This prevents the first step being taken in the EU's ratification of the trade agreement.

ClientEarth lawyer Laurens Ankersmit said:

“The end of CETA hopefully signals the start of a new EU trade policy. The EU should commit to putting people and planet first, by removing investor-state dispute settlement from EU trade deals altogether.”

The deal, which has took seven years to negotiate, aims to eliminate 98% of tariffs between Canada and the EU.

ClientEarth recently started legal proceedings against the Commission, for keeping secret official analysis of whether the controversial investor rules are legal.

Under EU transparency laws, the public has a right to see the documents. But the Commission refused access, saying disclosure would weaken the Commission’s negotiating position.

The Commission asked its lawyers their opinion on the legality of ISDS and related investor rules ICS, but refused a request from ClientEarth to see the documents.

Investor-state dispute settlement and the Investment Court System (ICS) create special courts that are only available to industry, with for-profit judges who are not publicly accountable.

Read the full study here - Legality of investor state dispute settlement under EU law