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Rule of law shunned as CETA deal approved in European Parliament

MEPs have voted through the EU’s trade deal with Canada, CETA, without seeking the opinion of the European Court of Justice on one of the most controversial elements of the deal.

The European Parliament has approved the trade deal this afternoon, marking the beginning of the ratification process of CETA in the EU.

ClientEarth trade and environment lawyer Laurens Ankersmit said:

“We are disappointed the European Parliament has decided to consent to CETA so hastily, without due regard for the rule of law. The Investment Court System poses fundamental challenges to the EU’s legal system and should have been checked by the European Court of Justice before the vote.”

“By signing off CETA, the European Parliament has placed a greater value in business interests than a commitment to the rule of law.”

CETA gives investors significant rights under the Investment Court System (ICS) that may undermine rule of law in the EU and the powers of EU judges – including judges in the Member States. These rights could threaten the power and ability of national governments’ to make environmental laws.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is due to consider the legality of the ICS in CETA under EU law, after the Walloon parliament made this a condition of ratifying the trade deal.

CETA is the EU’s most comprehensive trade deal to date. With other trade agreements on the horizon, today’s vote not only shuns the EU’s judiciary but also highlights the inadequacies of the EU’s trade policy.

The EU’s attempts to include environmental provisions in the trade deal – CETA’s ‘environment chapter’ – do little to benefit people or the planet. Instead, CETA prioritises corporate interests undermining any claims that this deal is a ‘gold standard’ in trade.

Ankersmit added:

“The Commission prides itself on having a trade policy ‘based on values’. Unfortunately, CETA is not a progressive agreement. It offers businesses a great deal, including the ability to sue governments without any strings attached. There are no obligations for investors, the commitments in the environmental chapter are not enforceable and the exceptions clauses necessary to safeguard decision-making in the public interest are completely outdated.”

ClientEarth’s legal analysis shone light on the incompatibility of ICS with EU law. We asked MEPs not to vote for CETA. Now, the EU must take the concerns of citizens seriously and work towards a fair and sustainable trade agreement for all.

ClientEarth will continue to follow CETA as national parliaments begin to ratify the deal in the coming years.

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Robert Snache

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