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Canadian and EU Leaders Sign CETA Pact; Germany Expresses Concern

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (“CETA”) between Canada and the EU was signed on Friday by representatives of Canada and the EU after five years of negotiations.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper describes the agreement as a “game changer” that is the most comprehensive in Canadian history; certainly he views the agreement as an important part of his legacy and that of his Conservative administration, now in its eight year.

The signing of the text is not the end of the story, however, and CETA still faces opposition both inside and outside of Canada. The Seafarer’s international Union, for example, believes the agreement is a ‘grave threat’ to cabotage; numerous left-wing groups including the Council of Canadians have warned that the investor protection provisions allow corporations to sue governments for democratically enacted legislative changes that impact negatively on their profits, essentially granting business profits a trump card to play over national policy.

Only a day before the signing, Germany expressed reservations about the Investor-State-Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. “It is utterly clear that we reject these investment protection rules,” German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel told parliament in Berlin, according to the Toronto Star. While the German government favours a deal in principle, it is taking the position that all EU member states must ratify the agreement before it becomes binding and it now appears that the deal in its current form is unlikely to receive that ratification.

Sources have suggested that other EU member states including Austria, Bulgaria, and Romania share the German concerns of ISDS. But EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said CETA will unravel if it is renegotiated to alter its ISDS clauses: “If we reopen negotiations on CETA, the deal will be dead.”

The text of the agreement is available through Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade here.

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