Civil society statement against CETA

Posted on June 15, 2018

Modern trade deals impact on many areas of domestic public policy including health services, consumer protections and regulation in areas like labour and the environment. In the coming weeks, the UK Government will seek to ratify the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA) with minimal parliamentary scrutiny. As it stands, CETA could have significant negative consequences for UK public services and regulation. Because of a number of concerns about the deal, the organisations listed below are calling on MPs to reject the deal.

CETA will lock in the privatisation of public services. The use of a ‘negative list’ for services means that all services are included unless countries specifically exclude them. All future services will therefore be covered: had the deal been signed before 1997, this would have meant Sure Start Centres would have been automatically included, resulting in the privatisation of nursery education. The inclusion of a ‘standstill’ clause means that countries cannot reduce the amount of liberalisation they have committed to, for example by renationalising services that have been privatised at the time of the signing of the deal. The ratchet clause means that any further liberalisation will also be locked in. We believe this undermines the role of government and the ability of ordinary people to choose how their services are run.

CETA’s regulatory cooperation provisions give considerable power to third parties to influence regulations. For example, the UK would be required to give both the Canadian government and companies the opportunity to comment on any proposed regulation. CETA requires that regulation must not “unduly complicate or delay the supply of a service or the pursuit of any other economic activity” (Article 12.3). Taken together, this could mean the weakening of regulations on everything from the food we eat to labour and environmental standards.

We are deeply concerned about the likely inclusion of an investment court system in the agreement. This system would seal in the liberalisation of services and limit government’s ability to regulate by allowing companies to sue for compensation in response to policy changes that they perceive to negatively impact on their profits. It is in effect a transfer of business risk from international business to ordinary citizens. We believe these risks should be borne by business through private insurance such as political risk insurance.

Neither MPs nor the UK public have had the opportunity to influence the content of the deal, and there is no automatic requirement in the UK for Parliament to vote on trade deals. However in this case the government has taken the unusual step of giving MPs a vote in a process that is usually a formality. MPs should take this opportunity and vote against CETA - while also calling for this basic democratic practice to be introduced as routine.

Ratifying CETA means locking the UK into a model of trade policy developed in the EU to meet the needs of the 28 member countries. It will threaten our ability to decide how we run our public services and the kinds of standards we want for our food, health, labour and environment. For these reasons, we are calling for UK MPs to reject this deal.

Signatories

Ruth Bergan, Director, Trade Justice Movement

Jacqui Mackay, Director, Banana Link

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now

Bert Schouwenburg, International Officer, GMB

Dominique Muller, Policy Director, Labour Behind the Label

Hannah Lownsbrough, Executive Director, SumOfUs

Liz Murray, Co-ordinator, Trade Justice Scotland coalition

Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON

Asad Rehman, Executive Director, War on Want

Anne Peacey, Chair, National Justice & Peace Network