Civil society concerns central to CETA talks

Written by Sorin Moisă on 6 April 2016 in Feature
Feature

Both the EU and Canada have heeded society's concerns about ISDS, writes Sorin Moisă. 

Canada offers a special story in today's western world. A story that is somewhat unusual as it appears to unfold outside 'normal' political time and space where the rest of us undergo one tortuous experience after another.

While mistrust, cynicism, saturation and a rush towards 'alternative' political discourse reign supreme elsewhere, Canadians display trust in mainstream politics, in their government and leadership. Canada purports to spend where others want to - or have to - cut. It opens up where others are desperate to close off. It behaves generously rather than furiously and vindictively.

Of course, modesty is in order: the Trudeau government is still young and is yet to confront the full spectrum of realities out there, but so far the new Canadian deal seems to be holding. It is against this backdrop that our INTA delegation to Canada was particularly instructive and useful.


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Naturally, the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA) was the central topic of most of our discussions. For months before the delegation trip I had worked in my capacity as S&D group shadow rapporteur for CETA with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and her Canadian counterpart, international trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, to remove the main obstacle to CETA's adoption faced in the European Parliament, namely private arbitration between investors and states.

This could only be achieved by genuinely heeding civil society concerns and doing away with that toxic investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system.

The Canadians added their own contribution to the new system - dubbed the Investment Court System (ICS), by helping enshrine it into CETA, living up to their progressive values.

A permanent tribunal with public judges and the randomised allocation of members for each case, a permanent appellate tribunal, strict rules on conflict of interest, a code of conduct enforceable by the President of the International Court of Justice, an article in the treaty on preserving the right to regulate:

This is no tinkering around the edges, it is complete paradigm shift. 

We took stock of these changes during our visit, but also discussed with dissenting voices in civil society the remaining - sometimes fundamental - doubts on the treaty.

My colleagues in the S&D group will now want to judge the treaty in its entirety, acquire confidence that ICS is really not ISDS by another name, and ensure no misinterpretation or abuse of the final text is possible, in particular with regard to public services.

 

About the author

Sorin Moisă (RO) is the S&D group shadow rapporteur on the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

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