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TTIP, CETA and TISA – the long war

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 | By Paul Carline

After the TTIP trade agreement, CETA between the EU and Canada now hangs in the balance. In the light of recent developments, critics are planning to continue their campaign to topple the controversial deal.

Anti-Ceta demonstration in Berlin last month.
Photo: hanohiki / Shutterstock.com

LONDON (NNA) – At a time when it seems to many that the European Union is falling apart, the campaign of opposition to the proposed trade deals between the EU and the USA and Canada has evoked a remarkable degree of trans-national solidarity. The Stop TTIP Alliance includes an extraordinary 525 partner organisations from the length and breadth of Europe.

With signs of official recognition that TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the USA – would not be approved, hopes have been high that CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada, would also fail, with large public demonstrations in Germany and also in Brussels and Austria.

On 17 September, an estimated 320,000 people demonstrated in seven cities across Germany against both TTIP and CETA.

Since then further doubt has been cast on the future of the proposed trade deal with Canada. The recent ruling by the German Constitutional Court refusing an interim injunction and allowing the provisional approval of CETA, while welcomed by the government, imposed important restrictions.

Germany’s highest court imposed conditions which include that Germany must leave CETA again if forced to do so by a subsequent judgement of the court. In the meantime opponents argue that the court recognised their concerns by excluding important areas such as investor protection from the provisional application of the trade deal and until it has been properly ratified by all member states.

In a further move against the controversial agreement, the Walloon regional parliament in Belgium on Friday voted to reject CETA, blocking the Belgian federal government from approving it and casting doubt on whether the EU will be able to sign the accord at a meeting with Canadian leader Justin Trudeau at the end of the month.

Balance of power

At an EU level the Commission wishes to allow CETA on a “provisional” basis, but the deal has still to be approved by the European Parliament (EP) as well as each of the, now 27, national governments. Here campaigners are concerned that the shift in the balance of power in the EP in favour of more conservative forces could result in the deal being approved there.

“The European Parliament has the power to reject CETA in its totality; or it could threaten to force further changes to its provisions. However, the dominance of liberal (i.e. free market) and conservative MEPs makes it unlikely that the Parliament will use its power to demand improvements,” one of the leading German campaign groups, Campact, said.

Hopes for a vote against CETA at the delegate convention of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) last month were dashed when the party’s leader, Sigmar Gabriel, managed to persuade a majority of delegates to back CETA, giving it a powerful boost within institutional Europe.

Gabriel is the vice-chancellor and minister for the economy in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and a vote against would have significantly increased the pressure on the German governing coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats to oppose the deal.

 “It makes no difference that the SPD has formulated a number of conditions that would have to be met before the SPD MEPs would be able to vote for the deal in the EP,” the group added.

“If the Council of Ministers and the EP do not object and agree to the provisional implementation of CETA, the options for national parliaments to seek further clarifications are very limited. The SPD’s wish for a thoroughgoing debate in the national parliaments and in civil society before a final decision is taken would not change matters,” Campact continued.

According to Campact, any requested clarifications would have to be accepted by the Canadian government and would only become legally effective once the whole ratification process was concluded – which can take years.

Long game

But in the light of recent developments, campaigners by no means consider the game to be over. Working in collaboration with its European partners, Campact intends to “confront” all German MEPs with the weakness of the deal and “demand” their opposition to it.

Furthermore, the agreement also has to be ratified by the German upper house, the Bundesrat, where the German federal states are represented. In 10 of the 16 regional governments the Greens are part of the ruling coalition. In almost all of them the Greens have made it clear that they will not agree to CETA in the Bundesrat. In those few state coalitions where the Greens are “evading the issue”, Campact intends to campaign to ensure that they too come out against CETA.

With the sustained anti-TTIP campaign, including the collection of 1.7 million signatures in an “unofficial” European Citizens’ Initiative, seemingly having borne fruit, campaigners have been worried that CETA and a third deal, the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – a proposal between the USA and 23 other international parties including Europe – could impose the same kind of corporate-friendly conditions that have made opposition to TTIP appear so important.

As the Financial Times reported on 21 September in an article headlined “Brussels determined to seal Canada trade deal as TTIP hopes fade, expressing the view of the corporate sector: “With enthusiasm for global trade deals waning at a time of rising anti-establishment sentiment, the effort in Brussels to secure the Canadian agreement is shaping up as a test of the EU’s credibility as a trade negotiator.”

Writing of TTIP, Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said that TTIP was good for a small number of people, but bad for the rest of us. It remains to be seen whether public opposition can still prevent these deals from being implemented with their potentially disastrous consequences for trade and economic justice.


Item: 161017-04EN Date: 17 October 2016 

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