German and Canadian unions make concrete recommendations on improving CETA

September 15, 2016

In solidarity with protests across Europe, the Canadian Labour Congress and the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) are reiterating their firm opposition to the current text of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and making concrete recommendations on how to improve the deal.

“Canada and Europe have many shared values that could allow us to deepen our trading relationship in a fair and equitable manner, with strong labour rights and high environmental standards,” said CLC president Hassan Yussuff. “Unfortunately, CETA does not yet meet this standard.”

More than three million Europeans have signed a petition against the highly controversial trade agreement, and European opposition is growing, especially because of the CETA’s investor rights rules and lack of protection for public services. German and Canadian unions, environmental and citizens’ groups believe that CETA is fundamentally flawed, and favours multinational corporate interests over the rights of workers, the environment, and domestic companies.

DGB President Reiner Hoffmann said: “CETA in its current form was negotiated between the right-wing government of Stephen Harper in Canada and an ultra-liberal European Commission under President Barroso. We want to work with current leadership on both sides of the Atlantic to build a more progressive kind of trade treaty.”

The DGB and the CLC have shared their concerns with Canadian and European parliamentarians, and are encouraged that Canada and Germany’s Trade Ministers are taking our concerns seriously. The DGB and CLC have made the following recommendations:

  • Remove all investor rights rules. The DGB and CLC have urged parliamentarians to learn from the Canadian experience with investor courts under the NAFTA agreement. They’ve provided corporations with a powerful lever to pressure governments to abandon environmental, labour, or other regulations, and left taxpayers on the hook for billions in compensation to corporations. The amended Investment Court System eliminates some of the most obnoxious and unethical elements of ISDS, but still privileges the rights of large corporations and puts a chill on government’s right to regulate.
  • Protect public services from privatization. The DGB and CLC want the deal to revert to using a ‘positive list’ to protect current and future public services. No government can reasonably commit to privatization by default, which ‘negative list’, ‘ratchet’, and ‘standstill’ clauses effectively ensure.
  • Stop pharmaceutical patent extensions. The CLC opposes CETA’s patent protection provisions which could increase the annual cost of pharmaceuticals in Canada’s health care system by $1 billion or more.
  • Include the precautionary principle. The DGB feels strongly that modern trade deals should specifically incorporate the precautionary principle.
  • Include a real mechanism for enforcing labour rights. Currently, violations of labour rights are not subject to any meaningful sanction – a marked contrast from the provisions that addressing the rights of investors.

“We stand with European workers and members of civil society mobilizing in Germany, Austria, Belgium and elsewhere to resist the corporate trade agenda,” said Yussuff.

“We hope we can work with our governments to reshape global trade rules – making sure trade works for people and the environment,” he added.

“European and Canadian leaders have expressed willingness to consider our concrete proposals to improve the CETA,” said Hoffmann. “We hope they will implement our recommendations so we can build truly fair trade.”