BRUSSELS, BELGIUM and OTTAWA, ONTARIO and MONTREAL, QUEBEC -- (Marketwire) -- 02/05/13 -- Labour, environmental, Indigenous, women's, academic, health sector and fair trade organizations from Europe, Canada and Quebec representing more than 65 million people are demanding that Canada and the EU stop negotiating an excessive and controversial investor rights chapter in the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The groups issued a joint statement today ahead of a two-day meeting in Ottawa between European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast, where the two hope to move the CETA negotiations forward if not to conclude an agreement.
"We will vigorously oppose any transatlantic agreement that compromises our democracies, human and Indigenous rights, and our right to protect our health and the planet," says the transatlantic statement, endorsed by more than 70 organizations. "We urge the EU and Canadian governments to follow the lead of the Australian government by stopping the practice of including investor-state dispute settlement in their trade and investment agreements, and to open the door to a broad re-writing of trade and investment policy to balance out corporate interests against the greater public interest."
Investor-state dispute settlement is a process found in many Canadian and European trade and investment agreements, including NAFTA and the hundreds of bilateral investment treaties that EU members states have signed with developing countries and with each other. The process allows a firm in one country to sue the government of the other country if the firm feels its investor rights have been violated. In a very real sense, these investment rules create a parallel legal system for multinational corporations and private investors, who are using them increasingly to challenge environmental, public health and other government policies, decisions, laws and measures that interfere in some way with the "right" to make a profit.
Recent high-profile cases include the $250-million NAFTA lawsuit threatened by Lone Pine Resources against Quebec's ban on hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), a EUR3.7-billion claim by Swedish Energy firm Vattenfall against Germany's decision to phase out nuclear power, ExxonMobil and Murphy Oil's successful case against provincial profit-sharing rules on offshore oil development, and U.S.-based Renco Group's $800-million claim against a Peruvian requirement to clean up the extreme pollution caused by its smelter in La Oroya.
"Qualitative research suggests that the treaties are not a decisive factor in whether investors go abroad... Based on a lack of economic benefits, and evidence that investment treaties do pose risks to environmental measures, a Sustainability Impact Assessment of CETA urged the European Union not to include (investor-state dispute settlement) in the agreement. Like the European Parliament, this independent report for the European Commission suggested a state-to-state dispute process is more appropriate in the EU-Canada context," says the joint statement issued today by transatlantic civil society groups.
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