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TPP Conquered The Pacific, Now A Transatlantic Corporate Monster Looms

A Transatlantic Trade Deal Is Threatening Democratic Sovereignty.

The drive to finalize the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) seems to be waning, in favour of a push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the U.S. Meanwhile, Canada continues to lobby for its own deal with the EU.

Last week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his unwavering support for the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe and a strong desire to ratify it in this coming year.

The transatlantic trade agreement, negotiated by his predecessor Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a high priority for his Conservative government and they seemed confident about the future of the deal when they announced the final text in September, 2014.  Liberal PM Trudeau has broken with the Conservative Mr. Harper on many issues, but CETA is not one of them.  In speaking with press in Davos, PM Trudeau made clear that the transatlantic trade agreement remains a priority that his government will continue support through the European ratification process:

“I’ve had many conversations with European leaders on the importance of signing and ratifying CETA [the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement],” Trudeau said in response to a question from CBC News.

“This is an important opportunity both for Canada and Europe and I’m looking forward to getting it signed,” the prime minister said.

While in Davos the Prime Minister also met with the President of the European Union Parliament, Martin Schulz, who has also expressed his support for the transatlantic agreement.  This political support, however seems at odds with concerns that many Europeans have about the CETA and TTIP transatlantic deals.

Last October an estimated 250,000 people turned out in Berlin to protest the trade deals. Concerns included a lowering of European safety and health standards and the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision in the deal.  The ISDS would allow foreign corporations to sue governments for policy decisions that prevent them from making a profit. A similar dispute resolution mechanism will likely be part of the final TTIP and TPP agreements. Many worry that this provision would limit the ability of democratic governments to make decisions in the best interest of its citizens and past cases show cause for this concern.

The CETA ISDS is nothing new and is similar to the Chapter 11 provision in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A study released by the progressive research institute, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in January, 2015 concluded that 77 ISDS claims brought under NAFTA’s Chapter 11 provision resulted in “a chill on public interest regulation.” Despite getting slammed with lawsuits from corporations, the U.S. did not lose a single one.

Both supporters and opponents of the TTIP and TPP have looked to the progress of CETA as a blueprint for how the American negotiations and deal may progress. While the Canadian PM continues to actively support CETA, the Canadian government seemed to be hedging its bet on TPP this week, as International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed that Canada will sign on to TPP in February, but that the signing is not the same as ratification. As reported by the CBC, Minister Freeland acknowledged the concerns expressed by the public,

“Many Canadians still have not made up their minds and many more still have questions.”

In the U.S. TTIP negotiations have been put on the back-burner in favour of TPP and some supporters fear that the deal may be stalling. Speaking to Bloomberg Business, Chairman of the European Parliament’s international trade committee Bernd Lange expressed skepticism that TTIP would be resolved before the end of President Obama’s tenure in 2017:

“I can’t really imagine, if there’s not really a speeding-up process and a willingness by the U.S. partners, that there will be an end result under the Obama administration.”

In spite of these concerns President Obama announced back in December that he will push for the completion of TTIP negotiations when he travels to Hannover Germany in April. If the member countries sign on to CETA a ratification vote is expected in the fall. And corporate lawsuits targeting the national sovereignty of democratic countries are likely to follow.

A Canadian, currently located in Dublin, Nikita Oliver-Lew has an avid interest in all things political. She has an MSc in Comparative European Politics from Trinity College Dublin and hopes to return to her PhD studies on migration in Europe.