The rush to oppose TTIP – and what it means for CETA

1 September 2016 - 11:00am
War on Want in the news

Mark Dearn, Senior Trade Campaigner, War on Want. A version of this article was first carried by

In the beginning, it was a small clutch of dedicated activists joined by trade unions and a (very) small group of charities who raised the red flag in the UK against the now hated EU-US trade deal, TTIP.

Fast-forward a couple of years, through leaks of TTIP chapters, exposés by journalists and huge protests,  and the states of Europe are seemingly falling over themselves to reject this deal. One by one, we have seen Germany, France and now Austria condemn the deal and any chance of its success.

But what explains this apparent about-face from politicians who were previously all too keen to label TTIP’s opponents as ‘anti-trade’, ‘anti-US’ or even more simply, as peddling ‘myths’.

People power has played a crucial part. The domestic politics of France, Germany and Austria – all due to have elections in the very near future - are also critical. But the fate of another secretly negotiated and dangerous trade deal, Canadian TTIP ‘CETA’ is also a key factor.

The European Commission’s director-general for trade recently spoke tellingly on how the EU bloc views CETA: if CETA is not passed, the EU’s trade policy will be “close to death”. Indeed, for the champions of an avowedly neoliberal and consistently secret trade agenda, CETA has now become the rallying point.

CETA is the Canadian TTIP. Much like its evil twin deal, it champions the destruction of rules designed to protect society and the environment – as laid out by a new report which highlights the huge differences in food safety rules between the EU and Canada, which big business wants to level down to the lowest common denominator.

And just like TTIP, CETA is also designed to prevent the renationalisation of public services, at a time when more and more people are beginning to recognise the myths of privatisation from its repeated failures.

And, perhaps most worryingly, CETA also includes a cosmetically rebranded version of ISDS ‘corporate courts’ which while looking palatable contains the same fundamental dangers: the destruction of the law as we know it, in order to create a one-way justice system for big business to sue states for lost profits.

The corporate court rebrand was only cooked up as a reaction to the highest ever response to a European Commission consultation, which showed 97% of people wanted ‘corporate courts’ scrapped.

In the words of UN Independent Expert Alfred de Zayas: “ISDS cannot be reformed. It must be abolished.”

And for the UK there is a particularly cruel sting in CETA’s corporate court tail. The UK could still be sued under CETA’s corporate courts for up to 20 years after Brexit, destroying parliamentary sovereignty in one fell swoop, a startlingly unreported fact.

Even worse, under CETA’s terms, a US corporation operating in Europe which also has a subsidiary in Canada can access CETA’s corporate courts.

And that means 41,811 US corporations – 81% of all US firms in the EU - could sue us under CETA’s rules. So who needs TTIP anyway?

This is our message to leaders who oppose TTIP: if your opposition to this deal is genuine, then listen to your electorates, your trade unions and civil society groups and oppose CETA too.

And this is our message to the people of the UK: if you value parliamentary sovereignty, our legal system, public services or democratically made rules to protect society and the environment, tell your MEP and MP that they must stop this toxic trade deal. Before it’s too late.

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