CETA talks end in failure – a victory for democracy

"This isn't the first trade agreement, nor will it be the last, but we've stood fast in our opposition to a deal that would compromise our public services, workers' rights, our environment, and ultimately, our democracy." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President

Ottawa (21 Oct. 2016) — Negotiations on the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) to break a deadlock with the Belgian region of Wallonia have failed, and an upcoming summit on the deal is now likely postponed.

Wallonia stands strong under pressure from Canadian government to sign CETA

On Friday, October 21, Canadian Trade Minister, Chrystia Freeland walked out of talks with Paul Magnette, the president of the Belgian region of Wallonia.

In a statement to his regional parliament, Magnette said that although talks were productive, difficulties remain, and he was remaining steadfast in the parliament’s decision to reject CETA.

“This is a victory for democracy” said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). “The President of Wallonia speaks for all citizens in Canada and Europe whose reasonable and legitimate criticisms of CETA have been ignored.” 

Wallonia's rejection reflects opposition in Canada and EU

According to many news reports, one of the main reasons Magnette cited for rejecting CETA was the investor court regime that would give private investors the extraordinary power to sue democratically elected governments, exposing them to massive financial risk of paying uncapped amounts of compensation.

Following the failed talks, Magnette also cited concern about the impact on public services. “We need to go deeper on other issues such as the public services, and some definitions need to be more accurate," he said. In a media scrum, he also commented that there have been no impact studies provided that would show actual results are expected from CETA. 

Brown added, “There is no clear empirical data that trade liberalization is the engine of growth, and there is no credible evidence that unregulated trade benefits everyone equally. In fact, there is much evidence to the contrary.”

Too much at risk

NUPGE shares the concern of the Walloon parliament regarding:

  • the absence of a clear and definitive exclusion of public services from future liberalization;
  • the creation of the disturbing investor court system, giving private foreign investors special legal privileges and the power to sue democratically elected governments;
  • the limitations to the capacity of national and local authorities to regulate in the public interest; and the absence of binding enforcement mechanisms to protect workers’ wages and rights, or to enforce health and safety standards, and to ensure environmental sustainability.

"This isn't the first trade agreement, nor will it be the last but we've stood fast in our opposition to a deal that would compromise our public services, workers' rights, our environment, and ultimately, our democracy," said Brown. "We will continue, with our allies, to protect these core values of Canadians in every trade agreement that comes forward."

More information: 

Letter to President of Wallonia

NUPGE on Trade

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE