Text leaked to a German TV station raises a lot of concerns for the National Union. The union is reminding Canadians that there are still a lot of hurdles to face before the deal is implemented.
Ottawa (14 Aug. 2014)—The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is welcoming the leak of the text of the Canada-EU trade deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), by the German television show Tagesschau.
“After years of secrecy and backroom negotations by this government we finally see what it has been doing,” said NUPGE's National Secretary-Treasurer Larry Brown. "We have seen some leaks before, but this is the first time we get to see what is supposedly the final draft.
"Whether the draft agreement will be accepted by the countries of the European Union or Canada's provinces remains to be seen."
While more time is needed to fully analyze the 1,500 page agreement, a couple issues have become apparent.
Investor-state dispute settlement provisions will be a sticking point
While the Canadian government is celebrating CETA's completion, with a signing of the draft agreement expected in September, CETA’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions remain a point of contention. Reports are that the German government is in opposition to them (more on this here). Other European countries share concerns about ISDS provisions.
ISDS provisions allow corporations to sue countries for lost profit. The German government and public are becoming increasingly vocal against ISDS provisions following the Vattenfall decision.
In 2012, the Swedish energy giant Vattenfall filed an investor-state lawsuit against Germany for 3.7 billion euros to compensate for lost profits related to its nuclear power plants. The case was in response to the German government’s decision to phase out nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The leaked CETA text has a 25-page investor-state section that appears to be a standard investor-state dispute settlement with a three-person panel that would make decisions rather than the courts. This is unlikely to ease Germany's concerns.
“Canada's Conservative government is ignoring the concerns of Germany about investor-state provisions. They are not even looking at how these provisions have been used against Canada,’” said Brown.
Canada gives major concession to big pharma
Despite commitments to the contrary the Canadian negotiators accepted the EU's language on the resolution of pharmaceutical patent disputes. These provisions lengthen the time for drug patent and result in greater delays for generics being available to Canadians. It is estimated that this will increase public health care costs by somewhere between $900 million to $1.7 billion.
It is also expected that these provisions will increase the number of law suits filed by pharmaceutical companies.
"Canada's patent laws already give big pharma some pretty amazing protection," says Brown. "But this doesn’t seem to be enough for them and they’re now trying to expand their patent rights under this international trade deal. The cost of brand name drugs are going to skyrocket even higher, and that will cost our public health care system and Canadians billions of dollars more."
Other concerns with the deal
The secrecy and lack of transparency in the negotiations of this deal continue to concern NUPGE. The text should have been made public much earlier in order to allow Canadians the necessary time to read, understand, and comment on it fully. Such a wide-reaching agreement should be subjected to a full public discussion.
Also of concern is that the procurement section doesn't take into consideration the Canadian municipalities that requested to be exempted from its provisions.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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