"The negotiators cannot ignore and devalue the reasonable and legitimate criticisms that have been continually raised by citizens throughout Canada and Europe.” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (19 Oct. 2016) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has written to Paul Magnette, the Minister-President of the Belgian region of Wallonia, supporting him and the Parliament of Wallonia for their principled stand against the adoption of the Canada-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
Walloon President holds out on CETA decision due to concerns over fundamental pieces of deal
Despite intense lobbying, the Walloon President is standing firm against the adoption of CETA, describing it as a "real threat to social and environmental standards and sustainable development." He also expressed opposition to CETA’s “shocking” investor court regime which would bypass the existing judicial system to give private foreign investors the extraordinary power to sue democratically elected governments for their policies and legislation. He said that under the agreement his government would be exposed to pay compensation to multinationals if they adopt new standards that are not planned by the deal. "This is the absolute limit of the respect for democracy," Magnette said in an interview with Belgian public radio RTBF.
NUPGE President Larry Brown agrees. He wrote that “CETA is a corporate-driven trade deal that will essentially create an international constitution for corporations that will subvert and constrict the power of democratically elected parliaments, and which will not benefit people. We want our political leaders to move away from the failed model of past trade agreements and establish trade that benefits people and the environment and that addresses growing income inequality.”
Belgium requires endorsement of all its regions to sign CETA
CETA requires unanimous consent from all 28 member states of the EU, and it was scheduled to be signed at an October 18 meeting of the member states. But the planned signing of the text has now been postponed because of the Walloon Parliament's position.
Under its federal constitution, Belgium cannot vote in favour of CETA without the endorsement of all of its regions. In other words, the Belgian federal government cannot arbitrarily take a position without Wallonia’s approval. Wallonia is predominantly French-speaking, accounts for 55 per cent of the territory of Belgium, and a third of its population.
On October 14, the parliament of Wallonia adopted a resolution opposing CETA.
The CETA trade deal is scheduled to be officially signed on October 27 at an EU-Canada summit in Brussels with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in attendance. But this may now be at risk since Magnette said that it would be reasonable to postpone the summit.
Opposition to trade deal widespread
In Canada, there has been vocal opposition to CETA from labour unions, civil society organizations, social justice groups, lawyers, parliamentarians, and the public. Together with the Canadian Labour Congress and the Trade Justice Network, NUPGE has taken a leadership role in opposing a number of key aspects of the CETA trade deal.
The National Union 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 extraordinary 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, to enforce health and safety standards, and to ensure environmental sustainability.
“We are not opposed to trade, but we strongly object to a number of aspects of CETA.” said Larry Brown. “The negotiators cannot ignore and devalue the reasonable and legitimate criticisms that have been continually raised by citizens throughout Canada and Europe.”
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