Trade unions demand: Make CETA a ‘gold standard’ trade agreement

Thursday 12 May 2016

The ETUC has sent a letter to the Dutch Presidency of the European Union to raise pending issues regarding CETA, the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The letter urges the Dutch Presidency to use the opportunity of the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 13 May “to call for CETA to be altered to address the significant concerns held by trade unions in the EU and Canada that the deal does not contain adequate protections for public services, labour standards and democratic decision making.”

Earlier this month, the ETUC and the Canadian Labour Congress had released a joint statement outlining the changes needed concerning CETA.

UNI Global Union fully supports the letter and the joint statement released. Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa and Adriana Rosenzvaig, Regional Secretary of UNI Americas stated that trade unions were in no way by default opposed to a free trade agreement between Canada and Europe – but they were not prepared to accept anything that risks lowering European social, labour and environmental standards.

There is a chance to make CETA a ‘gold standard’ trade agreement, showing the world that trade very well can go hand in hand with strong labour and environmental standards. But all parties involved have to take the time to get this deal right. And to get it right, the ETUC and the Canadian Labour Congress have listed 5 important changes to the CETA text:

  • Drop the “VIP process for foreign investors” in an agreement between countries “with fully developed and effective court systems”.
  • Violations of CETA’s labour provisions should “be subject to its dispute settlement process and punishable ultimately with sanctions”. The trade unions’ joint statement notes that “the privileged status for investors stands in sharp contrast with the very mild labour standard provisions which have no enforcement mechanism”.
  • Ensure that new services are not subject to “liberalisation by default” as a result of the so-called ‘negative list’ of services which are excluded from liberalisation. The trade unions state “no sensible government can reasonably make such a commitment”.
  • Categorically exclude public services from liberalisation.
  • Delete “unconditional” access of foreign firms to public procurement contracts. While open to foreign firms bidding for contracts, the trade unions argue that “local governments should have the ability to attach social and environmental conditions to their public tenders”.

The statement concludes: “The changes recently made to ISDS provisions show it is possible and legitimate for reasonable partners to improve the CETA”, and that “unless the text is adjusted to meet our concerns, we will have to call on our elected officials to reject the CETA”.

Read the full letter and statement