By J.M. Knowles
WHEN a pickpocket has designs on your wallet, he devises some clever way to distract your attention. A prime example of this is the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA) recently signed in Brussels and now presumably to be referred to all EU countries for a ratification that is assumed to be virtually automatic. What harm can there be in a trade agreement with good old Canada, which has never been known to harm anyone? Now you are suitably distracted, disarmed.
Literally millions of European voices have been raised against the USA-inspired Trans Atlantic Trade & Investment Program (TTIP) which effectively if accepted will turn our individual EU countries’ sovereignty over to the American corporate interests that originally designed it, in the very greatest secrecy and which continue to fail to disclose even its texts, let alone its ultimate implications, for public examination.
Shielded by this total lack of transparency, the TTIP is aided and abetted by corruptible members of the EU Commission Nomenclature who may expect to profit handsomely from their already demonstrated, unseemly eagerness to collude with its American negotiators.
In fact, the TTIP must be correctly understood not as a negotiation between two competing trading partners but as a calculated assault by transnational (read American) corporations whose sole aim is to remove any and all regulatory barriers to their activity, i.e., utterly to destroy any European regulations dealing with such vital matters as food safety, health services, the importation of GMO products, livestock, labour legislation, indeed anything that they consider to be “barriers” but which, based on the precautionary principle as followed throughout the EU, are actually highly protective and socially advanced. Such provisions are alien to American capitalist philosophy, which may best be characterised by the infamous “revolving door” between industries and their supposed “regulators” in the agencies that notoriously fail to regulate them. A mutually profitable arrangement.
Although widely undermining all health and safety measures, the most insidious and harmful aspect of the TTIP is that it enables private US corporations to sue individual countries direct for potential losses allegedly suffered in their jurisdictions as a result of public policy decisions. This provision, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) elevates private corporations to a legal status not only equal but superior to that of the nation state. In one stroke, ISDS thus confers on them the power legally to challenge and to overturn democratic decisions made by sovereign states and to claim compensation where the countries’ decisions are alleged to affect their profits. Even more outrageous, any such claims, if challenged, are submitted to Kangaroo Courts for arbitration, staffed not by domestic judges but by ad hoc corporate lawyers who have a vested interest in favour of business. Their decisions are obviously predictable and cannot be appealed.
What does all this have to do with good old Canada?
With CETA, who needs TTIP?
The truth is that by ratifying this CETA Agreement we shall be committing Cyprus to all of the evils of the TTIP, including the ISDS. Signatories to the CETA appear to be unaware that they have opened wide the gate to a Trojan Horse.
It is this ISDS provision, above all, which inspired the recent refusal by Wallonia to agree to the EU-Canada Agreement – a resistance overcome by an unpublished appendix to the Treaty presumably exempting Wallonia and/or Belgium from its provisions; and probably Wallonia and Belgium only, as the EU negotiators announced that the appendix did not affect the CETA itself.
Canada is a victim of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) since it was lured into its acceptance in 1990. All of the objectionable elements of the TTIP and the CETA are already fully incorporated into NAFTA and by accepting the CETA the EU has accepted all of the elements of the TTIP. EU countries are now to be exposed to litigation by US companies through their Canadian branch offices.
Over 40,000 US companies will now be free to do this in Cyprus , if Cyprus ratifies CETA. The damage is done if we accept this. Canada has already been forced to pay out many millions of dollars to American companies by these Kangaroo courts. When Wallonia objected to the ISDS provision in particular it insisted that only genuinely Canadian companies should be involved. In fact, there is practically no such thing any longer as a truly Canadian company, except for a relatively few exceptions. Most of the larger firms above the wholesaler level were bought out and taken over by US companies years ago.
In summary, the classically fascist forces behind the CETA no longer need the TTIP to achieve their goals, now that they have bribed their way in Brussels to get EU countries to sign the Canada-EU Trade Agreement.
Our only hope for retaining the sovereign right to legislate without facing the virtual certainty of successful legal challenges by the international rapists is to vote against any local attempt to ratify the Canada-EU Trade Agreement and, in due course, the TTIP itself, should the occasion arise. And please, no telephoned, off-the-cuff okays to Brussels by a half-informed cabinet minister. Let our Parliament decide after being permitted fully to examine the entire Agreement and all its appendices. If there is time, we may yet hold onto our wallets.
J.M. Knowles, is a Peyia-based writer, and economist, and is a former Canadian Government trade commissioner and a retired senior official of the International Trade Centre/UNCTAD GATT, Geneva, with more than 30 years of involvement in international trade negotiations
A useful guide to TTIP, in English and Greek, can be found here: