Over 450 European and Canadian civil society groups urge legislators to reject CETA

ceta-open-letter-nov-28Over 450 public interest groups from across Europe and Canada today urged legislators to vote against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). They joined forces to defend people and planet against the threats posed by the EU-Canada agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament. Should EU parliamentarians give the trade deal the green light, ratification votes in EU member states would follow.

In an open letter sent to legislators today, the groups express serious concerns about CETA, the ratification of which could weaken protections for workers and the environment, and provide foreign investors with extreme tools to attack public interest regulations.

The open letter highlights that:

  • CETA is no progressive trade deal but even more intrusive than the old free trade agenda designed by and for the world’s largest multinationals.
  • the deal features many worrying provisions that sideline the needs of people and planet.
  • there must be a paradigm shift towards a transparent and inclusive trade policy.

Trade unions, farmer associations, environmental and public health groups as well as human rights and digital rights organisations from both sides of the Atlantic are among the long list of signatories. Their firm rejection of CETA is exemplary for the growing opposition to the controversial agreement, which has also been criticised by legal scholars, small and medium-sized businesses, as well as a number of economists.

Trade campaigner Pia Eberhardt on behalf of signatory Corporate Europe Observatory said:

“Ratifying CETA would give corporations a carte blanche to push through their interests no matter what. CETA contains powerful tools for corporations to bully decision makers and sue for compensation if they introduce policies to protect people and the environment that may affect company profits. We would essentially see corporations hindering governments from doing the job for which they were elected.”

“In times of catastrophic climate change, rising social inequality and growing anger of those who no longer feel represented by politicians, more rights for corporations is the last thing we need.”

Larry Brown, President of the Canadian National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and Trade Justice Network also signed the letter. He added:

“We stand with European workers and members of civil society who are mobilizing against this corporate-driven trade deal, which will not benefit people. We will continue to fight the deal in Canada. We want our political leaders to move away from the failed model of past trade agreements and promote trade that benefits people and the environment.”

The General Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), Jan Willem Goudriaan, another signatory of the letter, commented:

“Trade unions have provided ample input to the CETA negotiations in order to protect public services and strengthen labour rights. But despite last-minute concessions to clarify the possible interpretation of the agreement, our concerns are not addressed in the text. CETA has become a deal that is actually detrimental to the interests of people. We therefore urge Members of the European Parliament to stand up for citizens, public services and our democracy and vote against CETA.”

Notes to Editors:

  • Read the full open letter to legislators (with links to translations into many languages, including French, German, and Spanish).
  • There has been substantial controversy in the European Parliament over the tight timetable of the CETA dossier. Coordinators of the lead committee on international trade (INTA) are expected to decide on a new schedule today (28 November). It is likely to include an INTA vote in January, following which all Members of the European Parliament would have the opportunity to vote on CETA in plenary in February.
  • Examples illustrating the broad coalition of voices criticising CETA include:

Response to Joint Interpretative Declaration on CETA

On October 5, 2016, a joint EU-Canada Declaration on CETA was released in Brussels and began to circulate publicly. The Declaration was supposed to be an official reply to the very specific amendments to CETA proposed by labour unions, parliamentarians, social justice organizations, and the public in both Canada and Europe. Instead of addressing these specific concerns, the Declaration completely ignores them.

And, in a display of arrogant condescension, the Declaration simply reiterates and clarifies what is already in the agreement, as if the various legitimate concerns that it purports to respond to have neither merit nor substance.

In light of this refusal to respond seriously to the substantiated and well-researched concerns of civil society, the members of the Trade Justice Network cannot accept this empty and meaningless Declaration as anything more than public relations. As well, as various legal scholars and trade experts have indicated, the Declaration is certainly not legally binding. This is consistent with the entire process of the CETA agreement so far. CETA was negotiated in secret, without any attempt whatsoever to include citizens, and has not taken into consideration the reasonable and legitimate amendments proposed by civil society.


With the release of the CETA text on the government of Canada website, researchers, policy analysts, and interested citizens in labour unions, social justice groups, civil society organizations, and the public carefully read the agreement, identified specific areas of concern, and have repeatedly articulated these concerns in research documents, essays, and editorials. Furthermore, these specific concerns have been consistently raised with government officials in Canada and Europe in letters, public consultations, and in large-scale public protests and mobilizations, which in some cases numbered in the hundreds of thousands. At the same time, and all along, we have been proposing clear and very specific amendments to the CETA text.

Labour and civil society groups asked for specific amendments in the chapters dealing with the Investor Court System, the right to regulate, regulatory cooperation, public services, investment protection, public procurement, and labour and environmental protection. Proposed amendments to the text included language that would create binding enforcement mechanisms to protect workers’ wages and rights, to enforce health and safety standards, and to ensure environmental sustainability. Citizens in both Canada and the EU also demanded that the text be amended to remove all mention of the disturbing investor court system that bypasses our existing judicial system to give private foreign investors special legal privileges and to provide private foreign investors the extraordinary power to sue democratically elected governments for their policies and legislation.

The October 5 Declaration

In Canada, our specific concerns and proposed amendments were largely ignored by the original signatory to the agreement, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party government. With the defeat of the Conservatives, and the election of a new government in October 2015, we were led to believe that these concerns would finally be taken seriously, and that the text could be amended. Hopes were raised when government officials signalled a willingness to listen to the specific criticisms raised in particular by the Canadian Labour Congress and its German counterpart, the DGB.

With the October 5 Declaration, it is evident that these hopes were decidedly misguided. The Declaration fails to address the shortcomings of CETA, and essentially ignores the concerns that have been raised. There is nothing whatsoever in the Declaration that acknowledges the specific demands and recommendations of civil society. There is no attempt at all to respond to proposed amendments, indeed none of the proposed amendments were even mentioned at all.

Instead the declaration touts the supposed virtues of CETA, and tries to depict it in an excessively optimistic light. The critics of CETA are served up nothing more than clarity and trite, empty reassurances: “a clear and unambiguous statement” of what was already agreed to.

Citizens and civil society groups asked for amendments. The response was stale platitudes. The Declaration simply reiterates the claims made about the supposedly wonderful social and economic benefits of CETA, without any even token attempt to validate those claims. They are true because they are stated to be true.

In other words, the Declaration is based on several patronizing assumptions: either citizens have not read the CETA agreement, or we don’t really understand what’s in it, or we just can’t see that it “promotes and protects our shared values.” The Declaration assumes that the critics are wrong, and that CETA doesn’t do what the critics allege. All these assumptions are egregiously flawed and deeply condescending.

And so the Declaration is weak and largely meaningless. And even if it wasn’t meaningless, in any case it is legally irrelevant, devoid of any legal content or significance. It does not even offer the pretext of interpreting the CETA provisions in legal terms. It does not alter or amend CETA in any substantive way, and it articulates commitments that are aspirational, non-binding, and lacking any effective legal enforcement.[1]

For all these reasons, the Declaration has to be viewed as nothing more than a public relations exercise—an attempt to mollify critics of CETA, but not to take them seriously. In the words of Greenpeace, the Declaration “has the legal weight of a holiday brochure.”

 The False Promise of Progress and Prosperity

Those who are promoting CETA typically invoke high-minded metaphors to justify what they are doing: tearing down walls, building bridges, promoting partnership and prosperity. They will also have us believe that those who oppose it are rejecting an open, modern, progressive economy.

The truth is, their words are empty rhetoric. Contrary to their heady attempt to brand their self-image, those who promote CETA are not the progressive voices of Canada. There is absolutely nothing progressive about a trade deal that gives special powers and privileges to foreign private investors, that undermines democratic and legal institutions, and that does nothing to meaningfully protect our health, our jobs, our labour standards, or our environment.

For us in Canada, what is equally perplexing is that all this is coming from a government that campaigned on a promise of “Real Change.” Regrettably, this new government has done nothing to substantively alter the very same CETA agreement negotiated by the previous Conservative government. It is more than a little bewildering how a trade deal negotiated by the Stephen Harper regime—widely recognized as one of the most reactionary governments in Canadian history—can by some magical process become a truly progressive agreement because the government—not the agreement—changed. The simple fact of the matter is that Justin Trudeau is now championing Stephen Harper’s trade deal, making a mockery of his campaign promise for “Real Change.”

As for the supposed economic benefits of CETA, the reality is that 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 lots of evidence to the contrary. The most recent example is a September 2016 study from Tufts University that predicts that CETA will result in significant job losses, slowing economic growth, and increasing inequality on both sides of the Atlantic.[2]

Despite the lofty claims, the actual legacy of the recent decades of globalized trade deals has been dismal. What these trade agreements have really done is help constitute and consolidate both income inequality and climate change on a scale unprecedented in human history. There is no evidence to support the often-cited slogan that a rising tide lifts all boats. On the contrary, what has coincided with liberalized trade deals has been the golden age of corporate wealth, greed, power, and environmental destruction. Instead of better jobs, the North American industrial heartland has witnessed shuttered factories. In their place emerged an explosion of precarious and part-time work without pensions or benefits. Wages have stagnated. Tax revenues have plummeted, and with the reduction in fiscal capacity, there have been no new social programs since 1980.

Conclusion: Meaningful Dialogue Required

If the signatories to CETA are serious about addressing the real and legitimate concerns raised by the democratic voices of Canada and the European Union, we call on them to open the agreement, enter into genuine and meaningful dialogue with civil society organizations and the public, and discuss the possibility of real amendments and changes to the text.

Larry Brown                                                      Blair Redlin

Co-Chair, TJN                                                   Co-Chair, TJN


Download this post as a PDF


[1]. See for example, Gus Van Harten, “Comments on the EU-Canada Declaration on the CETA” (Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper No. 6/2017, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, ON, October 8, 2016), http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2850281.

[2]. Pierre Kohler and Servaas Storm, “CETA Without Blinders: How Cutting ‘Trade Costs and more’ Will Cause Unemployment, Inequality and Welfare Losses” (GDAE Working Paper 16-03, Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, Medford, MA, September 2016), http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/policy_research/ceta_simulations.html.

Kanada darf das „grundsätzlich bedenkliche” europäische Handelsabkommen nicht ratifizieren

Kanadische Gewerkschaften erklären sich solidarisch mit den Großkundgebungen in Europa und rufen die liberale Regierung auf, das umfassende Wirtschafts- und Handelsabkommen zwischen Kanada und der Europäischen Union nicht zu ratifizieren.

Wie umstritten CETA ist, lässt sich an den über drei Millionen Europäerinnen und Europäern ablesen, die den Aufruf gegen CETA und das Zwillingsabkommen TTIP unterschrieben haben. Und der Widerstand der Europäer gegen CETA, der sich in erster Linie gegen die Investorenrechte und den mangelnden Schutz für öffentliche Dienste richtet, wächst. Diese Bedenken, die das Abkommen in Europa noch zu Fall bringen könnten, werden auf der anderen Seite des Atlantiks vom Trade Justice Network (TJN), einer Koalition kanadischer Gewerkschaften, Umweltschutz- und Bürgerrechtsgruppen, geteilt.

Angesichts eines weiteren Treffens der EU-Handelsminister in Montreal fordert das TJN die kanadische Regierung auf, CETA nicht zu ratifizieren.

„Die kanadische Ministerin für internationalen Handel Chrystia Freeland bewirbt das Abkommen zwischen Kanada und der Europäischen Union als ‚progressiv‘, aber nichts könnte von der Wahrheit weiter entfernt sein. CETA enthält in seiner derzeitigen Version grundlegende Mängel und begünstigt die Interessen der Konzerne gegenüber jenen der kanadischen Bevölkerung”, sagte der Vizevorsitzende des TJN Larry Brown.

Unsere wichtigsten Forderungen lauten:

  • Streichung aller Bestimmungen zum Investitionsschutz. Es besteht kein Grund, unsere öffentliche Gerichtsbarkeit zu umgehen und auf außergerichtliche Schiedsverfahren zurückzugreifen, die die Konzerne begünstigen. Der für CETA vorgeschlagene Investitionsgerichtshof bedeutet keine echte Verbesserung gegenüber dem bedenklichen Investor-Staat-Streitbeilegungssystem im NAFTA und anderen Handelsabkommen.
  • Schutz der öffentlichen Dienste vor Privatisierung. CETA stellt eine Gefahr für unsere öffentlichen Dienste dar, da im Falle gescheiterter Privatisierungen eine Renationalisierung bzw. eine künftige Expansion öffentlicher Dienste kaum noch möglich wären.
  • Weg mit den Patentverlängerungen für pharmazeutische Produkte. Mit dem im CETA vorgesehenen Patentschutz könnten die jährlich für unser Gesundheitssystem anfallenden Medikamentenkosten um $ 1 Milliarde und mehr steigen.
  • Schutz für das öffentliche Auftragswesen. Nach derzeitigem Stand würde das öffentliche Auftragswesen einer Regierungsbehörde bzw. eines Sektors, sofern sie nicht ausdrücklich ausgenommen sind, unter die CETA-Bestimmungen fallen. Damit werden die Rechte der Provinzen, Kommunen und anderer Einheiten beschnitten, ihre Ausgaben im Rahmen des öffentlichen Auftragswesens bestmöglich zu investieren, indem sie lokalen Gütern und Dienstleistungen den Vorzug einräumen.

Änderungen müssen an den grundlegenden Rahmenbestimmungen des Abkommens vorgenommen werden und dürfen nicht in Form rechtlich nicht bindender Zusatzabkommen, Briefe oder Erklärungen erfolgen.

„Das Trade Justice Network steht Seite an Seite mit den europäischen Arbeitnehmer/innen und Aktivist/innen der Zivilgesellschaft, die in Deutschland, Österreich, Belgien und anderswo zum Widerstand gegen CETA mobilisieren, das in vielerlei Hinsicht genauso gefährlich ist wie TTIP. Die überwältigende Ablehnung in Europa brachte die TTIP-Verhandlungen mit den USA zum Stillstand; CETA, so die Gegner, ist aber nichts anderes als TTIP durch die Hintertür”, so Blair Redlin, Vizevorsitzender von TJN.

Das Trade Justice Network ist ein Bündnis aus Umweltschutzgruppen, Organisationen der Zivilgesellschaft und indigen Bevölkerung, Kulturverbänden, Bauernbünden, Gewerkschaften und der Bewegung für soziale Gerechtigkeit; sie haben sich zusammengeschlossen, um das Ausmaß und die im Geheimen geführten Verhandlungen der meisten Freihandelsabkommen zu hinterfragen. Das Netzwerk setzt sich für eine nachhaltigere, gleichberechtigte und sozial gerechte internationale Handelspolitik ein.

Weitere Informationen (auf Englisch) bei:

Deb Duffy


Canada must not ratify ‘fundamentally flawed’ European trade pact

In solidarity with mass demonstrations taking place in Europe, Canadian groups are calling on the Liberal government not to ratify the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

CETA is highly controversial, with more than three million Europeans signing a petition against CETA and its twin agreement TTIP. And European opposition to CETA is growing, focused on the deal’s investor rights rules as well as lack of protection for public services. Those concerns, which could stop the deal in its tracks in Europe, are shared across the Atlantic by the Trade Justice Network, a coalition of Canadian unions, environmental and citizens’ groups.

As a number of EU Trade Ministers arrive in Montreal for other meeting, the TJN is calling on the Canadian government not to ratify CETA.

“Canadian International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland is pitching the Canada-EU trade deal as ‘progressive,’ but nothing could be further from the truth. CETA as written is fundamentally flawed, and favours corporate interests over those of Canadians,” said TJN co-chair Larry Brown.

Among the TJN’s key demands are:

  • Remove all investor rights rules. There is no need to bypass our public court system and use extra-judicial arbitration that favours corporations. CETA’s proposed Investor Court System is not a real improvement on flawed investor-state dispute resolution systems in NAFTA and other trade deals.
  • Protect public services from privatization.CETA puts our public services at risk by making it harder to reverse failed privatizations or expand public services in the future.
  • Stop pharmaceutical patent extensions. CETA’s patent protection provisions could increase the annual cost of pharmaceuticals in our health care system by a $1 billion or more.
  • Protect public procurement.Currently, public procurement by any government service or sector not explicitly excluded is swept into CETA. This limits the rights of provinces, municipalities, and other entities to get the most out of their procurement spending by favouring local goods and services.

Changes to CETA must be made in the body of the agreement, not in a non-binding side agreement, letter or statement.

“The Trade Justice Network stands with European workers and members of civil society mobilizing in Germany, Austria, Belgium and elsewhere to resist CETA, which has many of the same dangerous provisions as TTIP.  Overwhelming European opposition is blocking this trade deal with the U.S., and opponents recognize that CETA is simply TTIP through the back door,” said TJN co-chair Blair Redlin.

TJN statement in German

The Trade Justice Network is comprised of environmental, civil society, student, Indigenous, cultural, farming, labour and social justice organizations that have come together to challenge the scope and secret negotiating process of most free trade agreements. It emphasizes the need for a more sustainable, equitable and socially just international trade regime.

For more information:

Deb Duffy, NUPGE

613- 709-0382


Federal leaders’ debate: Canada’s trade deals need independent analysis, not corporate cheerleading, says Trade Justice Network

Ottawa — On the cusp of Thursday’s federal election debate on the economy, the Trade Justice Network, (www.tradejustice.ca), a coalition of Canadian unions, environmental groups and citizens’ groups, is calling on federal leaders to mandate the Parliamentary Budget Officer to do real fact-based analysis before they sign “free trade” deals that are destructive to Canadian jobs. In the case of CETA, the Canada-European Union trade agreement that has already been signed by the Harper government, this analysis should happen immediately.

In particular, the Trade Justice Network would like trade deals to be analyzed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer as part of a process of full accountability to Parliament, a recommendation made earlier today by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette. Payette has asked if the PBO could do an independent analysis of CETA, the Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement between Canada and the EU.

“Most Canadians wouldn’t buy a new car without researching the warranty coverage, the mileage, reviews of the vehicle and so on.  Yet our government would have us agree to sweeping economic agreements like CETA and the TPP without providing us any facts at all, just empty slogans about how wonderful things will be after we sign on,” says Larry Brown, national secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees and co-chair of the Trade Justice Network.

Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, echoed this concern. “With CETA, Harper has been promoting dubious job figures that many economists have challenged. These deals often have nothing to do with real economic trade and with jobs but are corporate rights treaties that benefit only the few.  When we are making decision of that great importance, they cannot be negotiated in secret with no accountability to citizens and with no any real independent analysis.”

In Australia, the Productivity Commission, an independent government advisory body, analyzes trade deals before they are signed and has recently expressed concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently under negotiation.

“We completely support the Senator’s request to the PBO for some research into the real impacts of CETA or the TPP, and we wouldn’t want this research to wait until we’ve already signed on to the deals, we should be given the facts about the TPP long before our Government commits us to the deal, and certainly deserve the facts about CETA before it is ratified,” concluded Brown.

The Trade Justice Network is comprised of environmental, civil society, student, Indigenous, cultural, farming, labour and social justice organizations that have come together to challenge the scope and secret negotiating process of most free trade agreements. It emphasizes the need for a more sustainable, equitable and socially just international trade regime.


Contact: Sujata Dey, (613) 796-7724



Why Stephen Harper’s ‘trade’ deals are losing their cachet: Walkom

Stephen Harper’s marquee trade and investment deals are in trouble.

The already-signed Canada-European Union pact, known as CETA, has hit a buzz saw in Europe. The as yet unfinished Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would link Canada to 11 other nations, including Japan and the United States, faces stiff headwinds in Washington.

A new book by lawyer and Osgoode Hall professor Gus Van Harten helps explain why.

The E.U. Needs to Stop Dangerous Trade Deals | Council of Canadians & CUPE

By Maude Barlow and Paul Moist

As the EU-U.S. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement vote was postponed in the European Parliament on June 10th, the European Union is on the precipice of a major decision. Lurking in the background is another key decision about the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

We Canadians are writing to you, the Socialists, New European Left, and Greens, because you have the power to stop these dangerous trade deals. With this type of trade agreement, we have a choice: Do we accept rising inequality, unchecked corporate power, and lowered social and environmental standards, allowing the one per cent to become richer at our expense, or do we draw a line in the sand?

Read the whole article here on Huffington Post.

April 19, 2010 – Trade Justice Network releases secret draft of Canada-European Union free trade agreement, makes demands of Canadian and European governments

OTTAWA, ONTARIO — 04/19/10 — As the third round of Canada-European Union free trade negotiations commence the newly formed Trade Justice Network today publicly released the draft text of the proposed Canada-European Union Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – the most significant bilateral trade negotiation since the NAFTA. The network is raising serious concerns about the agreement’s potential impact on public and environmental policy, and public services in both Canada and Europe, among other issues, and has outlined a set of demands that must be met before negotiations are allowed to continue. 

Controversial provisions in the draft text would open Canada’s telecommunications sector to full foreign ownership, stop municipal governments from implementing local or ethical procurement strategies, and require a burdensome necessity test for prudential financial measures designed to help governments mitigate or avoid banking and financial crises. The text also presents a direct attack on Ontario’s Green Energy Act, and it would virtually eliminate the rights of farmers to save, reuse and sell seed, providing biotech, pharmaceutical, pesticide, seed and grain companies powerful new tools to essentially decide who should farm and how.

Canadian negotiators have also included a controversial investor-state dispute mechanism like the one in NAFTA. The Chapter 11 dispute process has allowed and encouraged large multinationals to sue North American governments for compensation against public health and environmental policies that limit corporate profits.

The Trade Justice Network has outlined a list of 11 demands that its members feel must be met in any trade deal with Europe. These include: a comprehensive impact assessment of the deal on the economy, jobs, poverty, gender, human rights, farmers, culture and the environment; a fundamental protection for public services and expansion of social policy; a recognition of and protection for the right to use public procurement as an economic development tool, and of the right to regulate in the public interest based on the precautionary principle; a commitment to strengthen labour and environmental protections and make them as binding, if not more binding, than investor guarantees, and a recognition of the primacy of Indigenous Rights over corporate rights in Indigenous lands, territories and waters.

The Trade Justice Network will hold a series of public forums over the course of the week to further discuss the proposed trade deal while official negotiations are taking place in Ottawa. Forums are scheduled to take place in Ottawa (April 19), Montreal (April 20) and Toronto (April 21).

For more information on the public forums (times and locations), or to learn more about the Trade Justice Network and read the civil society declaration on the CETA, visit:www.tradejustice.ca.

A full copy of the consolidated draft negotiating text has been posted on the Trade Justice Network website as well and is now available.


Contacts: Info@tradejustice.ca