The Canadian government and the European Commission on Monday announced modifications to their controversial pending trade agreement, apparently intended to appease widespread criticism of the deal—but critics condemn the changes as nothing but “smoke and mirrors.”
The trade deal known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has drawn heated criticism for its investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, which allow investors to sue governments in private, specially-created courts for passing regulations that hurt corporate profits.
The modifications announced on Monday would alter the arbitration provisions to resemble something closer to what was optimistically described as a “permanent…professional court,” in a recent Globe and Mail editorial arguing in favor of the changes.
“The government is presenting this reform to CETA as a ‘fairer, more transparent, system,’ but it still enshrines corporate rights and enables giant European corporations to sue the Canadian government. Tinkering with the dispute settlement process doesn’t change this fundamental flaw,” said Garry Neil, executive director of social action organization the Council of Canadians, in a press statement.
In its original incarnation, the arbitration process would not have allowed appeals or treated decisions as precedent-setting. Notably, the new changes would still allow arbitrators to “moonlight as lawyers with the very same corporations that are launching these cases,” Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, wrote in the Huffington Post earlier this month. There are also still no set limits on how much corporations are allowed to sue governments for.
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