Canada-EU trade deal (CETA) takes effect: more work required for consumers

BEUC NEWS - 21.09.2017

Today, a trade agreement between Canada and the European Union enters provisionally into force. Hailed as a “modern and progressive agreement”, consumer organisations have hitherto been critical that it lacks ambition to deliver concrete consumer benefits. We think this reflects wider issues in the EU’s trade policy and make recommendations on what needs to change.  

 

The European Commission says “[CETA] encapsulates what we want our trade policy to be - an instrument for growth that benefits European companies and citizens, but also a tool to project our values, harness globalisation and shape global trade rules.”

For consumer groups, a true trade policy that benefits European consumers requires more work. This depends on three changes to way things are done now:

  1. Trade agreements ought to focus back on trade
  2. Regulatory issues must be addressed outside trade agreements
  3. Both trade negotiations and regulatory dialogues should be further democratised

The common thread through these demands is that consumer protection ought to never be considered a barrier to trade. It is exactly here that we criticise today’s Canada-EU agreement.   

Why a provisional application?

CETA is entering into force ‘provisionally’ as the EU’s Member States are still in the process of ratifying it. This prevents the entire agreement from entering into force today. An example of what still awaits is the so-called Investment Court System (ICS).

Though billed as an improvement to the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, ICS fails to solve the core fault of ISDS. Namely: foreign investors can still sue governments for public policy measures – including consumer protection – which they deem to frustrate their investment expectations.

To resolve this long-standing fault we urge the EU to ensure investor claims on consumer protection measures will not be admissible under any circumstances.
 

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