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Activists in Luxembourg take part in a rally against the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA). (Photo: Friends of the Earth Europe/cc/flickr)

Democracy Prevails as People's Revolt Leaves Corporate Trade Agenda "In Tatters"

Rejecting the deal, Belgium residents are 'voicing the concerns of millions of citizens'

With a Monday deadline, the European Union failed to reach consensus on the pending Canada-EU trade agreement, prompting campaigners to celebrate what they declared to be its final demise.

After negotiations fell apart late last week, Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel said Monday that he will not be able to join the other 27 EU nations and sign the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA) because of entrenched opposition in the region of Wallonia to its pro-corporate provisions.

Despite this, European Council president Donald Tusk and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are refusing to concede that the Thursday signing ceremony is no longer possible.

According to the BBC,

On Sunday, the European Commission presented a new clarification to Wallonia on the mechanism for settling disputes with investors.

The rules for trade arbitration are one of the thorniest issues in the deal.

But Belgium's RTBF news reported (in French) that the latest EU document did not satisfy the Walloon politicians.

Representatives from the Socialist-led region have expressed skepticism over the agreement's Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system, echoing the same concerns that critics of the deal have long-shared: that it inflates the power of multinational corporation at the expense of people and governments.

Dismissing media rhetoric that Wallonia's hold-out vote was "exasperating all of Europe," the U.K.-based Global Justice Now pointed out on Monday that the region, alternately, is "voicing concerns of millions of citizens."

"This isn't about internal Belgian politics," agreed Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "Millions of people across Europe and Canada have rejected this deal, including many Members of European Parliament, unions, environmental groups, and farmers."

"Democracy has prevailed and the agenda to boost corporate rights is in tatters," she added.

Similarly, Guy Taylor, trade campaigner for Global Justice Now, said: "CETA has failed because these secretive negotiations were exposed to be much more about enhancing corporate power rather than about lowering trade barriers, and the toxic trade deal was being railroaded through by an increasingly remote and inflexible EU Commission."

Echoing Barlow's statement that the entire EU trade agenda now lies "in tatters," coupled with the downfall of CETA's "toxic sister deal," the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Taylor added, "This is an ideal opportunity to create a trade regime that prioritizes people, while safe-guarding their health, their rights, and the environment."

"If it takes the Walloon government to throw a spanner in the CETA works and create the political space for an open discussion on what Europe really needs, we fully support them," wrote Paul de Clerck, economic justice campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe, in a Friday op-ed. "Our European decision-makers should grasp this opportunity. Now is the chance for the EU to light the way ahead, reclaim social democracy, and lead on establishing an economic system that contributes to a more equitable and sustainable world."


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