This week, the chances of passing corporate trade deal TTIP have been dealt several more serious blows. Even chances of passing TTIP’s sister agreement CETA (the Canada-EU deal) are starting to look decidedly shaky.
Here’s the key highlights of the week.
The big new fact is the sheer scale of opposition to ‘free trade’ deals in the US. All leading presidential candidates have expressed some opposition to the current free trade agenda, with even free trader Clinton saying she’s deeply uneasy. A new opinion poll shows only 18% of Americans support TTIP, down from 53% in 2014.
This matters because Obama only has eight months left in office and it seems unlikely that substantial progress will be made in that time. After that, the future is anyone’s guess. That’s a key reason Obama came to Germany this week – to speed things up.
But the US President was met by tens of thousands of protestors in Hannover – making clear that in Europe too, TTIP is toxic. The same opinion poll already quoted found 17% of Germans support TTIP – down from 55% 2 years ago. TTIP campaigning is reporting to have accelerated substantially in France this week, and it’s growing as an issue throughout Europe.
We released papers this week that show that the UK government isn’t taking the corporate courts too seriously. in fact, the only risk assessment they’ve carried out on TTIP strongly advises the government that there are lots of risks and no benefits. On EU-Canada deal CETA, they hadn't even carried out a risk assessment on the corporate court system. So much for the evidence!
Events have moved rapidly on CETA this week too. CETA risks becoming a Trojan horse for TTIP, with many of the same provisions, including the infamous corporate court system. Although the EU Commission has created a reformed version of this system in CETA, all the most notorious cases we cite would still be a problem under this ‘new’ system.
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CETA will go to the EU Council (of all EU governments) for ratification in June, and be formally signed in September. It will then go to the EU parliament, where we expect a vote next January or February.
Although we didn’t expect to win any victories at the Council, that’s all changed this week. First up, Romania, in dispute with Canada over visa issues, has threatened to veto CETA at the June meeting. Next, the Walloon parliament voted a critical motion on CETA that could tie the hands of the Belgian government and force it’s abstention.
One problem with EU trade deals is that they can come into effect even without a vote in member parliaments. Under something known as ‘provisional implementation’, CETA could take effect in Britain early next year without a parliamentary vote here. In fact, even if the British parliament voted CETA down, the corporate court system would still stay in effect for 3 years! The June meeting is the last chance governments have to block these processes .
However, last night the Dutch parliament voted for a non-binding motion to reject this provisional implementation. The Netherlands might yet hold a referendum on CETA too.
In The UK we got news of the 41st TTIP Free Zone: Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council. This came hot on the heels of the Barcelona TTIP Free Zones conference, attracting 40 councillors and mayors from across the EU, where a declaration was agreed on which called for the end of negotiations on TTIP and TiSA and for the non-ratification of CETA.
It was also the 13th round of negotiations happening in New York, prompting German Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel to comment: “Whether we can reach a deal this year really depends on whether we can create trust in the process. And unfortunately, we are very far from creating trust in the process.”
So we’re very much on the front foot. With the EU referendum approaching, is David Cameron really going to attend an EU meeting and support the idea that CETA come into effect without a parliamentary vote? We have 2 months to convince him that that’s a terrible idea.