Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Demonstrators opposed to the CETA and TTIP trade agreements in Brussels. (Photo: Stephanie Lecocq/EPA/DPA)

By Signing CETA with Justin Trudeau, the EU Isn’t Undermining Donald Trump – They’re Helping Him

A trade deal with Canada seems an urgent necessity in this brave new world. But, 40,000 of the biggest US corporations have subsidiaries in Canada which could use CETA to sue European governments

Nick Dearden

 by The Independent

This week the European Parliament finally gets a vote on the Canada-EU trade deal CETA. It’s taken years to get to this point, and the vote is likely to be close, reflecting just how contentious global trade policies have become.

Many MEPs are worried about CETA, reflecting the views of millions of European citizens who have been lobbying them to vote it down. They are concerned about the impact it will have on food standards, public services and financial regulation. CETA, like its better known US cousin TTIP is all about deregulation.

There are deep concerns about the ‘corporate court’ system which will afford so many more corporations special legal process to sue European governments for passing laws they don’t like. For all the EU’s reforms, environmental regulation, public service nationalisation, financial regulation – all could be challenged, costing the taxpayer on both sides of the Atlantic a fortune.

Despite this, MEPs are wrestling over how to vote. Because in our brave new world, a trade deal with Justin Trudeau’s Canada, which shares so many of our values, seems an urgent necessity. Wouldn’t it be a reaffirmation of the very liberal international order threatened by Trump? Wouldn’t it help us bring together a non-Trump economic bloc?

It’s a seductive logic – and enjoyable to give Trump a poke in the eye. But it isn’t true. There’s nothing more helpful to Trump and the wave of European populism than passing CETA this week.

First CETA would open up Europe to direct challenge by US corporations in special corporate courts. Something like 40,000 of the biggest US corporations have subsidiaries in Canada which could use CETA to sue European governments. This is a game-changer – we’ve never faced anything like it, and we will get sued for simply passing laws aimed at protecting people and the environment.

Canadian’s big mining sector doesn’t have any higher ‘values’ than US big business either. These companies have already shown themselves more than willing to take on governments like Romania, in secret ‘courts’, under a separate deal, when that government saw fit to halt a mining project built on a site of environmental and historical importance.

For all his rhetoric, Trump is a firm supporter of deregulation and corporate power. A quick look at how US oil, financial, military and pharmaceutical stock rose after Trump’s election showed that clearly. Trump is stripping away corporate regulation at a frightening speed. Why would he be against anything that gives US corporations the power to bully foreign countries?  

Don’t forget – Trump’s own interests are involved here. For example, Trump owns quite a lot of land in Scotland and has a history of challenging Scottish regulation which poses any threat to his golfing profits. A corporate court in CETA would help him in future.

Second, CETA has nothing to do with reaffirming European and Canadian values. As a matter of fact, it’s all about changing our values. CETA isn’t about people at all, but forwarding corporate interests to the point where ‘people’ barely feature in decision-making. CETA’s process of regulatory ‘harmonisation’ attempts to force regulators to think only about how laws can be as ‘minimally trade distorting’ as possible. Is that really the pinnacle of European and Canadian ‘values’?

Trump claims that corporations have become too mixed up with foreigners, too disinterested in forwarding the interests of the state. We cannot fight this with ‘more of the same’, by pretending that economic globalisation has been wonderful for everyone and let’s have more of it. The idea that trade deals create only ‘winners’ is totally discredited. But CETA assumes everything is ‘win-win’ and makes no provision for these losers - even though serious assessments warn that up to 200,000 jobs could be lost and workers relative wages could fall.

This simply helps Trump’s rhetoric about salvation to be found in the aggressive nation state, backed to the hilt by corporate power. How do we fight Trumpism? By showing that the solution to devastating corporate trade pacts isn’t ‘beggar my neighbour’ economics, but a trade system based on the needs of society – building public services, creating decent jobs, laws to constrain the most powerful exploiting the least powerful. Without this, everything that Trump represents will grow.

© 2016 The Independent
Nick Dearden

Nick Dearden

Nick Dearden is the director of Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement) and former director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Advocates Applaud as FTC Sues to Stop Microsoft-Activsion Mega-Merger

Biden's FTC, said one consumer campaigner, "is showing, once again, that it is serious about enforcing the law, reversing corporate concentration, and taking on the tough cases."

Brett Wilkins ·

Press Freedom Champions Renew Call for DOJ to Drop Charges Against Assange

"It is time for the Biden administration to break from the Trump administration's decision to indict Assange—a move that was hostile to the media and democracy itself."

Jessica Corbett ·

Oral Arguments Boost Fears of SCOTUS Buying Theory That Would 'Sow Elections Chaos'

"This reckless case out of North Carolina could explode the unifying understanding that power ultimately rests with the people of this country," one campaigner said of Moore v. Harper.

Jessica Corbett ·

War Industry 'Celebrating Christmas Early' as House Passes $858 Billion NDAA

"There is no justification to throw... $858 billion at the Pentagon when we're told we can't afford child tax credit expansion, universal paid leave, or other basic human necessities," said the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. "End of story."

Brett Wilkins ·

GOP Florida Lawmaker Behind 'Don't Say Gay' Law Charged with Covid Relief Fraud

"It does not surprise me that someone who exploits queer kids for political gain would be charged with exploiting taxpayers for personal gain," said one Democratic state lawmaker.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo