CETA is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada. After years of being negotiated in secret, it's in the legal scrubbing phase and is headed for the EU Parliament where it will either be ratified and put into effect, or killed off like ACTA was on July 4th, 2012. That depends on us and how willing we are to overcome campaign fatigue and push back for another Pirate victory. Please note, we'll have to do it again for TTIP.
Why should we worry?
CETA not only has ISDS provisions, under which disputes between companies and the government would be resolved by unaccountable corporate tribunals, it has an absolutely awful IPR (incumbent protectionist regulations. Okay then, intellectual property rights, but I'm saying that through gritted teeth) chapter. Let's take a closer look.
Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS)
The ISDS provisions allow companies to sue governments. For an idea of what that looks like, take a look at the disputes on the Investment Policy Hub, which has links to the details of cases under adjudication past and present. One thing I noticed when filtering by year is that the number of cases being initiated keeps on going up. Take a look yourselves and see what sort of cases are being filed. Just fighting those cases can be costly and the fear of being taken to court by companies annoyed about new regulations or wage increases, etc., can and does affect legislation. It's no accident that our copyright term went up by twenty years last year; that's how long the term is in the TTIP agreement. We've been promised a softer version of this in CETA, a permanent investor court system (ICS). This sounds absolutely excellent until you realise it’s not; per Glyn Moody at Techdirt it's basically lipstick on a pig and would actually make matters worse. According to Corporate Europe,
With the exception of some procedural improvements – an enhanced selection process for arbitrators, stronger ethics rules, and the establishment of an appellate body – the rebranded version essentially contains the same investor privileges, often in wording identical to the CETA text.
…Rather than putting an end to I.S.D.S., the EU’s investment protection agenda threatens to lock EU members into I.S.D.S. forever. It will be practically impossible for them to exit from the investor privileges once those are enshrined in larger trade deals such as TTIP or CETA (because they would effectively have to leave the EU). The Commission’s proposed multilateral investment court – essentially a world supreme court exclusively available to corporations – risks perpetuating an already gravely unjust system where one side, typically large companies or wealthy individuals, get exceptionally powerful and actionable rights while the other side, the people of a country, get only responsibilities.
Since our governments are stable and not known for suddenly seizing and nationalising foreign companies, there really is no need for ISDS to be included at all in any of our agreements with our allies.
As well as increasing the length of copyright terms to "harmonize" our incumbent protectionism legislation with that of the Americans and (recently) the Canadians, CETA's copyright provisions include this little nugget of IPR gold:
Each Party shall provide performers the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit the broadcasting by wireless means and the communication to the public of their performances, except where the performance is itself already a broadcast performance or is made from a fixation.
Performance rights. This is more rent-seeking shenanigans. It also locks in DRM. Indeed, CETA's IPR section is basically ACTA's rotting corpse dug out of its grave and put on display as a wonder of the world. If like me you've got health issues, worry.
Each Party shall provide a period of sui generis protection in respect of a product that is protected by a basic patent in force at the request of the holder of the patent or his successor in title...
This basically amounts to a patent term extension for branded drugs. That the the sui generis protection can be revoked if the patent has been invalidated or no longer covers the product approved for market is a moot point; that's not stopping Eli Lilly from suing Canada over invalidated drugs patents. So basically, any gains we think we might have in CETA compared to other trade agreements are immediately nullified by the threat of litigtaion if a company believes that its rights under the agreement are being violated. For a small country like my native Ireland, the prospect of having to defend any actions taken in the public interest against is daunting when you consider that many of the corporations their legal teams might find themselves facing in court have greater financial resources and are mostly litigating to drain them till they give up and cave in.
What can we do?
As I indicated earlier, the Leader of the House talked about scaremongering by the far left, and we have received emails again from 38 Degrees, which will no doubt be castigating me again on Facebook.
…a number of Opposition colleagues might be aware of the dissident Communist Rosa Luxemburg, if not necessarily of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and its deep links with Die Linke in Germany, the far left party that grew out of the old East German Communist party. There is a lot to be said against the old East German Communist party, but it was pretty good at propaganda and agitation. There are valid arguments to be made, but hon. Members must be clear about the driving force behind the campaign. – Mr. John Spellar MP (Warley) (Lab)
We need to work with other groups that oppose these unfair trade agreements to provide a unified front against corporate predation on our rights and freedoms. We can argue about our differences later. Let's continue to raise awareness of these trade agreements and take part in campaigns to oppose them. We also need to contact our MEPs and advise them of the aspects of CETA that worry us; for me it's the ISDS and IPR clauses. Study the document. What is in there that scares you?
We killed ACTA. We can kill CETA and we can certainly kill TTIP. Pressure works, so let's pile it on.