UN HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERT: CETA is incompatible with the rule of law, democracy, and human rights

The free trade deal set to be signed on Sunday between the EU and Canada is incompatible with the rule of law, democracy, and human rights, a UN human rights expert has warned.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is set to be signed by EU members and Canada on Sunday after opposition to the deal by Wallonia almost caused it to collapse.

Alfred de Zayas, the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, said in a statement that the deal should not be signed without a referendum in each country first as he calls the deal a “corporate-driven, fundamentally flawed treaty.”

“There is a legitimate fear that CETA will dilute environmental standards, food security, and health and labour protection,” he said. “A treaty that strengthens the position of investors, transnational corporations and monopolies at the expense of the public interest conflicts with the duty of States to protect all people under their jurisdiction from internal and external threats.”

De Zayas also seemed wary of Wallonia’s sudden change of heart. The Belgian region had refused to agree to the deal citing among others concerns that part of the deal that would allow corporations to sue national governments. After days of negotiations,
Paul Magnette, the Minister-President of Wallonia, said the Belgian negotiations produced a deal he could back: “The amended and corrected CETA is more just than the old CETA. It offers more guarantees and it is what I will defend.”

De Zayas saw the sudden change of heart differently: “A culture of bullying and intimidation becomes apparent when it comes to trade agreements that currently get priority over human rights,” he said and warned that CETA was not compatible with the rule of law, democracy and human rights.

The expert had also previously spoken out against the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, warning the deal between the EU and the US would give too much power to corporations.

“The danger of CETA and TTIP being signed and one day entering into force is so serious that every stakeholder, especially parliamentarians from EU Member States, should now be given the opportunity to articulate the pros and cons. The corporate-driven agenda gravely endangers labour, health and other social legislation, and there is no justification to fast-track it.

“Civil society should demand referendums on the approval of CETA or any other such mega-treaty that has been negotiated behind closed doors,” De Zayas said.

The expert shared the same concerns that the Walloons had put forward, that the deal gave too much power to corporations at the expense of governments. De Zayas argues that CETA is “fundamentally flawed” unless the deal specifies that the power of the state will be greater than a regulatory chill and urged that national courts should test whether the agreement was in line with national constitutions.

De Zayas and the Walloons were not the only people opposing this mega trade deal. A lot of people in Europe voiced their concern but backers kept trying to reassure the population the deal was in their best interest and would boost bilateral trade by roughly 20%.

In mid-October, the Council of Europe’s Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development had issued a warning that the deal “would allow transnational investor companies to sue EU member states for laws they pass which affect investor profits, including those designed to protect public health, the environment or workers’ rights,” and asked that the ratification of the deal be postponed.

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