David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

How CETA stands up against the S&D’s ten progressive principles

1. Benefits for the many and not just the few

CETA is an ambitious trade agreement which reduces almost all tariffs across the board, offering significant opportunities for European businesses and their workers in a number of key sectors for employment. Although most economic studies show modest increases in GDP, CETA fits into the EU’s broader trade policy as an important signpost of trade openness and economic development.

The impressive market opening is backed up by a strong sustainable development chapter, which aims to make sure these benefits are not gained at the expense of citizens or the environment. Alas, a trade deal on its own cannot ensure the benefits are shared fairly. International trade policy must be flanked with progressive domestic policies e.g. in training, education as well as fiscal measures.

2. Values-based policy

Canada and the EU already share common values including democracy, the rule of law, equality and strong commitment on the international scene to guaranteeing peace and welcoming refugees.

CETA’s sustainable development chapter includes binding commitments on the core ILO conventions and multilateral environmental agreements like the Paris climate agreement. It also forbids partners from lowering environmental and social standards in order to gain a competitive advantage. So no race to the bottom. Instead, the conditions are set and the incentives are there for a race to the top between two partners whose standards are already very high.

It is enforceable through an ad hoc dispute settlement mechanism which, in its current form, does not allow for the imposition of sanctions. Nevertheless, the S&D group obtained an important commitment from Canada and the Commission to review the ad hoc dispute settlement mechanism with a view to making the enforceability of the trade and sustainable development chapter more effective.

3. Transparency and citizen involvement

Civil society and S&D pressure during the TTIP negotiations in particular has led to a fundamental change in the transparency of EU trade negotiations. It is true that CETA negotiations were not as transparent as TTIP.

Nevertheless, MEPs have been closely involved in the CETA process: negotiating documents were sent to the MEPs working on the file, and members of the INTA committee were briefed after each round. Furthermore, since the beginning of negotiations CETA has been discussed in the international trade committee at least thirty times, including with a wide range of stakeholders and civil society.

4. No-one left behind

There are winners and losers of any trade policy. This is true whether you make a deal or choose not to, because the world will not stop changing just because Europe does. We believe that in CETA’s case there will be mostly winners, but it is true that there will be some displacement of jobs within the EU. We S&Ds continue to push for expansion of the Globalisation Adjustment Fund, as well as well-funded programmes at the national level in our respective countries to properly compensate people who lose their job as a result of   international trade.

5. SMEs as key players

Unlike the proposed TTIP, CETA unfortunately does not have a specific chapter for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). However, the focus in modern trade agreements like CETA on ‘non-tariff barriers’ (ie. paperwork, testing, local restrictions) will benefit smaller companies more. As we know, bigger companies have the capacity to overcome these technical hurdles to trade already, including armies of lawyers and local specialists that SMEs just don’t have access to.

6. Multilateralism as the first best option

We acknowledge that talks in the WTO have stalled in some crucial areas, and that although that is the best option, bilateral trade agreements are second best. The current times we are living in demand that the EU takes a lead on world trade. CETA would be an excellent statement of openness whilst other partners are turning in on themselves. At the same time, the EU remains fully committed to the multilateral trading system.

7. Governments free to legislate in the public interest

The ‘right to regulate’ is enshrined in CETA, both in the text of the agreement and - for the avoidance of any doubt - in the joint interpretative instrument agreed by the EU and Canada. Both partners retain the right, and indeed are encouraged, to implement high social and environmental standards that protect citizens and our planet.

8. Protection of public services

Like all EU trade agreements, public services enjoy a blanket exemption through reservations similar to those of the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Governments are free to provide services like health and education as they wish, including maintaining public monopolies or granting exclusive rights to private operators. These EU-wide exemptions from liberalisation also allow governments to take services back into public hands from the commercial sector.

9. Human and social rights at the heart of trade policy

Apart from provisions on labour rights and environmental protection CETA also contains commitments to support corporate social responsibility, such as those in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Canada and the EU have also signed a strategic partnership agreement to go alongside the treaty which allows for a termination of CETA should a substantial violation of human rights occur. This will be ratified by the European Parliament with CETA on February 15, 2017.

10. EU standards must be preserved

There is nothing in CETA which alters the EU legislative process when it comes to issues like GMOs, hormones in beef, endocrine disruptors, fuel quality cyanide in paints or anything else. The precautionary principle is safeguarded in the treaty and all proposals to alter EU legislation must go through the normal democratic process.

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