Campaigners urge British government to amend 'secret agreement' that would allow Canadian companies new powers over government decisions
Campaign groups the World Development Movement and War on Want have branded a trade deal being negotiated between Canada and the EU as 'a threat to democracy'. They have joined trade unions and other campaigners to call on business secretary Vince Cable to remove a controversial clause from the deal which will give Canadian companies new powers to sue the British government.
Canadian and EU negotiators are due to meet in Brussels on Friday 12 September to agree the final text of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Once it is agreed, neither European nor British parliaments will have any power to amend the text.
A leaked text of the deal – which has still not been formally made available to the European or Canadian public – reveals that it includes a controversial mechanism to allow large companies to sue governments, including the UK government, over decisions they believe might harm their profits.
Companies could use the 'Investor-State Dispute Settlement' (ISDS) mechanism to prevent a future UK government from protecting the NHS, education and other public services from privatisation. Companies have used similar systems to sue governments of other countries for reversing the privatisation of health services, introducing a minimum wage, putting health warnings on cigarette packets and freezing energy prices.
150,000 people – a third of them from the UK – responded to an EU consultation on ISDS, launched following widespread public opposition to the inclusion of ISDS in both the EU-Canada deal and the bigger TTIP deal between the EU and the US. Campaigners are calling CETA a 'Trojan horse for TTIP'. But negotiators look set to cement the Canadian agreement on Friday, despite the fact that the EU has not released the results of its consultation.
Nick Dearden, director of the World Development Movement, said today:
"The CETA deal, just like TTIP, is a charter for big business and a disaster for democracy. If it is agreed, it will undermine the power of democratically elected governments to make decisions in the public interest. We oppose CETA, and we're calling on Vince Cable to halt this power grab by big business."
John Hilary, director of War on Want, said today:
"The EU-Canada trade deal grants sweeping new powers to multinational corporations to sue the UK and other European countries in secret tribunals that will cost the taxpayer billions. Yet none of this has been agreed by national parliaments, nor has there been any public debate over the deal. Vince Cable is guilty of a direct attack on our democracy. This is his last chance to use the UK's national veto to stop the deal going through."
Campaigners will hold a protest against the CETA deal outside the UK government's Department of Business and Skills on Friday 12 September at 12 noon.