Press Release 21.09.2022

5 years of CETA: New foodwatch-report gives insight into the Trojan trade agreement between EU and Canada

+++ foodwatch-report: “CETA – An attack on health, the environment, consumer protection and democracy” +++ 

The EU’s trade agreement with Canada (CETA) endangers democracy, environmental protection and the health of EU citizens. The treaty disempowers the European Parliament and instead strengthens the power of governments and bureaucrats. Adding to this lack of accountability, CETA’s committees work in secret. It is not possible to obtain detailed minutes on their negotiations, which is a perfect setting for lobbyists. These are the conclusions of a newly published report of foodwatch. The report also shows detailed examples how CETA can affect EU regulation on pesticide residues, hygiene controls or import rules for Genetically Modified Organisms.

The international consumer organisation foodwatch calls on the European Commission, the governments, and parliaments of all EU member states to suspend CETA and negotiate a new trade agreement with Canada. 

“CETA is outdated and must be stopped! The EU and Canada should not stick to an agreement that gives corporates the power to sue governments for adapting regulation to the reality of climate crisis,” said Mirjam Hägele, International Campaign Management Director at foodwatch. “Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, sounds harmless and somewhat technical. The truth is, CETA is a Trojan horse. At first sight, it decreases tariffs and fosters trade between the parties. But look again: CETA is a threat to consumers’ and environmental protection standards. It side-lines the European Parliament when far reaching decisions on sensitive issues like import rules for pesticide residues or Genetically Modified Organisms are taken.”

The new foodwatch-report provides a detailed analysis and gives examples of the major threats of the agreement:

1. CETA creates a parallel justice system for corporations.
After full ratification, CETA will establish an Investment Court System (ICS) that enables international corporations to sue governments when new laws go against their future profit interests. This creates a deterrent effect that prevents progressive legislation e.g. to react on the climate crisis. According to foodwatch, the introduction of the special courts system alone is a valid reason why CETA should not be ratified. 
Due to a request of the German government, the European Commission initiated an interpretation declaration by CETA’s Joint Committee to limit the scope of the ICS. foodwatch, alongside other organisations, are doubting whether this will be sufficient in reigning in the power of corporations to sue governments. 

2. CETA overrides basic democratic principles. 
CETA committees meet in secret and have extensive powers but their decisions are not controlled by the European Parliament. CETA committees are staffed with non-elected officials from the EU and Canada. Neither the European Parliament nor the public have detailed insights into what is being negotiated, even though the committees can prepare far-reaching, internationally binding decisions on very sensitive issues such as import rules for pesticide residues, meat hygiene controls, and Genetically Modified Organisms. This lack of transparency gives the industry lobby an easy ride. 

3. CETA undermines consumers’ and environmental protection 
The Precautionary Principle is enshrined in the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (article 191). According to this principle, if there are indications that a substance, e.g. a pesticide, may be harmful to health or the environment, the authorities can preventively ban it. The burden of proof lies with the producer. CETA puts this principle in danger, because the Canadian government pressures Europe to move away from the precautionary principle and recognise Canada’s (lower) standards as equivalent. 

Over the past five years, most parts of the CETA agreement have been provisionally applied, although the trade agreement has not yet been ratified by all EU member states. Parliaments in France, Germany, and Italy, are among the 11 that still have to give their agreement.