Big trans-national corporations, which failed to achieve their objectives through TTIP are now on the verge of achieving them through the back door, in the form of the CETA treaty. CETA is a TTIP-like treaty between Europe and Canada, which will allow Canadian subsidiaries of major trans-nationals to increase their dominance.
Implementation and ratification
The implementation date was originally set for 1 July, but is now likely to be held up by a dispute over cheese. Implementation will involve the enactment of all parts of CETA that affect EU law and not national law. It will not include the ICS .
The rest of the treaty, including the undemocratic corporate courts provisions (ICS) will require ratification by national parliaments. In the UK, this means that the treaty must be ‘made available’ for examination by MPs for 21 working days at Westminster. It is even less clear when this will happen.
There is currently a petition to EU Trade Ministers and the European Commissioner on Trade asking them to refuse the ICS provisions.
More information on the state of the ratification process can be found on Guy Taylor’s blog.
Corporate courts (ICS)
The ICS is a slightly watered down version ISDS, the system of corporate courts which confers rights on big corporations which are denied to local companies, ordinary citizens and their governments.
Although ICS cases will now be tried by real judges, rather than corporate lawyers, these will still be paid by the hour, giving a perverse incentive to find in favour of corporate litigants.
According to the Deutscher Richterbund, Germany’s largest association of judges and public prosecutors,
“Neither the proposed procedure for the appointment of judges of the ICS nor their position meet the international requirements for the independence of courts.”
More on corporate courts here.
Corporate influence on government
The power of the corporate courts will impose a ‘regulatory chill’ on Governments, making it risky to introduce any policy which might hurt corporate interests.
Corporations will have an even greater say over the introduction of new regulations..
Lawyers will have a field day with clauses in the treaty which demand that licensing procedures should be “as simple as possible”, so as not to “unduly complicate their activities”, or that regulation is “no more than is necessary”.
Public inquiries and attempts to regulate the finance sector will be vulnerable to challenge..
A race to the bottom is likely to ensue in areas such as environmental regulation food safety and working rights. For example:
- Oil companies will find it easier to frack and be free to market Canadian tar sand oil in the UK;
- Privatisation will be locked in place through a ‘ratchet clause’;
- Citizens and small businesses will be vulnerable to harsher intellectual property enforcement;
- Small businesses producing localised food, such as Wensleydale cheese, Cornish pasties and Cumberland sausages will lose their protection.