Flemish Member of the European Parliament recommends rejecting the EU-Canada trade and investment deal on health and environmental grounds
After the Walloon hero Paul Magnette nearly stopped the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in October of last year, another Belgian politician has taken up his mantle — this time within the European Parliament itself.
Bart Staes, a Member of the European Parliament for the Flanders region, advised Members specializing in health and environmental issues within the European Parliament to call for the rejection of CETA. In his draft opinion paper, Staes warned of the potential negative effects of the agreement on health and environmental policy. Despite these important warnings, his paper wasn’t adopted.
Trading away our health and environment
The paper by Bart Staes’ warned that “CETA risks undermining … regulatory measures with regard to endocrine disruptors.”
Endocrine disruptors are dangerous chemicals that interfere with the natural hormones in our bodies. These substances are found in our food and every-day products like plastic containers and cosmetics. They are estimated to cost Europeans more than €160 billion each year in additional health expenses.
Earlier this month, 35 public interest organizations warned Members of the European Parliament that Canada is already influencing European policy on endocrine disruptors. The European Commission has already proposed to lower standards of protection against these dangerous substances and the Commission has expressly acknowledged that its decision-making was influenced by mounting pressure from EU trade partners (see pp.190-193 from its EDC impact assessment).
CETA: a self-inflicted legislative straightjacket
CETA would create new rights for businesses based in Canada to sue the EU for introducing precautionary laws.
This means, for example, that Monsanto could gain the right to sue the EU through a flawed international arbitration system, should the EU enact pesticide legislation that provides high levels of health and environmental protection.
Moreover, should the European Parliament give the green light to CETA in mid-February, a large part of CETA would be applied immediately, without approval of the individual Member States, and Canada would then be able to sue the EU over any of its precautionary laws. The Canadian government has already launched nine cases against the EU through the WTO and has repeatedly criticized innovative EU laws that protect people from toxic exposure.
An interpretative instrument attached to CETA before its signature in October last year affirms that Canada, the EU, and the Member States are committed to respecting the precautionary principle, but CETA itself reaffirms the risk-based commitments under WTO agreements and fails to provide adequate safeguards to protect the precautionary approach.
Adopting CETA would thus create a self-inflicted legislative straightjacket for the EU and its Member States, weakening our health and environmental protections.
We cannot accept post-truth politics
As recently as November last year, over 450 public interest organizations representing environmental and public health groups, small businesses, consumers, and trade unions called for a rejection of CETA.
Yet, all EU governments have already signed the agreement. Most politicians across Europe have failed to have an honest debate on CETA and its potential impacts on democratic policy-making. Instead, they parrot statements that CETA does not endanger our health and environment. The Member States still have an opportunity to reject CETA by refusing to ratify it.
Some say we live in a post-truth reality. Some say politicians no longer care whether their constituents trust them.
Regardless, it’s time that we, the people, deviate from the dangerous path of acquiescing to post-truth politics as if it were already a reality.
It’s time that we, the people, demand an end to government-led and industry-fed propaganda and obfuscation.
It’s time that we, the people, ignite real and robust political debate about trade and environmental health and rekindle our democratic processes.
Originally posted January 25, 2017