A joint statement by German and Canadian civil society groups
On the occasion of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to Canada, and ahead of the announced ratification of the EU–Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) by the German parliament, we Canadian and German civil society organisations express our continued opposition to CETA, which protects corporate interests at the expense of climate, environmental and social action and democratic decision-making.
While most parts of CETA have been provisionally applied in Europe and Canada for nearly five years, the agreement’s controversial investment protection provisions have not. These provisions, including the planned Investment Court System (ICS), would grant foreign investors the privilege to sue states before a private arbitration tribunal instead of in national courts when public policies affect their ability to profit. This chapter would come into effect only after full ratification of CETA in all EU member states.
ICS, just like any other investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) process, poses an immense threat to parliaments’ sovereign policy-making, for example to tackle climate change or raise social or environmental protections. In practice, ISDS mechanisms have already been used many times to undermine democratically adopted environmental and climate protection measures. Canadian companies frequently use ISDS to challenge environmental legislation, such as when Canada-based Vermilion Energy threatened a billion dollar ISDS case to successfully block a 2017 French law to end fossil fuel extraction by 2040. This is just one example of how ISDS has and will continue to prevent real action to address climate change and end fossil fuel extraction.
Germany’s ruling coalition recently announced its intention to ratify CETA with minor “interpretative” notes to the agreement text. Civil society organisations from Germany and Canada condemn this process and reiterate that establishing a parallel justice system for corporations is fundamentally against the public interest. There is no justification for establishing an ICS with or without an interpretative statement that may have little or no impact on future ISDS arbitrations.
The planned full ratification of CETA would massively expand dangerous and unilateral investor privileges. Not only Canadian and European investors would be entitled to sue, but also, for example, U.S. corporations with subsidiaries in Canada and in Europe.
In stark contrast to these highly enforceable rights, CETA does not foresee any obligations for investors. Neither does the agreement enable citizens, associations or trade unions to bring a claim when a company violates environmental, labour, health, safety, or other rules.
The inclusion of special privileges for corporations in an agreement between the EU and Canada is also highly unnecessary. Investors in both countries can assert their rights in the courts, just like everyone else. There is no reason why investors need a special and exclusive court to themselves—one with a track record of ruling expansively in favour of investors.
In view of the climate crisis and energy insecurity, fully ratifying CETA will only put barriers in the way of our struggle to decarbonize our economies and power down the fossil fuel industry. The introduction of special privileges for corporations will primarily benefit oil, gas, and extractives companies. If we are to quickly end our reliance on fossil fuels, it is imperative that CETA’s Investment Court System not come into existence.
Special privileges for corporations are a relic of the 20th century that will only get in the way of addressing the most pressing problems of the 21st century. Instead, we need a paradigm shift towards trade policy that puts the interests of peoples and the planet first, and that gives top priority to climate, environmental, and social protections. Ratifying CETA will take us many steps further away from this much needed change.
We therefore call on decision-makers to stop the CETA ratification process! Stop special privileges for corporations!
Protect people and climate, not corporate interests!
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Climate Action Network Canada
The Council of Canadians
Friends of the Earth Canada
Grand(m)others Act to Save the Planet
Trade Justice Network
Trade Justice Prince Edward Island
Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft e.V.
Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz BUND e.V.
BUND Naturschutz in Bayern e. V.
Bündnis gerechter Welthandel München
Bündnis Stoppt TTIP & Co. Darmstadt.Dieburg
Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz Offenburg e.V.
Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V.
Deutscher Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband
Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund Hessen und Thüringen
Friedens-und Konfliktforschung Lothar-Kreyssig-Ökumenezentrum der Ev. Kirche
Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung
Heidelberger Bündnis für einen gerechten Welthandel
Kölner Bündnis für gerechten Welthandel
Konstanzer Bündnis für gerechten Welthandel
Lokale, freihandelskritische Bündnisse und Initiativen in Deutschland
Mannheimer Bündnis für gerechten Welthandel
Netzwerk gerechter Welthandel
Netzwerk gerechter Welthandel Baden-Württemberg
Ortenauer Bündnis für einen gerechten Welthandel
Ostalb gegen TTIP
Solidarische Landwirtschaft Deutschland
Umweltinstitut München e.V.
Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft ver.di
Weltwirtschaft, Ökologie & Entwicklung – WEED e.V.
Wuppertaler Aktionsbündnis gegen TTIP und andere Freihandelsfallen