(25 October 2016) The last minute attempts to pressure the Prime Minister of the Belgian region Wallonia into agreeing to the EU-Canada trade deal have failed. The regional parliaments of Wallonia and Brussels did not agree to mandate the Belgian federal government to sign the deal. The European Union therefore did not have the consent of all Member States to agree. The concerns expressed by Prime Minister Magnette are not new. They are points raised by EPSU, the Canadian unions and a very broad coalition of groups starting 6 years ago with the publication of a study underlining the flaws in the process to come to a EU-Canada trade agreement, followed up by another EPSU study how trade agreements could undermine public services. .
EPSU’s General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan welcomes the decision not to sign now. “The position of the Wallonia Parliament is a recognition of the concerns of workers and people voiced as far back as 6 years. These concerns for example around public services have still not been adequately addressed. Solutions need to be found in the text of the agreement itself rather than via declarations build on legal quick sand. And the EU and Canada need time to do this.”
Public service unions have been part of the resistance to unfair trade deals and have organized actions and protests. Since summer there have been actions in Berlin, Budapest, Brussels, Bratislava, Warsaw, Sofia, Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam and many other cities and towns. Millions have signed petitions and other statements. The European Parliament and national parliaments have held hearings in which public service unions raised concerns. Several EPSU affiliates and many other organisations have played a crucial role in convincing the political parties in Wallonia and Brussels to adopt a critical position. We salute their hard work and perseverance.
EPSU and many other organisations have consistently been raising:
- The problems of the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism and later the Investor Court System to deal with conflicts multinationals have with democratic decisions of States, city councils and other elected bodies.
- The impact the trade agreement can have on public services like health and social services. The so-called negative listing approach combined with standstill and ratchet clauses could lead to further marketization of public services and restrict public authorities to take services back in house if so decided.
- Concerns over how the trade agreement and the regulatory cooperation enshrined in it, impact on protection of consumers’ rights, environmental laws and regulations and social standards for example on health and safety. The precautionary principle is not part of the Treaty. People are concerned about the impact of a web of trade agreements such as the Single Market, CETA, NAFTA, TPP and possibly TTIP and TISA on democracy.
- Lack of strengthened workers’ rights to deal with the large internal market that would be created between Canada and the EU
“This outcome is a signal that the European Union, Canada and other countries like the US, Australia, but also Brazil, Russia and China should make work of fair trade, explains Goudriaan. “Such trade has as objective to improve living and working conditions for people. It strengthens human and trade union rights, addresses climate change, protects the environment and our natural resources and builds rather than undermines democratic institutions and democracy. It starts from the point that people come before profits.”
EPSU will continue to work with our Canadian sister unions and the broader coalition of environmental organisations, consumer groups, municipalities, farmers, anti-poverty campaigners for fair trade.
- For more information on the work of EPSU on trade over the years.