The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was signed in October 2016 and could provisionally come into force this year. While the UK is still a member of the EU, all EU rights and obligations continue to apply. Therefore CETA remains an important issue.
A number of organisations have expressed concerns about how CETA could affect food standards, public services, our ability to regulate financial services and efforts to tackle climate change, as well as concerns about Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). We should not establish more walls or barriers to trade, but we do need to make trade more just and inclusive. We need to make sure that agreements like CETA do not undermine our crucial labour standards and environmental protections, nor should they give foreign investors special rights to bypass our legal system and prevent governments from legislating in the public interest.
The European Commission proposed CETA as a ‘mixed’ agreement: one containing areas that are under the control of both the EU and individual member states. In order for CETA to be fully implemented therefore, it must be ratified by all EU member states, including through the proper UK Parliamentary process. However, provided the European Parliament gives its consent, the EU will still be able to provisionally implement the vast majority of the agreement – although not the controversial investment court system – without the agreement of the UK Parliament.
It is disappointing that the government failed to bring the agreement before Parliament prior to giving its approval to the European Commission’s signature and provisional implementation of CETA.
I do not believe we should conduct trade negotiations without Parliamentary scrutiny and with no democratic control. I will continue to monitor developments on this issue and to call for more just and inclusive trade agreements that ensure that governments can always legislate in the public interest.