Wednesday July 30, 2014
Germans concerned about CETA investor protection rules: Ambassador
Germany is concerned about the hotly-disputed investor protection measures in Canada-European trade talks, German Ambassador Werner Wnendt says, but adds it’s not likely to derail the five-year-old negotiations.
Wnendt said a German newspaper report that Berlin would not sign a Canada-EU pact containing an investor protection clause was premature and “is not the position of the German government.”
“This is much too early at this point in time to say that because we still wait for the treaty as such as it’s been negotiated between the (European) Commission and the Canadian government,” he told CBC-TV Monday. “We haven’t seen the final proposal.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a tentative free-trade deal with the EU last October, but talks have yet to wrap up. Canada is hoping the next major hurdle in the negotiations can be cleared by September, with the two sides initialing a ready-to-be-approved agreement.
But rising European concerns about an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism in the Canada-EU deal could put its eventual ratification in doubt.
The Canadian government is silent on the details of the talks, but business sources say the issue of how to resolve disputes between foreign corporations and governments under a future pact is the last outstanding element in the negotiations.
ISDS provisions allow multinational corporations that believe they are being treated unfairly to sue a government before a special tribunal rather than the normal court system. While business says such measures ensure investor security, opponents say they allow corporations to thwart government attempts to regulate on behalf of the public.
“There are concerns among Germans that such a clause may mean that eventually legislation will have to be changed in Germany and other European countries,” Wnendt said. “It is something that needs to be taken seriously by the government, of course, and that’s being discussed.” He said it will need to be addressed by the European Commission and the European people once the ready-to-be-approved agreement is signed.
He noted that Germany believes special tribunals to adjudicate investor-state disputes are unnecessary in countries like Canada and those in Europe where the regular court systems are capable of handling such legal conflicts.
The Canadian government has dismissed the notion that ISDS issues might hold up the Canada-EU negotiations. “Excellent progress” is being made in the talks, a government spokesperson said.
But initialing the deal in September would be only one step in an approval process that could last another 18 months or longer. Besides being ratified in Ottawa, the Canada-EU pact, officially known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), will have to win final approval from the European Parliament, each of the 28 member states of the EU and the European Council, which brings together the heads of the 28 states and the European Commission president. (Source: Toronto Star)