Trade deal change clarifies gov’t regulation abilities

A contentious portion of the proposed trade agreement between Canada and the European Union involving investment protection provisions has been modified.

Federal international trade minister Chrystia Freelance and European commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmstrom issued a joint re-lease Feb. 29 to announce changes to the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) and completion of a legal review.

“Canada and the European Commission will now complete the translation and review of the text in French and the 21 other EU treaty languages,” the two said in a news release.

“Once finalized, we will focus on the swift ratification of CETA so that individuals and businesses, both large and small, are able to benefit from the opportunities offered by this gold-standard agreement.”

They further stated confidence that CETA would be signed this year and implemented in 2017.

Canada and the EU had been wrangling over the investor-state dispute settlement process (ISDS), which is part of several Canadian trade agreements.

Concerns centred on the ability of democratically elected governments to regulate investor activities within their borders.

The EC said changes represent “a clear break from the current ISDS system and shows commitment to work together to establish a multilateral investment tribunal.”

EU first vice-president Frans Timmermans said the new wording in CETA serves to “demonstrate our determination to protect governments’ right to regulate and to en-sure that investment disputes will be adjudicated in full accordance with the rule of law.”

The Canadian international trade department said on its website that CETA was changed “to clarify provisions on the right to regulate by all orders of government, introduce more detailed commitments on ethics for members of tribunals, include a revised process for the selection of tribunal members and introduce an appellate mechanism.”

The government said the changes did not diminish protections for Canadian investors.

The modifications raised concerns from Scott Sinclair of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

He said in an opinion piece published through Troy Media that Canada made changes to appease the EU and that the new appeal mechanism in CETA could potentially drag out disputes and make them more costly.

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