The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) agreement is set to open up a free trade area between the 28 members of the EU and Canada, but — although it has been signed — still faces opposition from within the European Parliament.
However, in a blow to environmental campaigners, the the European Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI), January 12, voted through the trade deal. Campaign group Stop TTIP said, following the vote: "Money has Trumped the Environment".
The root of the opposition centers on the Investor State Dispute Settlement system, which would allow companies within the trade deal to take legal action, via a special tribunal, against a member state that applied legislation preventing the sale of goods by a company that would affect its profits.
Opponents of the deal say this will allow big pharma companies and agrochemical groups to ride roughshod over EU member states and water down existing high standards of environmental and public health safety.
"A worrying conclusion from this vote is that it comes from a committee that should to be the most cautious and diligent of them all. In the end, what is more important than the health and safety of the citizens they represent? Members of ENVI are responsible for protecting us against toxic chemicals, hormone-ridden beef, hidden GMOs [Genetically Modified Organisms] and all of the other harmful substances entering the market. When ENVI fails to do its job, EU citizens are fully exposed to the cheapest and dirtiest production methods around," said Stop TTIP, which also campaigns against CETA."
"CETA is an all-out assault on many of the EU's protective measures including REACH, the Precautionary Principle and the Paris Agreement. Experts and civil societies have highlighted the threats time and time again, but certain Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) seem to stubbornly ignore them. By consenting to CETA, these MEPs are favouring corporate interests over EU citizens and the environment," the group said.
Its criticism was echoed by the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) which has expressed its deep concerns regarding CETA in its latest publication 'The Unhealthy Side Effects of CETA' which identifies 12 ways in which CETA could undermine good health — including opening the door for businesses to challenge public health laws, limiting policy choices for Services of General Interest (social, healthcare, education, water), promoting tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and ignoring the global health threat of antimicrobial resistance.
"The Committee has decided not to follow the progressive line marked by the Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) Committee and to address citizens' concerns. Obtaining a better deal for health and consumers is still possible, but the opportunities are beginning to thin out," said Zoltán Massay-Kosubek, EPHA Policy Coordinator for Healthy Trade.