rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Wallonia's inspiring stand on CETA

Photo: Behind the Numbers

This week the regional government of Wallonia in Belgium rebuffed Canada's last-minute efforts to salvage a deeply flawed and increasingly unpopular transatlantic free trade agreement. By standing firm under incredible pressure (and a considerable amount of bullying), First Minister Paul Magnette gave a voice to millions of citizens who feel the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) fails to represent their interests.

His principled opposition to CETA, as negotiated, is not about protectionism or indeed about the importance of international trade. As Magnette said this week: "The question is in fact, what kind of globalization do we want?"

Do we want to expand a discredited investor-state dispute settlement system that, despite procedural reforms, still gives special rights to foreign investors to challenge public policies and regulations that hurt their profits?

Should regulations be viewed as burdens on business and impediments to trade, or as essential protections for workers, consumers and the environment?

Why can't a treaty like CETA fully exclude public services, ensuring governments can expand them or reverse privatizations without risking costly lawsuits from aggrieved investors?

An "interpretive declaration," hastily cobbled together, in secret, over the past two weeks is essentially an admission these are legitimate concerns. But it fails to fix them. If governments are serious about addressing the flaws in CETA, they need to reopen and amend the text, as Wallonia and others have demanded.

It was embarrassing to see both Prime Minister Trudeau and Trade Minister Freeland scold Europeans about the state of their democratic institutions and their internal decision-making processes. Countries are not "nice" and "patient." What happened this week in Brussels should not be seen as a clash between Europe and Canada.

Rather, it is about political courage creating the space for an overdue debate about whose interests should be served by trade treaties -- citizens or corporations?

Whatever the course of events over the coming weeks, Wallonia's resistance has given Canada and the EU a historic opportunity -- to give reality to their rhetoric about forging a transatlantic relationship based on "progressive" values.

Scott Sinclair is the director of the CCPA's Trade and Investment Research Project. Stuart Trew is the editor of The Monitor, the CCPA's national magazine. Follow Stuart on Twitter @StuJT.

Scott and Stuart wrote this from Brussels, where they spoke about CETA in the European Parliament and are discussing the deal with civil society organizations and others.

Please chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.