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What's going on with CETA 14 months after negotiations were completed?

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Maude Barlow makes a convincing case against CETA, at the Austrian Parliament ea

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Given the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was "approved in principle" in October 2013 and the subject of a quasi-signing ceremony on Parliament Hill in September 2014, one might wonder what has happened to the agreement 14 months after negotiations on it were completed.

Officially, the text is being legally scrubbed and then translated before it goes to ratification votes.

Normally, that should maybe take several months, not more than a year to do.

As late as May 2015, it had been believed that the legal scrubbing and translation of CETA would be completed by December 2015 with ratification votes possibly beginning in January 2016. Now, the latest speculation is that CETA isn't likely to go before the European Parliament until mid to late 2016 or early 2017.

Part of this likely relates to the controversies with the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), particularly over the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision. That clause, in an attempt to address mounting opposition to it, is likely to be replaced by a "reformed" version of it called the investment court system (ICS).

To date, the European Commission's trade commissioner has said that while ISDS would be replaced with ICS in TTIP, that ISDS would remain as is in CETA.

That could be because the previous Canadian government had not been receptive to the idea of reopening CETA to change that provision. It is likely that the Trudeau government has also been approached by the European Commission to reopen CETA, but Trudeau's "mandate letter" to his minister of trade calls on her to "implement" CETA (which implies it's a done deal, one that isn't about to be renegotiated).

One other clue may be a statement made by German chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to Ottawa in February 2015. At that time, in response to a question about CETA, she stated, "We are currently in the process of transposing the agreement into law, and there are still a few matters that must be clarified."

Could she have been referring to the investor-state dispute settlement provision?

We don't know and given the lack of transparency on CETA we are left guessing.

We do know however that CETA will have to be ratified by the European Parliament and that at present it likely doesn't have the votes to pass as is (that could change if ISDS is switched out and replaced by ICS). We assume too that before CETA goes to that vote it would have to be debated by various European Parliament committees including trade, agriculture and environment.

It is also likely that CETA would have to be voted on by Council of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council. This is a body with 28 national ministers (one per state). For a vote to pass there, it must have the support of 50 per cent of the member states, 74 per cent of the voting weight, and 62 per cent of the EU population. By voting weight, this refers to Germany holding 29 votes, Spain 27, Netherlands 13, Sweden 10, Finland 7 and so on.

And it is widely presumed, because of the "shared competence" rule, that CETA will also be voted on by each of the national legislatures of the 28 member states of the European Union.

The Council of Canadians began campaigning against CETA in October 2008 and we are committed to continuing to campaign until CETA is defeated.

For more on our campaign, please click here.

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