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Let’s dump CETA once and for all!

February 2017 by La Quadrature du Net

On 15 February, the European Parliament will decide whether to ratify the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA)1

In choosing to back this agreement, MEPs would allow its partial implementation and would open the door for the next steps of the legislative process, which could lead to its complete and definitive implementation. On the other hand, rejecting it would be a death-blow for the agreement, just as it was for ACTA in July 2012. Beyond the unacceptable procedure of its elaboration, CETA is a grave threat to our liberties and fundamental rights. Therefore, La Quadrature du Net calls upon MEPs to oppose it strongly.

Negotiated behind closed doors by civil servants from Canada and the European Union between 2009 and 2013, CETA came up in public debate in July 2012, when a draft version leaked with complete sections copied directly from ACTA, and was rightly rejected by the European Parliament. Since then, demonstrations have taken place all through the European Union and Canada to protest the agreement and, more generally, world-wide against such commercial agreements, notably TAFTA, TISA or the TPP (fr).

From the very processes of working them out, these agreements constitute a serious problem: rather than being discussed by elected representatives – with the limits inherent to representative democracies – they are drafted in secret and under the eye and influence of lobbies from powerful multinationals. These negotiations are even less acceptable than agreements bearing on fundamental rights, and whose purpose is to supersede national legislation in the hierarchy of legal norms. Only once finalized are these agreements submitted to legislatures, with no possibility to amend them, and along with powerful pressure to adopt them, as can be seen in the conditions of the vote of the Wallonian legislature (fr).
What’s even worse, should it be adopted by the European Parliament, almost all of CETA would be enforced before consulting the institutions of each Member State, a process that could last for years. Indeed, the deal’s provisions deemed to be "not mixed" –i.e., covering only commercial matters– fall within the sole competence of the European Union; these provisions would be enforced on Day One, without the consent of the national and regional parliaments, even though some of them demand to be consulted on these matters (fr).

Entirely apart from how it has been worked out, the substance of the agreement endangers our freedoms and fundamental rights as demonstrated by — among others — the analyses of EDRI and the FFII. In the digital domain alone:

• Concerning personal data and private life: once CETA covers the transfer of personal data between the EU and Canada, it will be become impossible in practice to limit them later in the name of current or future European norms, for instance when there is an incursion on rights identical to what happened to the nullification of "Safe Harbor" by the EU Court of Justice.
When Canada is a member of the "Five Eyes" alliance2 of which Edward Snowden’s revelations and those of other whistleblowers have substantially shown that it engages in massive, illegal surveillance of entire populations, this is a particularly disquieting point.

• Copyright and patent law : if the repressive measures of the ACTA agreement have disappeared from CETA’s final version, the agreement still contains very dangerous provisions in these fields and would impose a hardening of Canadian law, especially for the protection of patents. But above all it would write current law into a text superseding the current hierarchy of norms, and would greatly limit any possibility to modify the text in the future, for example in order to encourage access to knowledge or sharing and remixing culture.

• Parallel legal system : CETA would allow multinational companies to sue States before ad hoc arbitration courts if they their interests harmed or if they consider themselves victims of "indirect expropriation" or "unfair and inequitable treatment". Several examples of abusive actions permitted by similar mechanisms in other agreements make us fear that such a provision would prevent member States from adopting progressive laws, for example in favour of Net Neutrality, free software, data protection or online sharing.

Beyond the digital issues, the agreement would endanger many other sectors, such as the environment, labour law or the protection of health. For all these reasons, La Quadrature du Net calls on MEPs to strongly and definitely reject CETA during the vote in the plenary session scheduled for the 15 February.

Just after the turbulent election of Antonio Tajani at the head of the European Parliament and shortly before major elections in the Netherlands, in Germany and in France, the power balance and the positions of the political groups of the institution are changing and make it difficult to foresee the result of the vote. Unsurprisingly, most of the the conservatives (EPP and ECR) and the centrists (ALDE) seem to be resigned to CETA, whereas the Greens (GREENS/EFA), the European United Left (GUE) and the nationalists (ENF)oppose it.

The key group that could tilt the balance of the vote will be the social democrats (S&D), who are divided on the question; while the German deputies of the groups are in favour of CETA, the French deputies openly oppose it – while their colleagues of the National Assembly are refining their convictions. The website CETA Check identifies and the promises of votes in one place, so we can oversee the current balance of positions.

In order to enable all of us to contact the Members of the European Parliament - simply and for free - and try to convince them to oppose CETA, La Quadrature du Net is launching a PiPhone campaign, and invites everyone to act and take part within all the different mobilisations now taking place. Right now and until the vote on the 15th, let’s inform ourselves more on the consequences of the agreement, let’s share this informations with those around us and make our voices heard in order to make CETA be rejected!

• 1. The free-trade agreement between the EU and Canada. The final version of the text is available online.
• 2. The alliance of the intelligence services of Australia, Canada, the USA, New Zealand, and the UK

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