An agreement with severe consequences for our democracy will enter into force without any debate in a democratically elected body - and even if the agreement were suspended, its most harmful clauses would not cease to exist.
The Stop TTIP colation warned today that the CETA, the Canada-EU Trade Agreement, could come into force without ever being voted on by either EU or national parliaments.
That's because the agreement as negotiated contains a 'stealth clause' that would allow large parts of it to enter into force without having ever been agreed upon in any parliament - including the much-loathed 'investor state dispute settlement' (ISDS) which allows corporations to sue governments in secret courts run by corporate lawyers.
"Right now, executives throughout Europe are silently preparing CETA's entry intro force through this back door, which would allow CETA to enter into force once the Council of the European Union, but none of the European Parliaments - gave its consent", writes Stop TTIP's Felix Heilmann in 'Goodbye democracy, hello CETA'.
The backdoor stealth clause was described by the German ministry of economics as "perfectly democratic" just last month, adds Heilmann - a paradoxical use of the word when applied to a deliberate evasion of normal democratic accountability via elected representatives.
So why does this matter so much? First, Canadian corporations, mining and fossil fuel corporations in particular, are aggressive users of ISDS mechanisms, with numerous legal actions under way under various free trade agreements with Colombia, El Salvador, Romania and even the USA - which is being sued for $15 billion for turning down the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Second, CETA would act as a 'back door' for US corporations if the EU-US TTIP (Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership) deal is delayed or abandoned. As Maude Barlow wrote on The Ecologist, "CETA could act as a 'back room' for American corporations whether TTIP is adopted or not."
That's because all a US corporation would have to do is start up a subsidiary in Canada and put all its EU investments through it, to be 'protected' by CETA's ISDS provisions.
Just 15 of 28 governments can force CETA into effect
Under the 'stealth clause' allowing for 'provisional implementation' of CETA "probably 95 per cent" of the agreement would come into force once 15 out of the 28 EU member states' governments gave their consent, according to the Canadian chief negotiator Steve Verheul.
This 95% would include corporate courts, as Bernd Lange, chair of the European Parliament's committee on international trade, admitted. "In clear words", writes Heilmann: "Neither the European Parliament, nor any national parliament, would have to give their consent to CETA and it would still be put in practice!"
Once provisionally implemented, the agreement could continue to be in force indefinitely without having ever been discussed in a parliament - as there would be no deadline on when a parliament would need to vote on it in order for the agreement to be fully implemented.
And even if a parliament of a member state decides to reject CETA, there would be no legal duty for the EU to withdraw from the treaty, as the scientific advisory board of the German Bundestag acknowledges.
The only way to leave CETA would be with a vote in the EU's Council of Ministers, which includes only representatives of member state governments. As such it is not directly affected by parliamentary decisions: depending on national procedures, parliaments' democratic decisions need not make any difference.
CETA will remain in force for three years after leaving
Even EU Member States that defy the European Commission to withdraw from CETA would be subject to corporate lawsuits for three full years after exiting.
Article 30.8 of the CETA agreement (page 228) states that ISDS claims "may be submitted ... if ... no more than three years have elapsed since the date of suspension or termination of the agreement."
One shocking example of where this leads to was provided in 2014, when Russia was forced to pay $50 billion due to an ISDS lawsuit made possible by a treaty the country had only provisionally implemented and actually decided to leave in 2009 - however, due to a clause comparable to the one found in CETA, Russia has still been forced to pay.
"So let's wrap this up", concludes Heilmann. "Due to provisional implementation, an agreement with severe consequences for our democracy will enter into force without any debate in a democratically elected body - and even if the agreement were suspended, its most harmful clauses would not cease to exist."
But while TTIP is arousing all the political controversy and media attention, even many dedicated TTIP campaigners have never even heard of CETA, never mind grasped how it could put into effect many of TTIP's worst provisons without a single democratic vote by any European country.
Petition: oppose TTIP and CETA at Stop TTIP.
Principal source: 'Goodbye democracy, hello CETA' by Felix Heilmann.
Stop TTIP is an alliance of more than 500 European organisations running campaigns and actions against TTIP and CETA. "We believe that these two trade and investment agreements must be stopped because they pose a threat to democracy, the rule of law, the environment, health, public services as well as consumer and labour rights."