10 January 2017

MEPs warned: CETA threatens the environment and public health

Public interest groups highlight range of risks as ENVI committee votes on CETA support

Simon McKeagney, Editor

MEPs from the influential Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) will vote on Thursday whether or not to recommend consent to the EU-Canada deal CETA, before it is formally voted on by all 751 MEPs next month.

The ENVI committee is responsible for assessing many aspects of the agreement that are a concern to citizens, from chemical and pesticide regulation, to animal welfare, food safety and protection of the climate. 

In 2015 the committee passed an opinion on TTIP which demanded a series of changes to address the deficits in adequately protecting and promoting social and environmental protection in the TTIP negotiations. Critics say that the CETA deal has breached many of those same demands outlined in the ENVI opinion of 2015.

In an email to committee colleagues, Green rapporteur for the CETA opinion Bart Staes says CETA breaches “seven red lines, risks undermining fundamental standards in four areas, and does not fulfil five other key demands” if compared to the TTIP opinion in 2015. Outlining these in his draft opinion, due to be voted on Thursday, Staes cites a series of standards that have been sacrificed in order to facilitate the trade interests of Canada. 

Dirty tar sands and dangerous substances protected 

‘[The Commission] has undermined the EU fuel quality directive to allow Canada to export fuel from dirty tar sands, and now even proposes to unlawfully modify provisions on endocrine disrupters in pesticide law. The Commission has acted in the interests of Canadian companies by refraining from banning cyanide in mining despite the EP calling for a ban, and by recently authorising the use of carcinogenic substances in paints (lead chromates) even though EU companies use safer alternatives’

CETA is ‘bound to make this worse’ and is ‘further aggravated by granting investors the rights to sue states- while commitments on environmental standards remain unenforceable’ according to Staes opinion. 

The full draft, dated December 6 (available here) also highlights the areas where CETA fails to comply with previous demands by the ENVI committee on international trade agreements, including protecting the precautionary principle, public services and animal welfare. It also notes that despite Canada being one of the strongest critics of EU chemical regulations ‘REACH’, CETA formalises cooperation on chemicals, ‘thus inviting one of our strongest opponents to REACH in its implementation’. 

The draft opinion currently recommends the Parliament to ‘decline to give its consent’ to CETA, but this could change depending on what amendments by other MEPs are voted through on Thursday.

Public interest groups, including Greenpeace and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, this week called on the committee’s MEPs to support the draft opinion to reject CETA, as worded. While some progressive MEPs have indicated their support the resolution, campaigners are urging citizens to contact their MEPs to ensure the pressure to reject CETA is retained. 

On December 8, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) was the first committee to vote against CETA, due to concerns over employment and worker's rights. MEPs cast doubt on whether CETA would benefit working conditions, reduce inequality or create quality jobs. 

Ask your MEP to vote no to CETA: 

Read the draft opinion here.

Read the call by civil society groups here.

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