Controversy Analysis Of This Article
Read the article

Ceta isn’t perfect, but Europe’s radical left was wrong to oppose it
Published in Guardian on 2016-11-07T07:00:39+00:00
1 days
Topicukuk ireland christmasuk social china

Negative Comments

no, just the "minor" problem of power transfer and stronger shackles with bigger stick for the dissenters.

When will the Guardian drop their ridiculous claims that they're a "progressive" outfit. What a pathetic fluff piece on Justin Trudeau, massive generalisations on "radical" left and even the right while at the same time completely ignoring the legitimate grievances people have with CETA.

Bloomin' climate change campaigners trying to save poor people and their corrupt governments. Let them fry, it's what the market wants.

Why would you bring Syria and Darfur into this? That a fallacy at best, and a pretty heartless attempt at 'Oh look a distraction!' at worst. This piece is ignoring and belittling every argument made against CETA (investment courts, for instance), and really leaves fairly little to argue about since next to none of if pertains the subject at hand.

Marc Dauncey:
Another step in the sad decline of this once-great newspaper. Cheerleading neoliberal measures to allow corporations to bypass parliament. What is this, the HSBC Telegraph?

Positive Comments

Walter Gedenspire:
We Canadians are polite and in favour of World Peace.Personally, I am just in favour of cheaper European cheese through CETA.Naive,eh?

The fundamental building blocks: strong international democratic systems, the return of money creation to democratic control, and proper international monetary exchange to replace the Keynes designed post war system that was scrapped in favour of regressing to a fuedal lawless system when it struck it's limits. These more fundamental things are needed to provide the correct context for free trade to operate for the benefit of people.

Ceta and TTIP are just the latest tools for the corporate take over if Europe. We will come to regret this as soon as a democratic vote is overturned because some spiv says it will harm their profits.

To say that Canada has a special relationship and is admired by us is disingenuous and takes us for morons. Yea there is history -so what? Their incredulous treatment of the indigenous population in Canada should make it clear that our friendship has bounds and the line has been crossed together with CETA and their atrocious environmental record.

Peter Sagar:
"I’m not saying Ceta is perfect, nor that it shouldn’t be scrutinised. " Surely it should have been scrutinised by the people of Europe before it was signed?

Controversy Analysis

Ceta isn’t perfect, but Europe’s radical left was wrong to oppose it
Published in Guardian on 2016-11-07T07:00:39+00:00

Justin Trudeaus Canada offers a liberal, progressive face to the world, one that surely should be applauded in an era of rising bigotry and populism. If Donald Trump is elected, European democrats may increasingly turn to Canada as an important interlocutor across the Atlantic. So how is it that the European Unions trade dealings with Canada ended up becoming such a focus of anger? Surely Canada, with its solid democracy, its tolerance and openness, stands out as a haven of decency. As Canadian trade minister Chrystia Freeland said, Canada is a country that shares European values.

Related: The transatlantic trade deal TTIP may be dead, but something even worse is coming | George Monbiot

But friendliness to Canada has not been readily on offer among parts of Europes radical left. Instead, the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) a 1,500-page document seven years in the making became the target of a spectacularly hostile campaign. For those who waged it, this was a battle in which democracy itself was at stake, not just the question of whether Europe would suddenly be swamped with chlorinated chicken or hormonally altered beef (which it wont). That Justin Trudeau called the text progressive mattered little.

Across social media, warnings were rife that the deal was a Trojan horse. Belgiums Wallonia region (3.5 million inhabitants), which set out to oppose Ceta, was heralded as a champion defending the rights of all European citizens (508 million people). In the end, the treaty was signed, after an interpretative document was added to it but without a single word of the treaty itself being changed.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the EU commission, stated an uncomfortable fact. Nobody protests when we sign an agreement with Vietnam, which is a great democracy. But there are protests when we sign with the terrible Canadian dictatorship, he said. That did little to sway Ceta critics. These days, anything that smacks of officialdom or of the establishment gets swiftly disqualified.

Im not saying Ceta is perfect, nor that it shouldnt be scrutinised. Of course, in the negotiation of free trade deals, interests can collide. Finding the right compromise is essential. The anti-Ceta movement in Wallonia and elsewhere was worried about a system of arbitration courts not being independent enough from the pressures of big business. What the objectors overlooked was that Ceta introduced more government oversight than any prior EU trade agreement.

Ceta has been maligned as a dangerous step towards TTIP, even after that deal was put on hold

Rather, Im asking why so much wrath came down on an EU agreement with a country whose friendliness and proximity to European social-democratic principles should have inspired more trust. Ceta has been maligned as a dangerous step towards the EU-US TTIP agreement, even after that deal was put on hold, if not buried. Ceta also suffered from the Brexit vote, which made governments in Paris and Berlin worry about demands to repatriate powers from Brussels. As a result, Wallonia, where the ruling socialists were under pressure from the anti-globalisation radical left, got its 15 minutes of fame. It temporarily blocked the deal with Canada, making the EU look dysfunctional.

These days, the question of what triggers outrage and what doesnt could be a good topic for academic research. There are so many daunting international issues, from mass slaughter in Syria to refugees drowning off European shores, yet these tragedies fail to produce the same kind of grassroots mobilisation that free trade agreements do.

This is not to say that holding multinationals to account isnt important it is. But when looking at the crowds that gather in European cities on trade issues (300,000 demonstrated in Berlin a year ago against TTIP, and other, if smaller, public protests were held against Ceta), Im reminded of another episode of selective indignation.

Canadas prime minister Justin Trudeau. Photograph: Chris Wattie/Reuters

This was during the 2009 Copenhagen summit on climate. Tens of thousands of activists demonstrated to exert pressure on negotiators, and rightly so. But one of their key slogans was in support of the G77 group of developing nations, which that year happened to be chaired by Sudan a country whose government had been carrying out atrocities in Darfur, and whose president had just become the object of an international arrest warrant issued by the international criminal court. None of this awkwardness got much mention at the time from climate protesters.

Related: There is a vision of what a progressive Britain could be. Its called Canada | Gaby Hinsliff

That said, the anti-Ceta movement has served a purpose. It has forced EU officialdom to think much harder about how it needs to convince citizens of the benefits of free trade, at a time when trade has almost become a byword for evil. It has also helped ingrain the notion that transparency and pedagogy (the task of explaining, tirelessly) are essential to the very survival of the European project. At least citizens have stopped ignoring what Brussels is up to.

Trade is a key area where the EU must act as a bloc if it is to be effective globally (if it doesnt, then China will set the rules). But now, Ceta will likely be held hostage to 38 national and regional assemblies across Europe. This kind of local vetocracy is also what happened to the EU-Ukraine association agreement, blocked by a Dutch referendum that required just 300,000 signatures to go ahead. Those who think such trends are good for the anti-globalisation struggle should reflect on how they also affect efforts to forge a decent EU policy on refugees basically, shattering them.

Whats perhaps most disturbing is that Ceta has been as much criticised by Europes far left as it has by the far right. This uneasy but real convergence of some progressives with constituencies that applaud Donald Trump and other nationalist populists should be scrutinised. No doubt it will have been noticed in friendly, democratic Canada.

This article was amended on 7 November 2016. In the penultimate paragraph it originally said that the EU-Ukraine association agreement was blocked by a Dutch referendum in which 300,000 people took part, but in fact more than 4 million took part. The referendum required 300,000 signatures before it could be conducted.