But there is still a chance to stop it in the European Parliament by writing to your MEP, and asking them to vote against ratification next week. You can contact your MEP using the wonderful free service WriteToThem. Here's what I've sent to mine:
I am writing to you to ask you to vote against CETA ratification next week, because it has minimal benefits, and a great many risks that have not been estimated, but are likely to be large.
Despite vague claims to the contrary, CETA offers almost no benefits for the EU. According to the joint study commissioned by the EU and Canada (http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2008/october/tradoc_141032.pdf): "The annual real income gain by the year 2014, compared to the baseline scenario, would be approximately €11.6 billion for the EU (representing 0.08% of EU GDP)".
The study's title is "Assessing the costs and benefits of a closer EU-Canada economic partnership", but it offers no formal estimate of the costs associated with CETA. This is an extraordinary deficiency: even the smallest business would carefully weigh up the costs and the benefits before agreeing a deal. And yet the European Parliament is being asked to ratify CETA without being told the true costs.
These are likely to be high in many areas. For example, the "new" Investment Court System (ICS) will open up the EU to being sued by thousands of US companies that have subsidiaries in Canada. For most member states, this will be the first time that US companies are able to use investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals to claim millions – or even billions – of euros over laws and regulations which they claim harms their investments. ISDS claims alone could wipe out the tiny €11.6 billion GDP gain that CETA is predicted to produce according to the official study.
Despite the fact that ICS is supposed to address the avowed problems with the current ISDS system, it actually fails to do this because it still gives companies a means to put pressure on governments to rescind laws, even if it cannot force them to do so. Faced with potentially huge fines – one ISDS award was for $50 billion (http://www.shearman.com/en/services/practices/international-arbitration/yukos-arbitral-award) – governments are very likely to choose to withdraw regulations rather than pay out such vast sums.
It is also worth bearing in mind that a 2014 EU consultation on ISDS drew an unprecedented 145,000 negative responses calling for the system to be dropped from trade agreements (http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=1234&title=Report-presented-today-Consultation-on-investment-protection-in-EU-US-trade-talks). Making a few cosmetic changes and re-branding ISDS as ICS rides roughshod over the public's views on this important matter. Moreover, there is no reason to include ISDS/ICS at all. Canada's legal system is one of the fairest in the world, and so providing companies with additional privileges not available to governments or the public is simply unjustified.
There are further, more subtle problems with CETA. For example, the regulatory chapter stipulates that parties have to ensure "that licensing and qualification procedures are as simple as possible and do not unduly complicate or delay the supply of a service or the pursuit of any other economic activity" (Article 12.3). It is easy to foresee companies challenging requirements for public input, environmental assessments and archaeological studies as not being "as simple as possible". Rather than face costly legal challenges, local authorities are likely to drop these important aspects of regulatory approval, resulting in a general lowering of standards as "economic activity" is placed above all other considerations.
More generally, CETA does not protect the environment as is sometimes claimed. CETA’s environmental provisions cannot be enforced through trade sanctions or financial penalties if they are violated. Something that cannot be enforced may possess symbolic – or marketing – value, but is of little practical use when it comes to protecting the environment. This is another way in which CETA's true costs are being masked by exaggerated claims about its benefits.
Taken together with the fact that even the official econometric study was able to find only vanishingly small economic benefits, these many hidden problems and their unquantified costs underline why CETA is a bad deal for the environment, a bad deal for the public and a bad deal for the EU. Even if its supporters claim otherwise, without any justification, I urge you and your colleagues in the European Parliament to vote against its ratification.