September 30 2015 - by Dr. Kurt Huebner, Director of the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia
For quite a while, CETA was top news in Canada, and one would have expected that the Harper government would proudly present it as a success story for an active trade policy agenda. However, 'lie low' and 'fly under the radar' has been so far the attitude taken, not only by the Conservatives but also by the two other main Canadian parties. It seems that the latter are somehow happy not to present their actual thinking about Canada's future in the global economy.
CETA is still being read by the legal guys on both sides of the Atlantic, and the plan is that ratification happens in 2016. I still think this is what will happen. The question, though, is will we see amendments? Prime candidate is the Investor-State-Dispute Settlement (ISDS) that has become so prominent in the TTIP negotiations, and is now a household term in European middle class families. Criticism against this mechanism is widespread, and in the case of Germany - the biggest exporter of the EU - led to a coalition between the Social Democratic Party and the Federal Trade Union that wanted to oppose this particular element. Parallel, the EU Commission was bombarded with signatures against TTIP. Civil society organizations still try hard to keep up the heat. Not so the Social Democrats. They seem to be willing to work out a compromise for the upcoming TTIP agreement but are willing to stick with the CETA text on ISDS. The relatively informed debate in Europe has no Canadian equivalent; in particular political parties tend to see trade policy as a sideshow that needs no deep involvement of the public. Whether this changes after October 19 will be seen.
Dr. Kurt Huebner is the Director of the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia and holds a Jean Monnet Chair for European Integration and Global Political Economy. He is also part of a pan-Canada network of experts working on European policy issues, the Strategic Knowledge Cluster Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue.