Canadian Government Says CETA Will “Mostly” Kick in July 1

Reports are surfacing that Canada will begin implementing the hugely controversial Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement. They say most of it will kick in on July 1.

If you are a follower of little more than mainstream news, CETA may seem like a harmless trade agreement that knocks down trade barriers and increases prosperity. If, however, you happen to be one of those people who would rather see the details for yourself, chances are, you are one of those people who sees a darker side of the agreement. What the text says may mean different things to different people. If you have a personal focus on digital issues, then you may already know what we know.

A Brief Roundup of Some of the Concerns

Back in 2015, we published an analysis of the digital provisions found in the agreement. Some of those provisions include the ratification of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) treaties, the importation of the DMCA to the rest of the world thanks to the anti-circumvention laws, website blocking (censorship), a three strikes law, a ratcheting up of fines for copyright infringement, and new powers for border security to seize your cell phone at the border for the purpose of enforcing copyright laws.

If your concern is around patent laws, Michael Geist pointed out last year that pharmaceutical costs are set to skyrocket with the provisions in CETA. While he raised a number of valid points, the Canadian government at the time admitted that they never looked into the cost impact of CETA.

If your concern surrounds government sovereignty, then chances are, you’ll be well aware of CETA’s infamous ISDS (Inter-State Dispute Settlement) provisions. These provisions permit multi-national corporations to sue governments if regulations get in the way of their profits or future potential profits.

While there are plenty of concerns around other areas such as the environment and financial institutions, CETA offers concerning provisions for different people across the board.

CETA – The Global Footnote

Even as recently as 2016, whether you are for CETA or against, it’s hard to argue against the fact that how we got here was very unlikely. In 2016, CETA was running into problems with Wallonia rejecting the agreement in favour of their own sovereignty. This led Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to famously shed tears over her inability to grant multi-national corporations new powers over governments through the agreement.

All of this was happening as the then-considered big brother was marching ahead, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP also contains similar provisions as found in CETA and was pushed forth by then president Barack Obama. With seemingly clear roads ahead, more eyes were focused on the TPP because the US already had fast track legislation for the agreement.

To pile on more pressure, other trade agreements were also rolling ahead such as the secret Trades in Services Agreement (TiSA) and the equally secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). By comparison at the time, CETA would ultimately be seen as little more than a footnote that may almost seem redundant.

An Unlikely Turn of Events

In a surprise move, Wallonia, one of the many opponents to the trade agreement, folded under pressure and re-opened the door for CETA’s future. While a dramatic turn of events, the drama that would ensue would completely overshadow these events.

Then-candidate Donald Trump became a lead opponent to the TPP during the Republican primaries. Most people dismissed Trump’s chances of even getting very far in the primaries because of his often crazed stances on various topics and overall unpredictability. These include the building of the wall and a ban on Muslims which include mass deportations. While the rise in his popularity was unexpected, most believed that he would eventually stumble and drop out of the race early on.

As time went on, various events took place that people expected would be the turning point for Trump’s run. These include some off the cuff remarks and what should have been politically fatally damaging video’s. Still, his rise continued unabated to the increasing shock of many. This propelled him straight to winning the nomination. In the one-on-one fight for the White House against democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the expectation was that Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide. Unfortunately for Clinton, the electoral college had other ideas. Though she won the popular vote, the electoral college placed Trump in the White House much to the shock of just about everyone around the world (and to the elation of Russia).

After the election, many wondered what campaign promises Trump would actually keep. In January of this year, Trump followed through on his promise and withdrew the USmuch more combative.

CETA – The Sole Survivor?

With things crumbling with all of these other trade agreements, where does that leave CETA? Well, the US has no part in CETA. So, in the seeming carnage that ensued over the last few months, CETA has gone from a mere footnote in world trade to one of the big shots. CETA moved ahead seemingly being the only agreement left standing.

Last November, Canada initiated the ratification process. While that piece of legislation didn’t specifically contain copyright provisions as feared, those provisions may come later. According to a recent report on the CBC, most of the provisions in CETA may be implemented by July 1. From the report:

Canada is preparing to provisionally apply the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) by July 1.

“We are ready on the European side,” the EU’s trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on a visit to Ottawa last Tuesday to promote the deal.

Now it’s the EU’s turn to wait for Canada.

After CETA’s successful ratification vote in February, the EU suggested it could be provisionally applied by April 1.

Malstrom now says the agreement will enter into force “within weeks.”

“We have done our work,” she said. “We don’t see any delays with this.”

While we have seen trade deal deadlines come and go, this may be a much more plausible promise to keep. Currently, the Liberal party has a majority government, so if there are people who speak out against the agreement, those voices can be ignored as the party just forges ahead and passes legislation to implement the treaty.

That still leaves questions up in the air. These questions include “what provisions will be implemented?”, “What specifically will be implemented after July 1?”, and “Given the Brexit process being underway, will that have an effect on the CETA process?”

Regardless of these questions, it is currently looking like Canada will get CETA whether it wanted or not.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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