Draft EU-Canada Trade Agreement Order

Part of Food Advertising (Protection of Children from Targeting) – in the House of Commons at 2:09 pm on 26th June 2018.

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Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley 2:09 pm, 26th June 2018

I declare an interest as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on transatlantic trade. Also, like many of my constituents and many colleagues here, I have family in Canada. I will shorten what I was going to say about our strong links to Canada, but I want to stress our shared history, culture and institutions, both national and international. Also, we have heard about Canada’s Liberal Government, whose Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has been trashed by Team Trump. So, what’s not to like?

The question we have to ask is: if not Canada, who? We will obviously be discussing trade relations with the EU, but that will not be an easy discussion and it will take some time. Obviously, in the future we will rightly have to do a trade deal with the United States, but at the moment, given that it is pulling back from TTIP and NAFTA, and that it has shut down discussions on the TPP, and with the tariff wars extending, this is not the best environment in which to have those discussions.

Discussions with China will need to focus on addressing China’s trade-distorting practices, which are a threat to the multilateral system, as was said recently in a statement from the European Trade Union Confederation and the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations in the United States. We shall be discussing Japan in a few minutes, but it too is a mature democracy and very effective trading partner. It is a big investor in the UK, and a country with which we ought to be doing a trade deal as part of the world trading order. So I say again: if not Canada, who? I suppose we could do a trade deal with Venezuela, but it might not meet the human rights hurdle any time soon.

What have the underlying problems been? I can give the House two examples. First, my hon. Friend Barry Gardiner drew our attention to the investor-state dispute settlement provisions, which have caused great concern, but he conceded that over several decades, and with nearly 100 agreements containing ISDS provisions, there have been four cases against the United Kingdom and we lost none of them. Such arrangements are worth looking at, between two trading blocs with mature legal systems, but we seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill.

Secondly, the underlying problem with CETA is that it was seen as the son of TTIP, the transatlantic trade deal to which opposition built up over a period of time—having initially had considerable support in, for example, the progressive areas of the trade union movement—particularly on the basis of anti-Americanism. My hon. Friend mentioned public concern from civil society, by which I think he meant non-governmental organisations. Any study of this will show the way in which this has been orchestrated, particularly by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the foundation of the German left party, Die Linke, which grew out of the old East German Communist party.

In conclusion, this agreement is certainly to be welcomed, in order to strengthen the bonds between our two great nations and great peoples.