Left-wing representatives in Paris submitted a legal challenge to France’s highest constitutional authority arguing that CETA will severely erode the country’s sovereignty.
In particular they argue that the highly controversial Inter State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system, by which US corporations can sue European governments, is incompatible with French law.
French MPs have launched a legal bid to try and block CETA
The pending legal challenge is just the latest blow to hit CETA, which has endured a difficult birth amid opposition from Austria and the Belgian region of Wallonia and widespread citizen protests.
Its troubles have come at a highly sensitive time politically for the EU, which is desperate to prove it can seal meaningful agreements in light of Brexit and Theresa May’s openly global approach to trade.
The EU-Canada deal has endured a difficult birth amid much controversy
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau visited Europe last week to praise the deal
Critics argue the deal will hand unacceptable power to multinational conglomerates and will effectively allow them to dictate the policies of elected governments on a range of important issues.
But Brussels says CETA is the “gold standard” for trade deals and includes safeguards which will protect public services, workers and the environment from corporate vultures.
Earlier this month Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau visited MEPs in Strasbourg to very publicly back the agreement and the EU itself following years of controversy.
However, CETA is still facing serious opposition and has only been provisionally implemented by member states, meaning the full deal could still be vetoed by any one national or regional government.
This could make the ratification by France of the CETA agreement impossible as it stands
And now left-wing MPs in France are trying to stop the entire accord in its tracks, by getting the judges in Paris to rule that it is incompatible with the country’s constitution.
In an open letter the 106 National Assembly representative said CETA represented an unacceptable loss of sovereignty for the individual member states and went “beyond what they agreed upon in favour of the EU”.
They also argued that the ISDS was illegal because it “transfers competences to bodies which do not relate to the legal order of the European Union or its member states, but whose powers may directly or indirectly constrain them”.
They added: “It therefore appears that several provisions of the ISDS still infringe the constitution, which could make the ratification by France of the CETA agreement impossible as it stands.”
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The system for settling disputes is the most controversial part of the deal, as it allows companies to sue governments for policies that are against their commercial interests in a secretive international court.
In the past ISDS has been used to pursue administrations that tried to tighten up environmental legislation, ban advertising on cigarette packets and even raise the minimum wage.
And the tiny Belgian region of Wallonia, which threatened to sink the entire deal altogether last year, has strongly implied it will not agree to ratify CETA containing the dispute settlement in its current form.
Under the terms of the provisional application a number of tariffs will be removed on products moving between the EU and Canada but the most contentions measures, including ISDS, will not be activated.