Workers' Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA) calls on members of parliament to reject CETA ultimatum



Today, Thursday 27 October, an intra-Belgium draft agreement has been reached, mandating the federal governement to sign the free trade agreement with Canada, the so-called CETA. This draft agreement is yet to be approved by the regional parliaments of Wallonia and Brussels. Without such approval the agreement is null and void. This procedure comes with yet another ultimatum: the agreement has to be signed within 48 hours.

“The PTB-PVDA (Workers' Party of Belgium) launches an e-mail campaign to call upon all members of parliament in Belgium, be they in favor or against CETA, to fulfil their democratic duty and reject this new ultimatum. Democracy means that the voice of the citizens has to be heard. It means listening to the voice of the social organizations that cater to millions of Belgians: mutual social security organizations, consumer groups, trade unions, environmental organizations, peasant organizations and citizens movements. They demand a broad democratic debate on the consequences of this type of free trade agreeements, a right they are entitled to. Let this debate take place, let democracy have its way, and take time for a thorough discussion. Both advocates and opponents of CETA will benefit from it”, says PTB-PVDA Chairman Peter Mertens. 

Respect for the Brussels and Walloon parliaments

“Thanks to the bottom-up mobilization and the debate that has been waged in the Walloon Parliament since two years, the discussion has finally broadened to the large society-wide level it deserves. We shouldn't stop this dynamic now by rapidly pushing the agreement through the parliaments. Thanks to the resistance of the Walloon and Brussels parliaments, we now have more clarity on the enormous impact CETA may have on working conditions, agriculture, the environment, health care and public services. We thank the Walloon and Brussels members of parliament for having opened up the horizon, for having rescued the debate from backroom politics”, says Peter Mertens.

New ultimatum: many promises, few hard guarantees

“A small number of changes have been introduced, but what is presented now appears to excel mainly in many promises and few guarantees. The principle of courts of exception remains, but the European Commission promises to 'improve them'. A promise without any hard substance. There is also the promise of better protection for agricultural workers. These minor changes have come about because of the broad resistance and debate, but the CETA agreement has not been altered in its essence. There is no single reason why suddenly rush it through within 48 hours. We first need to know what are crystal-clear and legally binding guarantees, and what are mere promises”, according to Mertens. “Moreover, the fact remains that none of the safeguards in the CETA chapters on the environment and on social affairs are legally enforceable.” 

Faced with the 'lobbycracy', let us straighten our backs

“However much respect we may have for the attitude of Walloon Minister-President Paul Magnette and for the Brussels and Walloon parliaments, it would be a pity to give in at the very last moment. We understand pressure to be enormous, both from the 'lobbycracy' and from big business, from the European elite as well as from major parts of European social-democracy. Which is, by the way, far from the first time to happen. We have seen this when the Lisbon Treaty was pushed through, even as its content had been rejected by the French and Dutch people. And we have seen how much pressure came to bear upon the Greek government last year. Such conditions are very hard, but precisely under such pressure of ultimatums and blackmail politics, it seems better to us to straighten our backs and organize a broad democratic debate”, says Mertens. “Thus we call on all members of parliament in our country, both opponents and advocates of CETA, to reject the latest ultimatum and take the time necessary for a broad democratic debate throughout the country.”

Fair Trade, no Free Trade

“We want fair trade, not free trade. The eastward expansion of the European market, in 2004 and 2007, has brought about a wave of social dumping. The expansion of the Canadian market to the United States and Mexico, with the NAFTA agreement, has cost millions of jobs. It caused social dumping as well as ecological dumping. This kind of free trade agreements is dangerous for democracy. And everybody knows that once the agreement with Canada is pushed through, it will serve as a pretext for the larger free trade agreement with the US, the so-called TTIP”, says Peter Mertens. “We favor a different type of trade agreements, with fair trade, fair prices, steal-hard guarantees for social and ecological progress, and respect for the national, democratic justice systems. The society at large is entitled to this debate. That is why we call on everyone to participate in our e-mail campaign.”