Secretive CETA could be signed by year-end
A few months ago we posted about the threat the Canada-EU Trade Agreement, or CETA poses to Internet freedom, and explained why it could be bad for Canadians—it’s a secretive and binding international agreement like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Internet freedom community loudly voiced its concern when a portion of the agreement was leaked, indicating that some of the worst Internet restriction provisions of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) were being reproduced word for word in the new CETA agreement.
Ahead of the next round of CETA negotiations, La Quadrature du Net, one of the Internet freedom groups that fought against ACTA, has called on Members of the European Parliament to “demand full transparency and be ready to reject CETA as they did with ACTA, if any of the anti-Internet, anti-citizens' freedoms provisions remain in the final agreement”.
CETA could be signed and sealed sooner than we realize, as Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast has stated that he expects the negotiations could be concluded by year-end, and that “Canada remains committed to opening up markets wherever it can”. But Canadians don’t want to be trapped into an ACTA-style agreement that will limit our freedoms. These negotiations must be open and transparent, not hastily put together in secret.
There are strong indications that citizen engagement is making an impact. The pushback against ACTA by the Internet freedom community led to its rejection by the European Parliament in July, and University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist suggested last week that continued pressure is making negotiators rethink including ACTA copyright provisions in CETA. The lead copyright negotiators said that following the public outcry, “there is now no appetite in Europe for the inclusion of controversial ACTA provisions within the agreement”.
The same can be said for the public feeling in Canada. We fought hard to get some of the worst provisions out of our new copyright law, Bill C-11, and international trade agreements like CETA could override all that. However Geist asked negotiators directly whether CETA would require changes to our current copyright law, and was told that they did not believe changes would be required. This indicates that the ACTA provisions have indeed been removed from CETA, after public pressure.
Our voices are being heard, but it’s now more important than ever to keep up the pressure and let our government know that we oppose secretive attempts to lock down the Internet. La Quadrature du Net has called on Members of the European Parliament to condemn the European Commission’s attempts to bypass the democratic process, and to demand that the current text of CETA be made public before the next and perhaps-final round of negotiations begins in two weeks. We should similarly remind our government that we need a digital policy that puts citizens first.
Read the leaked portion of CETA here.