Regulatory cooperation in CETA potentially has profound implications. It is part of a broader
international effort by the rich countries and their companies to control domestic regulation
through international trade agreements that override domestic laws. In CETA, regulatory
cooperation in principle covers a vast area, both goods and services, trade but also investment.
Its formal objectives include prominently the elimination of ‘unnecessary barriers to trade and
investment’; the application of the ‘necessity test’ on foot of this criterion has previously
resulted in a push towards deregulation. Putting the two sides’ regulations in competition after
mutual recognition of potentially quite different regulations is likely to lead to a race to the
bottom in a number of those areas. Both sides commit themselves to regulatory cooperation in
general though in specific cases one side may refuse to cooperate.
The CETA institutions and mechanisms are in practice likely to result in large business
driving the agenda for cooperation. The close relationship of Canada to the US regulations
and standards and the involvement of most large US companies in Canada will potentially
open the door for US companies to influence significantly regulatory cooperation in CETA
and achieve a substantial part of the objectives of TTIP. The almost complete absence of any
provision for basic democratic features in the operation of CETA, including access to
information, participation, openness to the public, public debate, or control, in a process
which appears heavily oriented towards the large private interests being regulated, is likely to
give those even greater influence in regulation than at present, at the sacrifice of the wider
public interest in many cases.
The additional burden on regulators from the various additional steps due to CETA – and
even more after its potential extension to other countries – in the context of diminished
regulators’ resources, is likely to lead to delays, blockages and a reduction in the standard of
regulation. Use of the precautionary principle is likely to be under great pressure in a number
of areas. All of this is done in the name of economic gains which turns out in the official
impact assessment to be vanishingly small – the equivalent of a cup of coffee every three
months for each European in terms of disposable income – and if the omitted effects of
constrained regulations in the areas of climate change, finance, toxic chemicals, etc., were
included in a more thorough assessment, then the economic evaluation would turn out to be
heavily negative. Locking such provisions into an international treaty would turn out to be the
height of folly.
This is extremely dangerous in an era when major action is needed on climate change and
financial regulation, and with nanotechnologies, endocrine disrupting chemicals, synthetic
biology, taking air pollution much more seriously, pharmaceutical pricing, data protection,
and the problems with the chemical agriculture model, to mention only some of the regulatory
challenges to be faced. It is clear that the public interest desperately needs to be given top
priority in this situation and appropriate regulation not put out of democratic reach.