One of the issues we have been receiving hundreds of emails on recently is CETA (The Comprhensive Economic and Trade Agreement), a proposed trade deal between Canada and the European Union.
CETA is currently undergoing 'legal scrubbing', a technical stage which follows the conclusion of international agreement negotiations. The final text will be referred to the European Parliament once this process is concluded, and only then will the agreement be put to a vote.
Significant changes can be introduced during legal scrubbing and the text that will be submitted for ratification may be quite different to the text that was published last year. We are therefore not in a position to make a final judgement until we can see the final text, which may not happen until well into 2016.
We can nonetheless reiterate our concerns about the text that was published last year, which we've raised consistently together with our other Labour colleagues in the European Parliament.
We oppose ISDS in any shape or form, and we have based our criticisms of the Commission's overall approach of the issue of investment protection on the basis of the provisions contained in the CETA text. As it stands, these provisions are clearly unacceptable. On this matter, we would also like to recall that Labour MEPs voted against a European Parliament resolution on TTIP in July because it did not clearly reject ISDS.
We have other concerns regarding CETA. A key issue is public services. We believe that the protections offered to public services are insufficient, and that future renationalisation of public services by a Labour government could be at risk of legal challenges because of the way these provisions are drafted.
Other parts of the text are also problematic, in particular the lack of enforceable labour rights in the agreement as well as the extensive protections given to pharmaceutical patents, which could act as a deterrent to the universal access to medicines.
For the sake of balance, it should also be pointed out that the agreement contains a number of provisions that would significantly benefit the UK's economy in opening up the Canadian market to our businesses, in particular when it comes to agricultural products. Crucially, the agreement also foresees extensive access to Canadian public procurements for EU businesses.
Labour MEPs will continue to raise these concerns in the European Parliament in the coming months.