The people of Ukraine are not only defending themselves against the brutal attack of the Russian military, they are also defending our common values of freedom and democracy. When we support the people of Ukraine, as we express solidarity with Russians who stand for peace, we don't do it the way we support our hometown soccer team. We do not rally behind random colours. Democracy is something very concrete. It means that the interests of many people with little money can prevail against a few people with a lot of money. Ukraine is under attack by a kleptocratic dictatorship whose elite live in luxury because they fleece the state and the population and use violence to put down protests.

We choose sides because we believe in democracy.

Because we are democrats, we also oppose the European Union-Canadian Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). It has been hanging in the air for years. With the ratification of CETA expected for the fall, German Chancellor Olaf Shultz is visiting Canada to further build Canada-Germany’s relationship for deeper trade, energy and resource cooperation.

Most of CETA has been provisionally applied since September 2017. From a purely economic point of view, tariff-free trade between strong industrialized countries promotes prosperity — and CETA does that, if only to a very small degree.

But on closer inspection, the treaty negotiated from 2009 to 2014 is completely out of step with the times. It contains no reference to the Paris climate agreement. The stand-alone chapters on environmental protection (Chapter 24) and workers' rights (Chapter 23) are quite explicitly excluded from enforcement through sanctions.

Committees and co-operation forums subject new laws to a trade impact assessment even before parliaments and the press discuss them. CETA puts international trade above people's interests, environmental protection, and democratic processes.

More than that, CETA enshrines the individual interests of powerful industries in an international treaty, leveraging democratic decision-making. Article 20.30, for example, stipulates that documents chemical companies submit when a pesticide is approved will be subject to “at least” 10 years of data protection.

Such rules have nothing to do with free trade. Writing them into a trade agreement limits room to manoeuvre for democratically elected parliaments. Because to change them, the treaty would have to be renegotiated and ratified by parliaments on two continents — which will not happen.

The agreement has been hanging in the air for years — partly because one chapter is so far-reaching that it needs the approval of all 27-member state parliaments: CETA gives international corporations special rights, known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement, that they can sue for in special courts.

They could sue states for horrendous damages if they change laws to protect the environment or consumers. This "investment protection" unilaterally expands the right to property with vague legal terms, favours multinational corporations over local businesses, and secures their interests even against democratic majority decisions. This part fits better into a feudal system than a democracy.

Opinion: #CETA puts international trade above people's interests, environmental protection, and democratic processes, write @ElizabethMay @CanadianGreens & @karlbaer. #cdnpoli #StopCETA

The irony is that the first investor-state protection agreement anywhere in the world was contained in Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Under that provision, Canadian democracy, decisions reached by our parliaments including banning trade in dangerous toxic chemicals, were punished by NAFTA arbitrators. Over and over again, Canada had to pay out millions to American corporations. Canada was punished for trying to protect human health and the environment. In the new version of NAFTA, CUSMA, the investor-state provisions of Chapter 11 are gone.

Why should we perpetuate them in CETA?

CETA is a bad trade agreement.

It is not suitable as a symbol of friendship between Europe and Canada. Our friendship deserves better: a fair trade agreement that serves the common good, not the profit interests of large corporations. For that to happen, CETA must fail.

Elizabeth May, O.C., the Green Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, was an intervenor in the NEB Kinder Morgan hearings. She served as leader of the Green Party of Canada from 2006 to 2019.

Karl Bär is the Green Party member of the German Bundestag. He's a former consultant for agricultural and trade policy and has been fighting for environmental protection, organic farming, consumer protection and fair trade full-time for eight years.

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I agree with this article's basic position. And yet I don't think it's a very good article.

On the question of democracy--all international treaties represent some form of restraint on democracy. That's the point, to block certain actions that a local democratic government might normally do, on the basis that "We made a deal with those guys that we wouldn't do that". The idea is that in return, we get to block certain actions those other guys might otherwise take that might harm us, because they made a deal with us. Both sides have reduced democratic options--the question is, are they reasonable reductions given what we get out of it?

In the case of most free trade agreements, the answer is "no". Part of the reason is that the authors are fundamentally mistaken about the results of free trade in the first place--and implicitly mistaken about the nature of Canada's economy.

Free trade is taken to be economically good because of an argument made by an economist a century and a half ago about "comparative advantage". But he was wrong, and he may even have known it at the time--he was making the argument that other countries should adopt free trade, and pursue production they were already good at rather than, say, trying to industrialize, because that would be good for Britain's industrial exports. In his setting he was wrong because time exists; countries can, with effort and a certain amount of protectionism, get good at things they used to be bad at. In the modern world he was also wrong because he assumed that capital was not mobile between countries. That makes a huge difference both to the math and the real world, and the importance of capital mobility is underscored by the fact that modern free trade agreements are almost always also about investment and other forms of capital mobility.

But the authors do hedge their claim about free trade, only saying that tariff-free trade "between strong industrialized countries" is good. But Canada isn't a strong industrialized country. Not any more, anyhow--it might have made the claim back, oh, before NAFTA and other free trade agreements . . . since then, Canada has to a significant extent returned to the role of hewers of wood and drawers of . . . oil. We do mining, we do oil, we do logging, we do agriculture; for the most part we don't even refine the oil, process the wood et cetera. We don't feel third world mostly because we have a whole lot of resources and a small population to split the take among, but it's not a healthy economy, and much of it we don't even own. More free trade is just going to strengthen the pressure to import our manufactured goods from places like Germany rather than making our own. No doubt somebody, probably somebody who is already rich and influential, will make money from it, but the overall impact on Canada is unlikely to be good, just like with other free trade agreements.

The article is quite right about some of the other democratic problems with free trade agreements. If one believed that trade without tariffs was a good thing, then the basic democratic restriction "no legislating tariffs" might be worth it. But there are always a ton of other things in a free trade agreement, that restrict the government's freedom to act on the people's behalf, and they are almost entirely for the benefit of transnational corporations and the very wealthy people who own them, not good for the overall economy in either signatory. But money talks and here we are.

So how can we get out of CETA - pls follow with an article on this!