CETA threatens Internet, health and democracy

Brussels, 31 January 2013 — A draft trade agreement between the European Union and Canada (CETA) threatens the Internet, health and democracy, according to the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII). The agreement contains an investor-state arbitration clause, which gives multinational companies the right to directly sue states in international tribunals. CETA places these arbitration tribunals above the high courts of Europe and Canada.

(-> Version Française)

Bypass democracy

Investor-state arbitration clauses give multinationals the right to sue countries if they dislike legislative changes. Tobacco company Philip Morris sued Australia over the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill, which introduced restrictions on the use of cigarette company’s logos on cigarette packets and allow for more space for health warnings. After Australia’s High Court dismissed the legal challenge, Philip Morris launched an investor-state case. As a result, Australia decided not to sign treaties with investor-state arbitration clauses any more.

The EU and Canada have been negotiating the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) since 2009. Negotiations took place behind closed doors, and the draft texts are still secret. The website bilaterals.org and Kriton Arsenis, a member of the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, revealed the existence of the investor-state arbitration clause. Arsenis criticizes the arbitration clause as an easy way to bypass democracy.

Conflicts of Interest

Multinationals see reform of legislation that could reduce their profits as expropriation and demand high damages. FFII analyst Ante Wessels: “In recent years, arbitration tribunals increasingly stretched the concept of expropriation. Lawyers advise multinationals in setting up investment structures, and these same attorneys and their office colleagues also act as arbitrators in tribunals. This gives rise to conflicts of interest.”

Block Reforms

The FFII notes the negative impact on innovation and the Internet. The trade agreement with Canada will allow multinational companies to attack legislative reforms and protect old business models. This endangers reform of copyright and patent law.

Ante Wessels: “The Internet suffers from an excessive enforcement of an outdated copyright. Filtering, blocking and banning links hamper the functioning of the Internet. CETA will give multinationals the possibility to thwart necessary reforms.”


EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht will visit Canada on 6 February 2013 in the hope of concluding the trade talks. A day earlier, he will visit the US to prepare trade talks with the US.

On 7-8 February, the EU’s 27 heads of state and government will meet in Brussels to discuss trade and foreign affairs. source: europolitics


Arbitration clause in EU-Canada trade agreement, an easy way to bypass democracy, Kriton Arsenis MEP

Canada, EU in final push for trade deal; latest investment chapter shows blatant pro-investor bias

FFII blog on IP, innovation and trade

General information: Brewing Storm over ISDR Clouds: Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks – Part I

Part II

Permanent link to this press release

CETA menace Internet, la santé et la démocratie


FFII Office Berlin
Malmöer Str. 6
D-10439 Berlin
Fon: +49-30-41722597
Fax Service: +49-721-509663769
Email: office (at) ffii.org

Ante Wessels
ante (at) ffii.org
+31 6 100 99 063

About FFII

The FFII is a not-for-profit association, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 1,000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights in data processing.

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