I have been contacted by some of my constituents regarding the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
It is important that trade agreements promote and protect skilled jobs with high labour standards. They should also ensure the right of democratic governments to regulate and provide public services in the public interest. I believe that CETA does this and can help set progressive global rules for international trade.
Canada is a strong trading partner, with whom we can agree high labour and environmental standards to provide an international benchmark. CETA will not only reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade, but also includes an ambitious and meaningful sustainable development chapter. This chapter commits both partners to increasing environmental protections, reaffirming labour rights and enabling civil society groups to monitor the application of the agreement. Furthermore, the European Commission has committed to continually improving the enforceability of this chapter, so that infringements can be sanctioned.
I know that a number of organisations have expressed concerns about how CETA could affect public services, our ability to regulate in the public interest and efforts to tackle climate change, as well as about the investment court system. I appreciate these concerns. However, after considering them in turn, I believe the agreement does provide sufficient safeguards.
For example, regarding the investment court system, CETA proposes a permanent tribunal composed of public judges, with an appeal system and openness and transparency in relation to hearings and documents submitted. Furthermore, the Canadian Government and the EU Council have agreed a legally-binding document which guarantees that public services are protected from privatisation, that labour rights are protected, that governments have a right to regulate in the public interest and that our health, security and environmental protection standards and regulations will be preserved. I therefore believe that CETA will be good for the UK and for British workers as well as for other countries across Europe. I was therefore pleased to join the majority of Members of Parliament and the majority of my Labour colleagues who voted in favour of CETA on 8th February 2017.
As you may know, on 15 February 2017, the European Parliament voted to approve CETA. This means that much of the agreement - although not the investment court system - can be implemented in the UK. However, CETA will not be fully implemented until it has been ratified by all EU member states. This process includes oversight by the UK Parliament and I can assure my constituents that I will continue to monitor this issue closely.