28 July 2014

Germany stands up for democracy

Finally, someone has said enough to the erosion of democracy brought about by "trade" agreements. From NAFTA to the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union, these agreements have eroded the power of governments in favour of investors.

International agreements are, in themselves, a very good idea, one way of imposing orderly behaviour among nations, and trade has always been a way of bringing people together. If we are to have trade agreements, as with any international agreement, we have to sacrifice a certain degree of sovereignty to the larger good. Unfortunately, these agreements go much further than what is necessary. For instance, by incorporating investor-state dispute settlement provisions, they have been used as instruments to provide foreign corporations the right to sue national governments, not in the nation's courts, but via trade panels established under the agreements. A three-person panel could, behind closed doors, override a nation's laws, in effect dismissing both democracy and due process.

It is precisely for this reason that Germany has declared it will not sign CETA. According to Deputy Economy Minister Stefan Kapferer, "The German government does not view as necessary stipulations on investor protection, including on arbitration cases between investors and the state with states that guarantee a resilient legal system and sufficient legal protection from independent national courts." The Germans have already taken a similar position in the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement with the United States.

Germany is showing a respect for its courts that unfortunately our government infamously does not have. How ironic that we must take lessons on democracy from our old foe, but this isn't particularly surprising—Germany is now, in a number of important ways, a much more democratic nation than any in North America.

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