Spain. Water will cease being a public good in 2016 because of Free Trade Agreement with Canada

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By Alleriene / Source perdonenquelesmoleste.com / The Dawn / January 26, 2016.- It looks like the war over water has begun. And it will be terrible, since it is, without a doubt, one of the most precious goods of planet Earth. Without water, there is no life. They know it, and they are going to make us pay for it.

For a long time we have been hearing warnings against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) but there are other treaties, like the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) or the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), that can be extremely harmful as well.

In particular, the CETA is a free trade treaty with Canada that puts the status of water as a public good under question since it includes wastewater treatment, and water sanitation among potentially negotiable goods.

This part of the treaty is written with confusing juridical and ambiguous wording, as many activists have denounced. In the CETA’s own words, water which is “in its natural state” will not be “subjected to the commercial terms of this treaty”. But then, it adds: “When a party allows the commercial use of a specific source of water, it must do so in a manner that is consistent with the Agreement”. But water in its natural state does not include, for example, distribution, irrigation and sanitization.

David Sánchez Carpio, responsible for campaigns of Food & Water Watch in Europe explains that “In the CETA, water is considered, ambiguously, as a merchandise and as a product, once it is not in its natural state. And all uses of water, from drinking water supply to irrigation, and bottled water, are water in a non-natural state. So this ambiguousness is very dangerous”.

EuropeanWater.org has published a very interesting article in which it explains that “the chapter on “Rights and Obligations Relating to Water” is written in confusing juridic terms, that are sometimes even contradictory with the European and Spanish legislation. There is no doubt: the vagueness and the gaps in that article will make it easy for multinational companies to hoard water from Europe and Canada”. And that “under such conditions, this article is nothing more than a way to further commodify water”.

Meanwhile, Germany has decided to introduce a clause to protect its interests. The clause textually refers to “residual waters, waste trituration and sanitization services” so any variant related to water is exempt from the terms of the treaty.

As if all of this was not enough, there is another extremely serious issue: the inclusion of arbitration in conflicts between states and private investments. That is, multinationals could denounce states when they feel their “legitimate forecasts” of profit for an investment have been not met… even 20 years after! Is this not a loss of sovereignty for the state, in favor of the multinational companies?

EuropeanWater.org also warned of that in its article: “the chapter on abritration between states and private investors allows private investors to impugnate a public policy before an arbitration court whenever they consider that their expectations of profit are at stake”.

This arbitration could be applied to water and water-related services, as in other free-trade treaties. The company Veolia took the Egyptian government to an arbitration court after the minimum wage was increased; in April 2015, in the court of the World Bank, Suez got Argentina to pay more than 400 million dollars for damages, because the country lowered the price of water for public consumption during the severe economic and social crisis of 2001”.

The CETA is ready to be passed in 2016 and could affect the even more ambitious TTIP, that is still under negotiation. Once the CETA is in force, any company that has a branch in Canada (something very common for US companies) can take advantage of it.

It seems that the war over water has begun. And it will be terrible, since this is, without a doubt, one of the most precious goods of the planet Earth. Without water, there is no life.

They know it, and they are going to make us pay for it.

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