Photo: Markus Spiske via Unsplash

Will Canadian companies receive compensation if gas extraction off the Dutch coast is terminated? If CETA, the new trade agreement between Canada and the European Union is approved, Canadian investors in the Netherlands will get a powerful tool to sue the Dutch government.

Profiting from subsidised childcare

Dutch childcare is paid with tax money and contributions from parents and is therefore interesting to foreign investors. For example, the Canadian private equity company Onex owns the Dutch child care organisations Partou and Smallsteps. Together, these organisations take care of at least 60,000 children throughout the country.

It is controversial that investors could potentially make a profit over the back of parents and taxpayers. Several political parties working on a law proposal to prevent this. The Dutch Social Childcare Sector Association supports that initiative and states: “How is it possible that a heavily public-funded sector such as childcare could pay its profits to (foreign) investment companies and shareholders? Childcare is better off without private equity funds.” However, restricting profit distributions in childcare could lead to a claim for damages through CETA.

Investing in housing

The same would go for changes in the Dutch housing laws. The Canadian real estate investors Brookfield and CAPREIT together own thousands of homes in large Dutch cities. These houses are scarce and expensive. “Investors buy existing homes in the big cities and in student cities. That increases the price of owner-occupied homes, but some of them will also raise rents to get the most out of their investment”, says Manuel Aalbers from the Belgian University of Leuven. Countermeasures such as regulating free sector rents or a housing obligation for buyers could be taken by real estate investors as a violation of the privileges they receive under CETA.

Movement for fair and sustainable trade is becoming wider

The movement against the CETA trade agreement and for fair and sustainable trade is growing. Recently, farmers’ organisations, including Agractie Nederland, have joined the movement for fair and sustainable trade. Labour union FNV, the Dutch Consumers’ Association and academics are also critical and the treaty is viewed with suspicion in many countries outside the EU and Canada. Developing countries fear that CETA will be used as a blueprint to give European multinationals more power in their jurisdictions.

The Dutch parliament is expected to discuss CETA in February 2020.