Public Values

New trade justice coalition leaks draft of Canada-Europe trade deal

"More draconian than WTO or NAFTA", agreement would tie hands government while enforcing corporate rights and privatization.

Canada-Europe deal is more draconian than WTO or NAFTA - Terry Boehm, National Farmers Union.by Ish Theilheimer, Publisher and Editor, PublicValues.ca

OTTAWA, April 19, 2010, Straight Goods News, with Youtube video: Leaked documents show that the proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) poses a serious threat to Canada's environment and procurement policies, public services, cultural industries and farmers. A new alliance of civil society groups called the Trade Justice Network has been formed to rally public opinion against the deal. It has been likened to the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), which was killed by worldwide public opposition in the late 1990s.

The proposed deal would have an adverse impact on public services, such as waste, drinking water, and public transit. The proposed rules would entrench commercialization, especially public-private partnerships; prohibit governments from obliging foreign investors to purchase locally, transfer technology or train local workers; and make it far harder for governments to reverse failed privatizations.

"These agreements are not fundamentally about trade or trade expansion, they're really about the role of government," said Scott Sinclair of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives at a Parliament Hill news conference. "This is not a treaty primarily concerned with trade. It is concerned with limiting the role of government."

Scott Sinclair, CCPA, speaks at a news conference on the leaked Canada-Europe trade agreement:

For instance, European negotiators "want to eliminate the ability for government when they make public purchases of goods and services, to negotiate benefits on behalf of their citizens."

Stewart Trew, Council of Canadians, speaks at the news conference on the leaked Canada-Europe trade agreement:

Denis Lemelin of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said deregulation and privatization of postal services is likely under the deal. "What they want with this agreement is full access to all postal services. This will just open the door. They want to deregulate international mail. You open the market and big corporations will come and and take the service." He decried the fact that negotiations have been "behind closed doors."

The intellectual property chapter would virtually eliminate the rights of farmers to save, reuse and sell seed, providing biotech, pharmaceutical, pesticide, seed and grain companies powerful new tools to essentially decide who should farm and how.

"In many respects this goes much farther than WTO and NAFTA," said Terry Boehme of the National Farmers Unions. "The provisions are much more draconian. "They're imposing conditions on the rights to save and reuse seed...the intellectual property provisions would allow, for example, those holding patents on seeds, the right to preemptive seizure of immovable and movable property and the freezing of bank accounts of suspected infringements. This goes way beyond any trade agreement.

Denis Lemelin (CUPW) Terry Boehm (NFU) and Peggy Nash (CAW), speak at a news conference on the leaked Canada-Europe trade agreement:

"What this will mean for farmers is, say they found their crops contaminated with a protected variety, they could be accused of infringing, they could have their equipment, their crops, their farms seized and their bank accounts frozen in order to ensure these monopolistic biotech and grain companies are adequately compensated."

Canadian negotiators have also included a controversial investor-state dispute mechanism like the one in NAFTA. The Chapter 11 dispute process has allowed and encouraged large multinationals to sue North American governments for compensation against public health and environmental policies that limit corporate profits. Some recent examples include Dow Agroscience's lawsuit against Quebec's pesticide ban, or Bilcon's challenge to an environmental assessment that blocked its planned quarry in Nova Scotia. According to a CCPA report in 2008, 40 percent of these investor-state challenges in NAFTA have been against public health and environmental policy.

The text is seen as a direct attack on Ontario's Green Energy Act, which includes local content quotas with the intent of creating, fostering and growing the local green energy industry.

"What this deal would do is remove the power of government," to set achieve public policy through procurement. "It is this basic economic development and, in fact, environmental and social justice development that would be prevented with this agreement. This was specifically demanded by the Europeans."

This deal might come as a surprise to many because the EU is often held up as a model for shared progressive social values. Stewart Trew of the Council of Canadians, says the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union is promoting the deal. Largely unaccountable, the Commission is "becoming more powerful and it's quite controversial in Europe, especially among trade justice groups." He said the Commission "has same agenda as Harper government - privatization and deregulation within the Union itself."

"Europe is not exporting the European social model with this treaty," said Scott Sinclair. "One of the most neoliberal parts of the European government, the European Commission, aggressively promoting their traders."

Stewart Trew and Scott Sinclair respond - how does this agreement square with progressive European social values?:

Links and sources
  CETA threatens public services - CUPE
  Trade Justice Network

Posted: April 21, 2010

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