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PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 7:29 am
 


Negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union started over two years ago, and the seventh round of talks are scheduled to take place in Ottawa in April. There has been almost no talk about CETA in the press, so exactly what the agreement will mean for Canada is still difficult to say. The goal is of course increased trade with the EU, already our second largest trading partner, but the agreement also contains legislation on a number of issues no one associates with the word trade. These include intellectual property, sanitation and food safety, state monopolies, transportation, education, and labour rights.

The conservatives say that CETA will increase trade with the EU by about 20% and will add $12 billion each year to the Canadian economy. The following passage can be found on the Canadian government website:

$1:
A bilateral agreement with the EU could deliver commercial benefits across many sectors of the Canadian economy, including aerospace, chemicals, aluminum, wood products, fish and seafood, automotive vehicles and parts, agricultural products such as wheat and pork, and transportation services and other business services.


The problem is that the website offers little in the way of clear and accessible information, with most of the government’s ideas and intentions buried within lengthy, jargon-filled reports.

Opponents of CETA, including the Council of Canadians, argue the agreement will have negative effects on the environment, on public services, and on Canadian culture. CETA would, for instance, increase foreign investment in the Alberta tar sands, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement may also give corporations the right to sue the government for laws that restrict profit-making: this would mean even greater difficulty in passing legislation to protect the environment or the rights of indigenous communities. CETA will also include sections on things like mail delivery, municipal water systems, and electric utilities. The government’s responsibility to ensure equal access to these public services would be scrapped as they are opened up to the European market. Similarly, there is the possibility of allowing foreign companies to buy Canadian broadcasting and communications services. This would mean less Canadian content on the airwaves, and the continuation of services only when and where there is a profit to be made.

It is possible that some of the fear of CETA comes simply from the lack of available information. It does, however, seem clear enough that the government is siding with the rights of corporations over the rights of its own citizens. What is also clear is that all of this is happening with very little public knowledge. The CBC is more interested in Harper’s attack ads and the possibility of an election than in CETA, an agreement that could alter everything in Canada from liquor boards to school boards. The government did indeed ask for input and advice from its citizens, but only those who also happen to be members of the big business community. From this alone one can grasp who this “trade” agreement is actually intended to benefit.

The Council of Canadians is attempting to delay CETA negotiations in favour of a public discussion and debate. For up-to-date and accurate information, and to support the campaign, you can visit their website at http://canadians.org/trade/issues/EU/index.html.


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