Stephen Harper’s executive decision that Canada should try to join the Pacific Alliance political and trading bloc should be as controversial as his taking a trip to Peru and Colombia to dodge questions about overspending and lack of accountability in the Senate, says the Council of Canadians.
“It’s highly symbolic that the first people Harper met when he got off the plane were mining company executives,” says Council of Canadians national chairperson Maude Barlow. “The Pacific Alliance, like Canada’s existing trade and investment deals in Latin America, puts the profits of those companies above anything else. The deals, like the Alliance, have nothing to say about the environmental and human rights impact of mining in the region, which is more and more controversial, with growing resistance to Canadian mines in particular.”
The Pacific Alliance is a political grouping of right-wing, market fundamentalist governments in Peru, Chile, Colombia and Mexico that is widely regarded as a counterweight to more positive regional integration efforts on the continent. As Harper seeks to enhance “rights” for mining companies through closer ties with Pacific Alliance countries, for example, other countries, including Ecuador and Bolivia, are cancelling investment treaties and looking to set up new regional trade and investment rules that give equal space to the protection of human rights, water and the environment.
“As starkly set out in a leaked 2012 confidential government document, trade and economic opportunities for corporations have become the driving forces behind Stephen Harper’s foreign policy,” says Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew. “Harper is using foreign policy to promote corporate interests and help his board room friends undermine movements in Latin America against Canadian mining and toward a more fair and balanced trade and investment system.”
Canada has had observer status with the Pacific Alliance since November 2012.