The first formal round of Canada–European Union free trade negotiations concluded on October 23 in Ottawa. According to Canada’s chief negotiator, “they exceeded expectations.”
If only we knew what this meant.
Steve Verheul, the chief negotiator for Canada in these talks, has also recently stated that, “there is a consolidated working draft text” for the deal, but that “there are no plans to release the draft text” and “no plans for a parliamentary process either.”
Considering the massive scale of this NAFTA-plus, next generation free trade deal this approach is completely unacceptable.
According to Verheul, the proposed Canada–EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement will be “broader and more ambitious” than NAFTA.
That could be because it reportedly includes not only tariff reductions and market access for multinational corporations, but also services (including water, finance and culture), public procurement at all levels of government, investment (i.e. a possible Chapter 11 investor-state mechanism), labour mobility, non-tariff barriers and regulatory harmonization.
Top of mind for European companies is getting access to the over $100 billion in municipal contracts – public spending on infrastructure, goods and services – without any conditions, such as local minimum content quotas, ‘buy local’ policies, or bans on products from companies that employ sweatshop or child labour abroad.
European negotiators are also eyeing Canada’s public services – including water treatment and distribution.
“Really what the (Europeans) want to see are the removal of whatever protections exist at the municipal level on keeping water services public,” said Stuart Trew, Council of Canadians trade campaigner, in a recent Canadian Press article. “Creating an agreement would actually encourage the privatization of water delivery and water treatment at the municipal level.”
Because of the extent of the negotiations, which involve restricting provincial and municipal powers to regulate the economy in the public interest, all of Canada’s provinces have trade representatives at the table. But just like at the federal level, the provinces are not being open about this free trade deal and the impacts it would have on Canadian communities.
E-mail Prime Minister Stephen Harper (email@example.com) and International Trade Minister Stockwell Day (DayS@parl.gc.ca) to demand that they release the full draft text of the proposed free trade agreement.
Make sure to cc your local MP and the Council of Canadians (firstname.lastname@example.org) on your emails.
You could also demand public consultations and parliamentary hearings before the second round of talks begin as scheduled in January 2010 in Brussels.
Finally, please write your provincial or territorial premier and MLA/ MPP to demand that they release the draft text for public scrutiny. Our premiers should not have the right to negotiate such a huge new agreement with Europe with almost no provincial legislative oversight.
For analysis on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, please go to www.canadians.org/trade/issues/EU/index.html.
UPDATE: ‘Consultation’ on the Canada-EU free trade deal: www.canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=2158.
I join with the Council of Canadians in demanding that your government immediately release the full draft text of the proposed Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
I am very concerned by reports that this deal will be “broader and more ambitious” than NAFTA by including services (even public services), regulatory harmonization, investor rights, and new and unreasonable limits on how local and provincial governments spend public money.
With the recent economic crisis and looming environmental chaos, the people of the world have lost faith in business-as-usual politics and hands-off free markets.
Free trade will not and cannot help us solve the climate crisis and it is widely accepted to be the cause (deregulation) of the current recession.
In the 2006 election, you ran on a campaign of accountability. Part of that campaign included a promise that, “significant international treaties will be submitted for votes in Parliament. How accountable is it of you not to release the draft text of a major trade agreement that reportedly rivals NAFTA in scope?
I urge you to hold nationwide public consultations on the Canada–EU negotiations before the next planned round of negotiations in Brussels this January.
Canadians will not be bound by yet another agreement they had no say in developing.
Stuart Trew is the trade campaigner and Brent Patterson is the director of campaigns and communications for the Council of Canadians