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Bernier says CETA is ‘a big win’, but offers no text

The Montreal Gazette reports today that the federal minister for small business, tourism and agriculture Maxime Bernier says the Canada-European Union free trade agreement will be “a big win” for Canada, but that the legal terms governing the deal will be made public only after they have been finalized.

But Toronto-based Osgoode Hall Law School professor Gus Van Harten has commented, “In the case of NAFTA, a draft text was available partway through the negotiations to allow informed evaluation and debate. For the CETA, there have been occasional leaked texts, which the federal government panned as unreliable. This has left us unable to assess the government spin. Indeed, the lack of a text suggests that the government has something to hide, or is exaggerating the extent of agreement.”

He adds, “The government announced the CETA (on October 18) without disclosing any text, either draft or final. Instead, the government released a summary that was clearly massaged for spin. This public relations strategy has allowed for close government control of information about the CETA…. How can anyone judge whether the deal is good for Canada — as many pundits quickly pronounced — without a text?”

Additionally, New York University School of Law professor Robert Howse has suggested that the Harper government may have even broken the law by not making the full text of CETA public. That is because, beyond the violation of the principles of liberal democratic governance that Canada, Article 1802 of NAFTA says, “Each Party shall ensure that its laws, regulations, procedures and administrative rulings of general application respecting any matter covered by this Agreement are promptly published or otherwise made available in such a manner as to enable interested persons and Parties to become acquainted with them.”

And while Harper has a majority in the House of Commons to ratify this deal before the next election, Van Harten warns that unlike NAFTA (which has a six-month abrogation clause), “it appears that the CETA will be irreversible by any future government, federal or provincial, for decades to come.”

The Council of Canadians has joined with the Trade Justice Network in a petition campaign that says, “The undersigned organizations and individuals ask that your government immediately make public the complete text of CETA, and that the people and their elected representatives be given an opportunity to review, revise or ultimately reject CETA, prior to it being signed, if the agreement is not found to be in the public interest.” We have also developed a petition for you to send to your provincial premier to demand provincial hearings into the EU deal. And we have filed an access to information request for the working draft text of the Canada-EU deal.

Take action

Make the CETA Text Public / Rendez public le texte de l’AÉCG
ACTION ALERT: We can’t afford Harper’s $1.65-billion bonus for Big Pharma. We can’t afford CETA!

Further reading

Is Canada legally bound to release the CETA text now?