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Canada-EU free trade and the Québec election: The view from ATTAC-Québec

Claude Vaillancourt, president of ATTAC-Quebec

Claude Vaillancourt, president of ATTAC-Quebec

Claude Vaillancourt, president of ATTAC-Québec, writes in Le Devoir today that CETA, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, is not but should be an important issue in the provincial election race. Whichever party wins government on September 4 will have “enormous responsibilities” to decide how CETA will affect policies related to health care, water, agriculture, education, culture, public procurement and investment, among other areas, he writes. Yet only the Liberal party of Jean Charest, which has otherwise been extremely secretive about the negotiations, included a mention of CETA in its economic platform, adds Vaillancourt.

What we know about CETA

Vaillancourt focuses in on the imbalance in the provincial and European Union member state offers when it comes to public services. (See a legal opinion on the leaked CETA texts released publicly by CUPE this July for more detail on this issue.)

“Canada and the provinces seem ready to guaranty European multinational firms very broad access to the Canadian market,” he writes (my translation). “On their end, the Europeans clearly remain more prudent” by protecting certain public services such as water delivery and other municipally delivered services.

This non-reciprocal bargain in Europe’s favour is made all the more worrying because Canada would have to automatically extend whatever new rights European service firms get in CETA to U.S. and Mexican firms, he adds. This is because of the Most Favoured Nation clause in NAFTA’s trade in services and investment chapters. Vaillancourt also explains how “buy local” policies are threatened by CETA’s procurement rules.

CETA involves fundamental questions about what kind of society we want to live in, writes the ATTAC-Québec president, which is why it’s a shame that the provincial electoral race has privileged point-scoring, clientelism and partisan announcements by the different parties. CETA could be signed by the end of the year and will run over 1,000 pages long, says Vaillancourt, suggesting the candidates have a responsibility to explain now what they plan on doing if their parties are eventually elected.

To read Vaillancourt’s op-ed in Le Devoir, click here.