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The Council and CUPE leak Buy American documents

Yesterday, the Council of Canadians and CUPE Ontario held a joint media conference in Toronto on the Buy American deal.

The CBC, the Canadian Press, the Broadcast News Network and other media outlets have carried the story.

The CBC reports that, “The federal government trumpeted the deal as a major win… (but) the Ontario wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Council of Canadians criticize the deal for giving permanent and unrestricted foreign access to publicly funded contracts that supply schools, universities, social services and hospitals.”

“If approved by the provinces, the deal would be the first time Canadian governments agreed to open their procurement contracts to bids by other World Trade Organization members since the landmark Canada-U.S. free trade deal of 1988.”

“Ontario and the other provincial governments have until Friday to peruse the pact and suggest amendments. After that, the Canadian and U.S. governments will present the proposal to the WTO for formal approval, and the plan will be enacted as early as next Tuesday, citizen’s advocacy group the Council of Canadians said.”

Council of Canadians Board member Steven Shrybman said, “This is a deal under which we give and they take. We’re talking about at most, access to $4 or $5 billion over the next 16 months. In return for that, we’ve made a commitment to open procurement contracts not just by federal agencies but by provinces and municipalities, forever. We’ve thrown the door open. We are gaining nothing in return, as the U.S. hasn’t opened its own market one bit — never mind permanently.”

Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew said, “This is not a small step for the provinces to take, and the benefits have been overstated. The scope and drawbacks go much further than what Canadians have been told.”

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn said, “This deal would limit the power of the provincial government to harness all the possible economic levers at its disposal to deal with the economic crisis.”

The Canadian Press reports (in the Hamilton Spectator, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Times and Transcript, the Telegraph-Journal, the New Brunswick Business Journal, and numerous other newspapers) that, “Ontario must reject a new trade agreement that allows Canadian companies to be temporarily exempt from the Buy American elements of Washington’s stimulus package, critics demanded Thursday after releasing a leaked copy of the bilateral agreement.”

“The one-sided deal will eventually give foreign companies permanent access to publicly funded contracts in areas like schools and hospitals that were previously closed to them, while the province is getting very little in return, they said.”

“Only Ontario and Quebec have included procurement contracts for schools, hospitals, universities and social services in the agreement, according to the leaked documents.”

Stuart Trew said, “We have questions about why Ontario’s Crown corporation responsible for water utility management maintenance has been included into its list of committed agencies.”

Fred Hahn said, “It binds us forever to opening procurement. This isn’t just about some short-term deal to get access to money that… is practically all committed. Alongside it is a forever agreement. That’s not something that I think anybody in the province of Ontario thinks we’re signing up for. In the long-term what this agreement says is that we’ll open forever access to those kind of universities, hospitals, social service agencies.”

The article also notes, “Canadian companies will only have access to about $4 billion to $5 billion worth of U.S. stimulus funding over the next 16 months… In return, Canada has ‘thrown the door open’ to federal and provincial procurement that’s worth an estimated $25 billion to $30 billion.”

Steven Shrybman said, “So there isn’t an awful lot that we’ve gained in terms of getting special treatment in terms of the Buy American provisions of the U.S. stimulus legislation.”

To see Stuart Trew interviewed on BNN, go to the 7:51 mark in the video at http://watch.bnn.ca/#clip266102.

The CBC report is at http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/02/11/buy-american-deal-opposition.html?ref=rss.

The Canadian Press report is at http://ca.news.finance.yahoo.com/s/11022010/2/biz-finance-labour-groups-call-ontario-reject-buy-american-deal.html.

To see our media release and action alert on this issue, please go to www.canadians.org.