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Groups endorse open declaration on Canada-EU trade talks; hold second civil society round table in Ottawa

With just over a month before a third round of Canada-European Union free trade talks, opposition to the scope and process of the negotiations is increasing in Canada. On February 23, 18 Canadian NGOs sent Trade Minister Peter Van Loan a letter expressing dissatisfaction with the level of government consultation and the absence of public debate so far on a proposed Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Many of the same groups have now endorsed an Open Civil Society Declaration listing some of our key concerns with what would essentially create a Free Trade Area of the Atlantic — an FTAA v. 2 — with profound impacts on public policy, public services, culture and the environment. We will be discussing these issues and next steps at a second civil society round table in Ottawa on March 11.

Photo: Brent Patterson

A first meeting of Canadian civil society groups on February 5 to discuss the Canada-EU negotiations recognized the need for groups to work together over the next year. We decided the Harper government immediately needed to hear that its post-negotiating round briefings are not to be interpreted as consultations. The letter read in part:

[W]e note that in past trade negotiations, the public has been kept largely uninformed and unengaged until a full agreement was reached and we were presented with a final text… We respecfully submit that such a process should be unacceptable to a government that campaigned on a promise of transparency and accountability. In the case of CETA, which is more ambitious than past free trade agreements, and with greater potential impacts on federal, provincial and municipal government powers, public services, public policies, programs and regulations, Canadians would be better served by more meaningful consultation.

You can read the full letter here, and are encouraged to send your own version of the letter to Minister Van Loan (VanLoP@parl.gc.ca), using the statement below to help develop your arguments:


Open Civil Society Declaration on a proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union

We the undersigned have serious reservations about the scope and negotiating process of the proposed Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). We demand the following of the Government of Canada, provinces and territories:

1. Full transparency. In past trade negotiations, the public has been kept completely uninformed until a full and final agreement is reached. This is unacceptable. In the case of CETA, which is more ambitious than NAFTA and with greater impacts on federal, provincial and municipal policies, programs, regulations and public services, the public has the right to full disclosure, along with the right to informed input into the negotiations.

2. A comprehensive impact assessment. A consultation paper issued by the European Commission contains questions addressed primarily to the business community. Similarly, online consultations from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade are insufficient. There have been no preliminary, independent studies or broad stakeholder debate and consultation. We need a comprehensive impact assessment of the proposed bilateral trade agreement on the economy, jobs, poverty, gender, human rights, culture and the environment in Canada and the European Union.

3. Protection for public services. Any agreement should fully protect public services as delivered by the current systems, as well as the ability to create new public services, without reservation, and without negative impacts from a trade based agreement. Governments must retain the authority to favour public delivery of services, such as water treatment and distribution, without fear that such a policy would be considered a barrier to trade in services by European Union companies.

4. Public procurement is a public right. The agreement should not include any commitment to open or liberalize public procurement at the subnational level, particularly at the municipal level. Canadian provinces, territories and cities must retain the policy space they need to use public money in support of sustainable local economic development. Canada and all the EU Member States need to ratify ILO Convention No. 94 on social clauses in public procurement.

5. The right to regulate. There should be complete reservation of the right to domestic regulation regarding public services, culture, public health and the environment. Regulatory harmonization efforts must adopt the higher standard in either Canada or the European Union. Municipalities, provinces and territories, and the federal government must retain the right to develop even higher standards of protection than currently exist in the European Union or any other trading partner.

6. No investment chapter. There should be no right for an investor or private company to directly challenge, in private tribunals, the laws or regulations of a foreign government that is a party to the trade agreement, but this right to challenge should reside solely with the competent government jurisdiction. Canada should immediately begin negotiations with the United States and Mexico to remove the investor rights provisions in Chapter 11 of NAFTA.

7. Labour mobility needs separate negotiations. Labour mobility needs to be anchored in any agreement as a right for workers, not designed to serve the interests of employers. Rather than as part of a trade based agreement, it should be drawn up as a separate agreement with guarantees of employment protections.


Association Québécoise pour la Taxation des Transactions Financières et pour l’Action Citoyenne (ATTAC Québec) Canadian Auto Workers union Canadian Conference of the Arts Canadian Union of Postal Workers Canadian Union of Public Employees Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario Common Frontiers Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union Council of Canadians National Union of Public and General Employees Northern Territories Federation of Labour Public Service Alliance of Canada Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario Rideau Institute Sierra Club Canada

To add your organization to this statement, write us at strew@canadians.org.