Skip to content

International trade committee meets CETA skeptics in London

The House of Commons international trade committee (CIIT) is in Europe (UK, Belgium, Italy, Hungary) this week meeting with various people and organizations working on, or with an interest in, the Canada-EU trade negotiations. Yesterday in London they met with an anti-poverty, human rights group critical of CETA for its potential to interfere with non-trade related public policy objectives, including public services and job creation. Those in Toronto earlier this year for the G20 and the Council’s Shout Out for Global Justice will remember John Hilary, executive director of War on Want, as one of the keynote speakers. He and War on Want trade campaigner Dave Tucker met with the Canadian trade committee delegation yesterday morning at the Canadian consulate to discuss the stresses that trade agreements put on public services, including health care, and the need to develop an alternative trade model to the one proposed by CETA.

According to Hilary and Tucker, trade committee members from all opposition parties raised concerns about the CETA negotiations. (So the efforts of Canada’s lead negotiator to indoctrinate the travelling politicians on the virtues of CETA may not have worked entirely.) For example, there were Liberal concerns that CETA would pry open Canada’s health care system to U.S. and European-based private insurance companies. The Bloc were worried about the prospect of education services liberalization, and asked the War on Want representatives whether they agreed that agriculture should be kept out of trade agreements altogether. “Yes!” was their one-word reply.

The NDP raised concerns about the procurement, investment and intellectual property chapters. (The latter will be as controversial in Canada as it is in the EU-India free trade negotiations because of its capacity to restrict the availability of generic drugs, whether for domestic use or for export. India is a major exporter of generic AIDS medication and other drugs to developing countries that couldn’t afford the brand name versions. Canada is also a major generic drug producer, supplying Canada’s provincial health care systems. New protections for brand name drugs would increase the cost of generics and therefor health care, adding pressure on already strained provincial budgets.)

One Liberal member of trade committee asked Hilary and Tucker what they would propose as an alternative to CETA. They mentioned the Seattle To Brussels discussion paper, “Towards an Alternative Trade Mandate for the EU,” as a positive direction, and have sent French and English copies of the document to trade committee for consideration. The draft document claims the objectives of trade policy should be:

• to meet the universal and inalienable human rights of all people, including the rights to adequate food, water, health, bodily integrity, clothing, housing, education, social protection, mobility, culture, leisure and a clean environment;
• to guarantee decent work that enables people to live a dignified life, including an adequate income and labour rights;
• to recognise the importance of reproductive, care, community and informal work and particularly women’s role in this, and to ensure an equitable re-distribution and a re-organization of all types of work, as well as equal pay for women and men;
• to ensure a transition to a low-carbon economy which is not based on over-consumption, but on the socially and ecologically just use of resources and which enables a dignified life without threatening the livelihoods of other people, next generations as well as flora and fauna;
• to achieve meaningful democratisation at all levels of decision-making;
• to challenge structural power relations between countries, regions, men and women, classes, castes and ethnic groups and to empower economically, politically and socially marginalised groups of people;
• to fight poverty and to establish new and equitable solidarity relations with people in other regions. This would include the acknowledgement of and compensation for Europe’s historic and current ecological, social and economic debt to impoverished countries and communities, the just distribution of global wealth, resources and power and the respect of all human rights, in particular of refugees and migrants independent of their formal status;
• to increase the level of economic, social and environmental well-being globally, instead of focussing narrowly on the development of the gross domestic product (GDP) in Europe.

The Canadian trade committee was in Strasbourg, France today meeting with European Union and European Commission officials, as well as the EU trade committee.  More updates on the trip as I get them.

In the meantime, if you’d like to write to them with your concerns about CETA, and perhaps echo the need for a more just trading model for Canada, you can find their names and email addresses here.