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Labour, farmers speak out against CETA; Petition calls for full disclosure

Conservative Trade Minister Peter Van Loan is quick to dismiss opponents of his prized free trade deal with the European Union as outdated. In fact, it’s his only defense, repeated in media articles this week, against increasing demands to halt the CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) negotiations. But isn’t the consistency of our arguments against free trade, and the fact they have been borne out over time, one of our greatest strengths? The Canadian Labour Congress clearly thinks so. A statement issued this week by the CLC on CETA begins with a quote from an executive council statement in 1985 on the prospect of free trade with the United States:

Free trade is … viewed as reliance on the market to determine economic reality. It is part and parcel of the same philosophy that lends support to the “downsizing” of government, privatization, deregulation; in short, the package of “remedies” that place priority on the enhancement of business confidence. One of the implications of free trade is that corporate decision-making in the marketplace is substituted for public decision-making in the political arena.

The ball is in the federal government’s court, and with Canada’s other free traders, to prove that this is not what trade liberalization agreements, including CETA, are about. They say that trade has trippled with the United States since free trade. They leave out that climate emissions have gone up, well-paying full-time employment is diminished and precarious, real wages have stagnated while global poverty and hunger remain endemic. Free trade creates money, it forces that money to the top of the corporate food chain, but  more pressing economic, environmental and social crises fester.

The CLC statement on CETA continues:

The Canadian Labour Congress would support an agreement between Canada and the E.U. embodying the most positive features of the European social model, including higher standards and protective regulation, but this is not on offer. Instead, the CETA would constrain the ability of the governments in Canada at all levels to meet their democratic responsibilities to citizens and residents.

It’s an important statement from an organization representing over 3 million workers, whichincorporates much of the Civil Society Declaration on CETA that you can read at tradejustice.ca. The CLC statement is here: http://www.canadianlabour.ca/news-room/statements/statement-negotiations-toward-comprehensive-economic-and-trade-agreement-betwee.


By now you’ve probably seen that the National Farmers Union has launched a national campaign against CETA — an agreement they claim would “crush Canadian farmers” based on the text we’ve seen.

“The CETA would mean many changes, but none more negative than its effect to extinguish farmers’ rights to save and re-use seeds,” said NFU President Terry Boehm in a recent press statement. “With powers such as those proposed in the CETA, seed companies will gain significant power over who farms and how.”

A fact sheet released as part of the NFU campaign outlines the direct losses to farmers, which include:

1. Farmer’s ability to save, reuse, exchange, and sell seed is destroyed. Dairy, poultry and egg
Supply Management and the CWB are at risk.

2. Using farm saved seed could cost you your farm. CETA enables corporations to obtain the
precautionary judicial seizure of infringer’s property (land, equipment, bank accounts) for
alleged violation of intellectual property rights.

3. Prohibits government, municipal, school and hospital purchasing policies that favor locally
grown or Canadian grown food.

Prohibits Govt. preferred hiring of locally owned businesses or services.

4. Prohibits Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal standards that exceed international standards.

5. Prohibits a Canadian province or territory refusal of a European product if it has been accepted
by another province.

Canadian farmers speak from harsh experience with North American free trade. As the NFU explains, since 1988:

– 80,000 farms have disappeared and rural communities are devastated.
– Exports have tripled but farm debt has tripled to $64 billion.
– Realized net income from the markets has been negative since 2002.

The NFU has also posted a petition to its website that ask that Parliament:

to refrain from entering into any arrangement that would restrict or prohibit governments from favouring local goods, services and local food. Further we call on Parliament to reject any agreement such as THE COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC AND TRADE AGREEMENT that would contain UPOV91 and any other restriction on farmers and citizens ability to save, reuse, select, exchange and sell seeds. We further call for the outright rejection of any provisions which would allow for the judicial precautionary seizure of crops, homes, land, equipment, and the freezing of bank accounts for alleged infringement of intellectual property. We call on Parliament to fully disclose the content of this agreement, including the text, throughout the entire negotiating process to the citizens of Canada.

If you would like to print the petition off and circulate in your community, please visit www.nfu.ca to download it from the main page.