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LETTER: Trew challenges Ottawa Citizen editorial in support of CETA

On November 28, the Ottawa Citizen editorial board wrote, “The European Union is asking a lot of Canada in the ongoing trade negotiations. If we’re clever, though, Canada could come out of this having ‘conceded’ the most in those areas where we need to make reforms anyway, for domestic reasons.”

Today, Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew’s letter-to-the-editor response was printed in the Ottawa Citizen. He writes:

The Citizen editorial on the Canada-European Union free trade talks, and what Canada may have to concede in exchange for better market access into Europe, shines an important light on the dynamics of this imbalanced negotiation. But it also makes a startling case for allowing trade negotiators to set domestic policy in closed-door discussions in Brussels or Ottawa. We should reject this idea completely.

As appealing as it would be in some sectors to get rid of Canada’s supply management regimes for dairy, poultry and eggs, that decision should happen in the open, by the provinces and federal government, with co-operation from the farmers themselves.

The same democratic process should apply to pharmaceutical policy or copyright, telecommunications, finance or fisheries regulation, and how municipal governments spend public money. There is no good reason why these issues are being discussed in what is supposed to be a trade negotiation with the EU.

Why elect anyone to public office if the most important decisions on how we manage our economy are decided by unelected trade bureaucrats with a secret mandate from Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

And not just decided but locked in – forever.

There is no reverse gear in trade agreements. There will be little room in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement to make any changes to government programs or policies that are altered as a result of the Canada-EU negotiations.

Of course this is the virtue of free trade to those who think “markets” and multinationals run things best. But it’s the freedom of the straitjacket.

In the case of the EU trade deal, it’s Harper’s chance to lock in his particular vision for our future while none of us are watching (or have an opportunity to watch for that matter).

Trew’s letter can be read at http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/editorials/Where+give/7622376/story.html.