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LETTER: Van Loan responds to Barlow CETA op-ed

On Thursday, the Globe and Mail published Maude Barlow’s op-ed on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. That’s at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5864. Today, trade minister Peter Van Loan responded in a letter to the editor to that op-ed:

Van Loan writes, “Disregarding the benefits of a Canada-European Union trade agreement, Maude Barlow’s commentary (What You Don’t Know About A Deal You Haven’t Heard Of – Jan. 6) reflects the same alarmist, anti-trade rhetoric that history proved wrong. At the time of the signing of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, Ms. Barlow and fellow travellers heralded the end of Canada. Yet today Canada is the envy of the world economically, and in terms of quality of life. That agreement has created jobs, prosperity and the world’s most successful trade partnership. A study concluded that a free trade agreement with the European Union would boost Canada’s economy by $12-billion a year. The same agreement could also increase our bilateral trade by 20 per cent. That means jobs and growth for Canadians. The opponents of free trade had some success in the 1980s. They persuaded the provinces to keep government procurement out of the Canada-US Free Trade pact. These omissions likely cost Canadian jobs.”

To the contrary, it should be noted that:

– More than 15 years after NAFTA came into force, the Canadian Labour Congress stated in August 2009 that, “NAFTA was sold on the promise that it would bring more and better jobs and faster growth to the region and reduce emigration from Mexico to the United States and Canada. While trade and investment flows did increase, NAFTA did not create more net trade-related jobs and those that it did were very often less stable, with lower wages and fewer benefits. Instead, increased trade largely benefited the corporate elite in all three countries. Income inequality has also grown in the region.” In 2008, Common Frontiers wrote, “In the last 6 years, we have lost 350,000 manufacturing jobs. That’s like 150 good jobs disappearing every day. …Too many of the new jobs being created today are low-paying, insecure jobs with fewer benefits, particularly for women.”

– This past October, CAW economist Jim Stanford wrote that if existing tariffs were eliminated under CETA, Canada would lose at least 28,000 jobs, most of them in manufacturing. The Globe and Mail reported, “The worst-case scenario is the elimination of tariffs, plus the Canadian dollar maintaining the 18-per-cent appreciation in value against the euro it has averaged this year compared with where the currencies were trading when negotiations on a deal were announced in March, 2009. Under those assumptions, a Canada-EU free trade agreement vaporizes more than 152,000 jobs.” More on that at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5110.

– Canadian civil society has stated, “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.” The European Union sees the Ontario Green Energy Act as a challenge to CETA. But the McGuinty government has set a target of 50,000 jobs created within the next three years through the provisions of that Act. The plan involves using provincial procurement in a creative and proven way to incentivize companies to source components and labour locally.

– It might also be noted that Van Loan only comments on jobs, his letter doesn’t attempt to refute Barlow’s main points on the European Commission’s sustainability impact assessment findings on the tar sands and water privatization, nor on the issues of regulatory harmonization and the costs of the Chapter 11 dispute mechanism.

Van Loan’s letter is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/letters-to-the-editor/jan-10-letters-to-the-editor/article1863308/page2/.