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Membership of Canada-Brazil CEO Forum announced

Scotiabank CEO Richard Waugh

Scotiabank CEO Richard Waugh

Trade Minister Ed Fast announced today the makeup of a new Canada-Brazil CEO Business Forum to “help us to identify practical ways we can grow the trade and investment ties between our countries.” Much like the defunct North American Competitiveness Council or B20 (the group of 20 CEOs that meets alongside the G20 each year), the CEO Forum will join the minister and other dignitaries in formal encounters with the Brazilian government. Its CEO members will have privileged access to government policy makers and presumably a strong say in the shape and form of bilateral trade relations.

The list includes:

– James L. Balsillie, Co-Chief Executive Officer, Research In Motion;
– Pierre Beaudoin, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bombardier Inc.;
– Tye W. Burt, Chief Executive Officer, Kinross Gold Corporation;
– Charles Cartmill, President and Chief Executive Officer, LED Roadway Lighting Ltd.;
– Ray Castelli, Chief Executive Officer, Weatherhaven; and
– J. Bruce Flatt, Senior Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, Brookfield Asset Management Inc.

Minister Fast didn’t pick the CEOs himself — they were chosen by Scotiabank CEO Rick Waugh (a former NACC member) and Murilo Ferreira, CEO of Brazilian mining giant Vale SA, who co-chair the new CEO Forum. Scotiabank is a major investor in Latin America, always looking to expand its banking and other financial services while advertising its strengths in mining investment. Vale, the second largest mining company in the world, has base and precious metals operations in four Canadian provinces.

Mining is increasingly associated with displacement, environmental destruction and general corporate bullying in in Latin America. The Harper government, on the other hand, will do everything to protect its status as mining and energy superpower. Canada has signed free trade agreements specifically with countries where its mining and related financial companies are most active or growing: Colombia, Peru, Chile, Honduras. We’re told these deals improve human rights and economic opportunities but a recent fact-finding mission to Colombia found the opposite.

Vale’s reputation in Canada is also not great. The company is looking to turn Newfoundland and Labrador’s Sandy Pond into a toxic waste dump for its nickel operations, for example. Then there was the long strike in Sudbury and accusations of bad faith bargaining which will be rule on by the Ontario Labour Relations Board this year. The point is Scotiabank and Vale have a very narrow interest in Canada-Brazil relations but will take on a very broad role in determining its future.

The Harper government, its trade minister in particular, can’t seem to make an announcement about trade or the economy without one CEO or another holding his hand. You can see them, leaders of industry and their and lobbyists, in many photographs on Ed Fast’s DFAIT Flickr page. Their presence is meant to show the business community that big business is on Harper’s side when it comes to trade or other policies declared part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan ®. To the rest of us it just looks like collusion and corporate rule.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives will provide secretarial support to the bilateral business forum and its own CEO, John Manley, will attend all meetings, according to today’s government release.