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NDP, Liberals add dissent to parliamentary report on Canada-EU trade negotiations

With federal, provincial and territorial CETA negotiators in Brussels these next two weeks for another round of Canada-EU trade talks, the parliamentary trade committee (CIIT) has tabled a timely (if incomplete and biased) report and set of recommendations for the government. “The Committee’s primary objective,” says the report, “was to ensure that an agreement, once signed and implemented, would be in the best interests of Canadians.” So why did they complete it before the conclusion of CETA negotiations and without hearing from some of Canada’s leading critics of the deal, including the over three million-strong Canadian Labour Congress, or a single voice from Quebec?

You don’t need to answer that. It’s fairly self-explanatory given the Conservatives’ reluctance to engage with opposition to anything they want to do badly enough, which includes signing the CETA. Ask our international trade minister, Ed Fast, about economic assessments showing net job losses, not gains, and he’ll just attack the source (in this case a respected CAW economist who appears on CBC The National frequently). The former minister, Peter Van Loan, told a report he didn’t even want to read Jim Stanford’s report, Out of Equilibrium, but had “no difficulty dismissing that and focusing on the fact that this is a free trade deal that offers enormous potential for Canadian jobs.”

The main part of the CETA report tabled in the House of Commons this week takes this same approach, stating incredibly and without any evidence that CETA will boost manufacturing jobs in Canada (because that’s what NAFTA did?). There are occasional signs of discontent from the three (count ’em, 3) critics of the negotiations asked to go before committee to explain their concerns. These are quickly forgotten as the report comes to its conclusion recommending a speedy and successful negotiation.


But get to page 37 of the report and it gets interesting. This is where the NDP and Liberals present their dissenting opinions to the bulk of the report, which the Conservatives limited to six pages each.

“While the NDP is supportive of efforts to lift tariffs, and diversify our export markets, boosting Canada’s trade performance will require more than just free trade agreements,” says the official opposition in its submission. “Our success will require a strategic plan for public investment and support of key valueadded industrial sectors to help back Canadian global winners, which we are pleased to see as a recommendation from the committee.”

This actually jives with the otherwise incongruous Recommendation Four in the official trade committee report:

The Government of Canada develop a proactive plan to pursue more value-added development of Canadian exports in order to maintain market access for exports while capturing greater economic benefits at home and reducing environmental impacts.

The problem is that trade agreements like CETA and NAFTA tend to remove options governments have to increase value-added content, for example through conditions on investment, subsidies and other incentives to local start-up firms, and creative use of procurement. CETA in particular moves further than NAFTA did by removing some of these levers governments can use to increase the value of their exports. When CETA is projected to increase Canada’s trade deficit with the EU, this is an important consideration that the opposition is taking seriously.

So for those who might not make it through the full CETA report, here are the NDP and Liberal recommendations — very good ones in both cases:

NDP Recommendations

1. The Government should publicly disclose the negotiating text and Canada’s offers (federal, provincial, territorial) before the text of the treaty is finalized.

2. The Government should ensure full consultation with municipal governments in Canada regarding CETA offers and negotiations, and modify its time frame for the negotiations to enable this participation.

3. The Government should ensure that the final text does not include investor-state arbitration provisions.

4. The Government should ensure that the final text does not include any changes to patent protection that would decrease the availability of generic drugs or increase drug costs.

5. The Government should ensure that the final text exempts provincial, territorial and municipal government procurement.

6. The Government should ensure that municipal drinking water and waste water services are explicitly included in its Annex II reservations.

7. The Government should seek a clear and broad exclusion for public services including protection for future policy flexibility at all levels of government to expand public services or return privatized sectors to the public sector without threat of litigation.

8. The Government should negotiate a new exemption for health care stipulating that nothing in the CETA shall be construed to apply to measures of a signing party regarding health care or insurance.

9. The Government should ensure a broad cultural exemption in CETA that would exclude books, magazines, newspapers, publishing, broadcasting, film, video, performing arts and other aspects of cultural industries.

10. The Government should exclude over-access tariffs on supply-managed products from tariff reduction, and re affirm that producers and their elected representatives will maintain the unfettered ability to collectively manage domestic supply for egg, poultry, and dairy products.

11. The Government should effectively safeguard the capacity to institute or reinstitute a single desk for grain marketing, in any geographic region, should a majority of farmers’ elected representatives decide to do so.

12. The Government should develop an industrial strategy for Canada that partners with industry to identify competitive high-productivity sectors that can be developed into high-value export champions, as well as current export sectors in Canada that may need support to remain competitive with the European Union (including forestry, auto, etc.). This could include leveraging procurement, providing R&D support through direct grants, and improving both physical and knowledge infrastructure.

13. The Government must retain the ability to implement federal financial incentives and ensure community benefits in the development of clean power, including solar, wind, and water. Canada must develop innovative green energy technologies that will help us meet domestic needs and access a growing global market.

14. The Government should commission an independent study of the CETA whose specific terms of reference would be to determine the true cost of harmonizing Canada’s intellectual property system with that of the European Union.

15. The Government of Canada should insist that the CETA agreement establish a framework for ensuring market access, and continued production, for Canadian producers of comparable agricultural and food products that use designations protected under the EU`s Geographic Indications regime.

16. That the Government of Canada undertake a study to review where the CETA addresses areas of provincial jurisdiction as it related to the distribution of powers:
– in particular with respect to section 92 of The Constitution Act, 1867; and
– in all areas where there is shared, overlapping, or concurrent jurisdiction, and report on key implementation and enforcement issues that could arise.

17. That Government should ensure that CETA’s provisions related to rules of origin are broad enough to ensure meaningful market access gains for Canadian exports, particularly auto, fish and agricultural products, recognizing the reality of highly integrated North American supply chains. With Specific reference to the Canadian automotive sector, the CETA must specify low rules of origin thresholds for Canadian manufactured automobiles.

Liberal Party Recommendations

1. Given the scale of the agreement being negotiated with the European Union, the committee should:
A) Re-title the report as an Interim Report;
B) Commit to holding further hearings in the spring of 2012 on the negotiations with a commitment to travel across Canada to hear from Canadians and to invite provincial governments to make submissions and presentations to the committee.

2. That the government must clearly indicate not only the “benefits” from the trade agreement being sought but the “costs” which could result from any agreement being sought and identify them by sector. The assessments referred to by the Minister of International Trade should be shared with the International Trade committee in order for the committee to have a far better assessment of the impacts of the negotiations.

3. Prior to the conclusion of the negotiations, the federal government should table with the committee a legal opinion clarifying the issue of responsibility under any agreement reached with the EU, outlining specifically the terms as to which level of government will bear responsibility for any dispute resolution finding against any province or municipality.

4. Prior to the submission of any agreement the government of Canada table an analysis with respect to the impact on pharmaceutical drug costs due to any implications arising from intellectual property changes.

5. That the committee conduct a series of hearings and table a report to Parliament on the status of current Canada – US trade issues with a focus on the future relationship with that market in the context of agreements such as the Canada – EU trade agreement.

6. That the committee call upon the government to specifically state the position taken at the negotiations with respect to supply management – not only whether the entire system is on the negotiating table but is the government prepared to concede on issues related to increased access by the EU, and whether specific tariff issues have been discussed with a view to reducing those tariffs on any or all supply managed commodities.

7. (A) That the committee call for a full analysis be provided on the extent and impact of the procurement elements contained in the CETA prior to any submission by the government of the agreement for ratification by Parliament.
(B) That the Minister report to the committee on the foregoing.

8. That the committee call upon the government to provide clarification to the committee regarding the status of negotiations or any final agreement concerning investor protection issues prior to submission of any final agreement to Parliament for ratification.

The Liberal dissenting statement concludes:

The brevity with which this committee has dealt with this agreement should be of concern to anyone interested in let alone concerned about the CETA.

The strategic agenda which propels this government’s trade agenda remains unclear which has resulted in the apparent willingness to negotiate and reach Free Trade Agreements for the sake of achieving an agreement. This is a matter of serious concern.

These recommendations, and others made by the Council of Canadians, Trade Justice Network and other organizations, must be levelled at provincial and territorial governments also. To use our Action Alert to send a letter to your provincial legislators responsible for the CETA negotiations, click here.