A widely-covered Trojan Horse protest organized by the Council of Canadians, the Trade Justice Network, RQIC and Attac France/ the Seattle to Brussels Network countered the beginning of CETA negotiations in Ottawa this week.
The Canadian Press is reporting late today that, “Trade Minister Ed Fast says Canada and the European Union are a step closer to signing a free trade deal with the exchange of formal offers on services and investment this week in Ottawa. Fast said in a statement Thursday that ‘significant progress’ had been achieved on market access in the areas of goods, services, investment and government procurement. …The two sides were expected the wrap up the ninth round of formal negotiations Friday, with more sessions planned (in a process that is scheduled to conclude next year).”
But, “The rosy assessment (of the benefits of a Canada-EU free trade deal) is rejected by unions and other civil society groups who believe Europe has the most to gain from such a deal. Critics fear a free trade deal with Europe would open up government services such as municipal water facilities to privatization and outside competition, as well as eliminate local preferences for such government spending as Ontario’s Green Plan. In a statement, a coalition of opponents that include the Council of Canadians called for a cessation of talks, saying an agreement would ‘weaken and prevent social, health and environmental regulations, and protect investors’ rights at the expense of democratic rights’.”
At just after 5 pm today, the Trade Justice Network (of which the Council of Canadians is a founding member) and the Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale (RQIC) issued a media statement that says, “Over 80 European and Canadian civil society groups demand that political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic stop negotiating the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and release the offers now. ‘Our organizations say NO to this agreement, which has been negotiated for the sole benefit of transnational corporations at the expense of people’s rights and of the protection of the environment,’ says the declaration.”
The declaration concludes, “We therefore ask Canadian federal and provincial representatives, as well as representatives from the European Parliament and from the different national parliaments to refuse to ratify the CETA, and to act in total transparency regarding this agreement which is selling off our social rights, threatening environmental regulations and, more generally speaking, democracy itself.”
Additionally at play now are two major issues that could derail CETA:
1. The seal hunt: On Tuesday, the Corner Brook Western Star reported, “Over 100 MEPs have signed a statement (that calls) on Canada to withdraw its challenge of the European Union’s ban on Canadian seal products at the World Trade Organization, prior to any movement forward on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.” In May 2009, the 736-seat European Parliament voted by a 550-49 margin to impose a ban on the import of Canadian seal products. Canada is now challenging the European Union at the World Trade Organization on this issue.
2. The European Fuel Quality Directive: Also on Tuesday, OilPrice.com reported, “On 4 October the European Commission proposed that oil sands crude be ranked as a dirtier source of fuel compared with oil from conventional wells. …A bill containing a fuel-quality directive (FQD) targeting oil sands imports is due to be presented to the European Parliament for a vote later this year.” That vote is expected to take place on December 2. “Ottawa is now threatening to retaliate in the area of Canadian-EU bilateral trade. Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver thundered against the European Union, saying the action would be ‘discriminatory’ and could trigger a challenge before the World Trade Organization.”
Other notable obstacles to a deal are noted at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=9352.
The TJN/ RQIC statement can be read at http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/over-80-european-canadian-organizations-demand-end-canada-eu-free-trade-talks-1576089.htm. The Canadian Press article is at http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/breakingnews/canada-eu-talks-progressing-exchange-offers-on-investment-services-132271223.html.