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NEWS: The effects of CETA on Toronto and other cities could be serious

Toronto Star national affairs writer Linda Diebel reports, “An impending trade deal with Europe is ringing alarm bells across the country. Under the deal, Canada has agreed to European demands to prohibit municipalities and provinces from offering incentives or otherwise favouring local bidders on procurement contracts.”

“The pact is called the Canada/European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and its scope is unprecedented. The previous comprehensive deal signed by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico (NAFTA) covers only federal procurement. …The deal accesses ‘ABCCDs’ — the city’s agencies, boards, commissions, corporations and divisions. They include the TTC, nursing homes and the water system. And the same rules also apply to provincial agencies for the first time.”

“The effects on Toronto could be serious: Could the TTC still impose Canadian content rules for its vehicles if faced with a European trade challenge? Could the city continue to ensure certain construction projects hire youths from priority neighbourhoods? Could the city still award food procurement contracts to support local farmers? …What would happen to a municipal ban on selling bottled water at city events if a big European bottler appeared on the scene. …A special report by city manager Joseph Pennachetti and obtained by the Star raises red flags about its consequences. And last week, Toronto’s executive committee, armed with the report, asked Ontario to ensure municipal procurement needs are preserved under the trade deal. …(But) it may already be too late for exemptions, according to Ontario Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid.”

“Stuart Trew, a Council of Canadians trade campaigner, says the U.S. government and states always carve out protection for ‘Buy America’ policies in their trade deals. ‘But in CETA, ‘Buy Canada’ simply disappears over the low thresholds – which seems like a big thing to throw away forever.'”

“Public policy lawyer Steven Shrybman condemns the secrecy behind this latest deal in Ottawa’s brisk march of successive trade and investment deals that also include, talks with China and Japan, along with broader agreements with Pacific nations and more deals with the U.S. under the umbrella of North American Perimeter talks. ‘The whole thing is just outrageous,’ he said. ‘What possible justification can they have for doing this all in secret, hidden from their own citizens? It’s tantamount to writing a new economic constitution for the country and Canadians are being kept out of it.'”

The complete article can be read at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1136423–canada-europe-trade-deal-prohibits-provinces-municipalities-from-favouring-local-bidders-on-contracts.

The Council of Canadians has been raising concerns about CETA since it was first announced in October 2008. The signing of the deal – which has been delayed several times – is now expected by June 2012. The parliamentary approval process in both Canada and Europe is expected to push the scheduled ratification date of the agreement to mid-2013. We will campaign even harder over the next 16-months to ensure that CETA is not ratified. For more on our campaign, please see http://canadians.org/ceta.