Skip to content

NEWS: Harper prioritizes trade over human rights

CBC National Affairs Specialist Greg Weston writes, “The Harper government wants to focus Canada’s international efforts primarily on one goal: forging new trade deals and business opportunities in the rapidly expanding markets of Asia and South America.” This according to “A confidential government document (that was) prepared by Foreign Affairs and dated Sept. 6 (which outlines the) new ‘Canadian foreign policy plan’ the Conservative government has been preparing for more than a year.”

According to the document:

1) On democratic principles, “To succeed we will need to pursue political relationships in tandem with economic interests even where political interests or values may not align.”

2) On immigration, “Attracting immigrants, students and temporary workers that can best contribute to economic opportunity in Canada (is the priority).”

3) On military missions and foreign aid projects, “While Canada may participate, with its allies, in international security missions for broader strategic or other reasons, security and development engagements in key countries of interest will seek to address Canada’s domestic security, economic and other priorities.”

Weston writes that with respect to the United States, “The brief does blame the U.S. for delaying Canada’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations towards a possible trade deal the Harper government views as critical to opening Asian markets. It also bemoans the Obama administration’s decision to postpone approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas. And it predicts Canadian interests will similarly ‘continue to be affected by internal U.S. politics or narrow interests’.”

Earlier this week, Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew commented that the Harper government has objected to human rights language in a Framework Agreement parallel to the Canada-European Union free trade agreement (CETA).

Trew writes, “The EU typically signs political framework agreements with all its free trade partners, and EU officials would like to sign such an agreement with Canada at the same time they sign CETA. …The language on human rights in the Canada-EU framework is apparently very similar to the EU deal with Colombia and Peru, which allows either party to revoke any trade and investment benefits in the event of a serious breach of human rights by the other party. Canada objects to the idea that CETA, an economic agreement, could be suspended for violations of the political framework agreement.”

Trew’s blog is at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=17998. Weston’s analysis can be read at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/11/19/pol-foreign-policy-.html?autoplay=true.