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NEWS: Harper wants to keep human rights out of CETA

Embassy magazine reports, “A proposed text linking human rights to trade in a discussed Canada-European Union political agreement could lead to an eventual suspension of the much-awaited (Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) – making federal government officials uneasy, Embassy has learned. …Canadian and European officials started negotiating the so-called Strategic Partnership Agreement in 2011 at the EU’s request. The SPA is legally different than CETA, but talks run in parallel.”

“Its purpose is to establish an all-encompassing framework that would bring all existing sectoral agreements and areas of co-operation the two parties currently share under one roof. It is also meant to update the Canada-EU relationship to reflect the political changes that took place over the last decades, including the EU’s new institutional structures and its expansion to 27 member states.”

But Liberal Senator Joan Fraser, an opponent of the clause, says, “The problem is that in the European formula they want to include a clause that would make it possible for the trade agreement to be suspended if the Europeans judge that Canada had engaged in a serious violation of human rights.”

The article continues, “Canada wants to keep trade and human rights separate…” That is quite true for the Harper government. In November 2012, CBC reported, “A confidential (Harper) government document (that was) prepared by Foreign Affairs and dated Sept. 6 (outlining the) new ‘Canadian foreign policy plan’ the Conservative government has been preparing for more than a year (says that), ‘To succeed we will need to pursue political relationships in tandem with economic interests even where political interests or values may not align’.”

The right to food and water may also be potential issues of concern for the Europeans. This past March the Canadian Press reported, “The United Nations right-to-food envoy (Olivier De Schutter) says the Canadian government’s controversial decision to … negotiate a free trade deal with Europe will make it more difficult to fight poverty in Canada.” And while the European Union has recognized human rights obligations related to water, and Belgium, Hungary, Italy and Spain voted in favour of the right to water at the United Nations in July 2010, the Harper government only grudgingly accepts the right and has not taken steps to implement it, prompting Germany, Spain and Norway to ask Canada to recognize the right to water at the recent Universal Periodic Review of Canada’s human rights record at the UN.

Notably, Senator Fraser mentions in the Embassy article that, “The European Parliament (strongly feels) that we should accept this linkage between trade and human rights.” In order for CETA to be ratified, it must be voted on by Members of the European Parliament. But already, more than 100 MEPs have signed a statement that says there will be no movement forward on CETA unless Canada withdraws its WTO challenge against the EU’s ban on Canadian seal products, a step the Harper government refuses to take.

For more, please read:
Human rights text causing concern over EU trade deal
NEWS: Harper prioritizes trade over human rights
NEWS: UN special rapporteur says Harper’s Canada-EU CETA will hurt the right to food
UPDATE: Five countries ask Canada to recognize the right to water
Council of Canadians CETA campaign web-page