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Ottawa chapter activist challenges Freeland’s notion of ‘progressive’ trade deals

Council of Canadians Ottawa chapter activist Mike Vorobej was present for a recent speech by International Trade minister Chrystia Freeland. She was speaking at a Canadian Chamber of Commerce event in Ottawa on May 19.

In a letter to the editor published in the Toronto Star, Vorobej writes, “I was very interested to hear about the government’s plans for ‘progressive’ trade deals that actually help the Canadian middle class and I was fascinated by the fact that you meet with high ranking Mexican officials on a weekly basis.”

He highlights, “In the opinion of many, NAFTA has been a progressively growing disaster for the Canadian middle class.”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow agrees with Vorobej. She has commented, “Canada lost 334,000 manufacturing jobs in the first five years after the Canada-U.S. deal was signed — a decline that continued under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Good paying full-time jobs are more often than not replaced by precarious part-time work, which has contributed to Canada’s stagnating middle-income wages.”

In April, Freeland stated, “[CETA] is going to set a new bar for progressive trade agreements internationally. …This agreement we have done, Canada and the EU, is a gold standard trade agreement.” And yet the new report Investment Court System put to the test highlights that the so-called Investment Court System (ICS) ‘reform’ in CETA would still allow the most controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) challenges launched under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to proceed.

Massive protests have taken place in Europe against CETA and 3,477,134 Europeans have now signed a petition demanding that CETA not be ratified and that negotiations on the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) be stopped.

Vorobej concludes, “The day I see 100,000 or even 50,000 people on the street anywhere on this planet demonstrating in favour of the latest, greatest free trade deal I will start believing that free trade policy really is meant to help people not just transnational corporations and their privileged beneficiaries.”

For more on our campaigns to stop corporate free trade agreements, please click here.