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Trudeau in Europe to celebrate narrow win for unpopular & job-killing Canada-EU ‘free trade’ deal

Trudeau enters the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France this morning.

The CBC reports, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has arrived in Strasbourg, France, where he will mark the European Parliament’s passing of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.”

The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to back CETA. Of the 695 members present in the 751-seat legislature, 408 voted in favour, 254 against and 33 abstained. That means that less than 60 per cent of MEPs voted for the deal. In comparison, when the European Parliament voted on the European Union-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, there were 465 votes in favour, 128 against, and 19 abstentions.

More than 3.5 million Europeans have also signed a petition in opposition to the ratification of CETA.

Prior to departing for Strasbourg, Trudeau stated trade equals more jobs for the middle class. He says, “That’s why access to the European market for our producers, for our companies is going to be a good thing for Canadian jobs right across the country.”

And yet the evidence doesn’t back him up on that claim.

An October 2010 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report found that a free trade agreement with Europe could cost between 28,000 and 152,000 Canadian jobs. In September 2016, a Tufts University study found that CETA would transfer 1.74 per cent of national income from labour to capital (meaning any economic gains will flow overwhelmingly to owners of capital rather than to workers), that it will result in a net loss of 23,000 jobs in Canada in the first seven years of being in effect, and that due to rising inequality and unemployment the average income in Canada is projected to fall by $2,650 by 2023.

Overall the Tufts University CETA Without Blinders study shows that CETA signatory countries would lose 230,00 jobs.

In December 2016, the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee stated that CETA should be rejected because it risked job losses and increased inequality. The Committee found that CETA would result in “‘widening the incomes gap between unskilled and skilled workers thus increasing inequalities and social tensions”. That’s why our UK-based ally War on Want trade campaigner Mark Dearn has criticized the European Commission and members of the European Parliament for supporting a deal that generates inequality and, in turn, fuels the racist right.

Naomi Klein has noted that it was the US Democrats embrace of neo-liberalism that helped Trump win the November 2016 presidential election.

She says, “Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. …Trump speaks directly to that pain. The Brexit campaign spoke to that pain. So do all of the rising far-right parties in Europe. They answer it with nostalgic nationalism and anger at remote economic bureaucracies… And of course, they answer it by bashing immigrants and people of colour, vilifying Muslims, and degrading women. Elite neoliberalism has nothing to offer that pain, because neoliberalism unleashed the Davos class.”

And our UK-based Global Justice Now ally Nick Dearden has commented in this op-ed, “There’s nothing more helpful to Trump and the wave of European populism than passing CETA this week. How do we fight Trumpism? By showing that the solution to devastating corporate trade pacts isn’t ‘beggar my neighbour’ economics, but a trade system based on the needs of society – building public services, creating decent jobs, laws to constrain the most powerful exploiting the least powerful. Without this, everything that Trump represents will grow.”

Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom says Trudeau presents “neo-liberalism with a human face”, and that Trudeau is a version of former UK prime minister Tony Blair in relation to Stephen Harper as Margaret Thatcher, both carrying out the same agenda – in this case both Trudeau and Harper supporting CETA – but one appearing to do so in a “more acceptable manner”.

The Council of Canadians opposes CETA, rejects the claim by Trudeau’s trade minister that CETA “is a deal for the people”, and will continue to work with our European allies to stop its passage in 38 national and regional parliaments, all of which must approve the deal for it to be fully ratified.