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Trudeau must “get real” about the impacts of the Canada-EU free trade agreement

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must “get real” about the devastating impacts of neo-liberal policies, including free trade.

The Canadian Press reports, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used one of Germany’s most prestigious black-tie galas to tell business leaders to ‘get real’ about the addressing the anxieties of their workers in an uncertain world. Trudeau delivered the no-holds-barred message to an audience of 400 politicians, business leaders and other notables at the annual St. Matthew’s Banquet in the opulent Hamburg city hall.”

The Canadian Press article adds, “[The prime minister told] the corporate elite seated before him to shape up, and stop profiting at the expense of their employees. ‘No more brushing aside the concerns of our workers and our citizens’, the prime minister said in prepared remarks. ‘We have to address the root cause of their worries, and get real about how the changing economy is impacting peoples’ lives.’ He even adopted some of the language of anti-trade movements. ‘When companies post record profits on the backs of workers consistently refused full-time work — and the job security that comes with it — people get defeated’, he said.”

And yet Trudeau is championing the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that will result in greater corporate power, bigger profits for the pharmaceutical industry, job loss and increased inequality.

After the European Parliament (narrowly) voted in favour of CETA earlier this week, Trudeau stated, “This landmark trade deal puts people first, and will strengthen the middle class on both sides of the Atlantic. Together, I know Canada and the EU will continue to champion progressive free trade deals that benefit everyone.”

The evidence doesn’t support the prime minister’s assertion.

In September 2016, a Global Development and Environment Institute at 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”.

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.

And Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden says, “There’s nothing more helpful to Trump and the wave of European populism than passing CETA. 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 has observed that Trudeau presents “neo-liberalism with a human face”, meaning he is pursuing basically the same policies – including supporting CETA – as former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper but attempting to frame them 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.