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Trudeau ratifies WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation

The Trudeau government continues to pursue a neo-liberal agenda of free trade agreements that result in lost jobs and increased income inequality.

Tax-News reports, “Canada has ratified the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA). Canada’s legislation to implement the TFA received Royal Assent on December 12, 2016. The TFA will enter into force once it is ratified by two-thirds of [the 164] WTO members. As of December 13, 2016, 102 of the required 110 WTO members had ratified the agreement.”

The World Trade Organization website notes, “In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference. The Trade Facilitation Agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.”

As noted in this December 2013 campaign blog, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has commented, “This was not a historic win for developing countries at the WTO. They scrape by with modest and temporary protections for food security policies that should be completely excluded from corporate trade rules, which are still biased in the interests of corporations and rich countries. The bargain, if you can call it that, also came at the high price of agreeing to a trade facilitation agreement that further locks in a neo-colonial trading system that has condemned much of the world to poverty.”

At that time, the Associated Press also reported, “Critics say WTO rules may hinder countries from setting their own priorities in environmental protection, worker rights, food security and other areas. And they say sudden reductions in import tariffs can wipe out industries, causing job losses in rich and poor countries.”

Last week, Toronto Star national affairs columnist Thomas Walkom wrote, “Justin Trudeau promised neo-liberalism with a human face. Those weren’t the words he used. But the phrase expresses the gist of the election campaign he successfully waged just over a year ago. In that campaign, Trudeau said his Liberals would pursue most of Conservative Stephen Harper’s economic goals — including resource exploitation, pipelines and free trade. But they would do so in a way that distributed the proceeds more equitably. In effect, he promised to be Tony Blair to Harper’s Margaret Thatcher — doing much the same as his political nemesis, but in a more acceptable manner.”

Walkom adds, “The Liberal government continues apace with its overarching globalization plans. The free trade and investment deal between Canada and the European Union is closer to fruition. A similar deal with China is on the agenda, as is some kind of free-trade relationship with Japan. Are the rewards from Trudeau-style neo-liberalism being shared more equitably? As for the hallmark of neo-liberal economies — the precarious workplace of low wages and multiple jobs — the advice from Finance Minister Bill Morneau is hardly encouraging. In effect he has said: Get used to it.”

A Tufts University study on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) projected a net loss of 23,000 jobs in Canada in the first seven years of CETA. That study also projected that with CETA the average income in Canada could fall by $2,650 by 2023. And it found that CETA will exacerbate inequality because any economic net gains from CETA will flow overwhelmingly to the owners of capital rather than to workers. Another Tufts University study found that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would cost Canada 58,000 jobs and increase income inequality. The study estimates that the 12-signatory countries would lose a net total of 771,000 jobs in the 10 years after the TPP comes into force.

Last month, Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland testified before the Senate and stated, “At a time when so many other countries are being torn apart by ugly and polarized politics, I’m really pleased to be able to be here with you and to strongly support the [WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement], which was struck by the previous government.” Taking a contrary view, our ally UK-based War on Want trade campaigner Mark Dearn has warned that free trade policies that generate inequality fuel the racist right that we are increasingly seeing in Europe and the United States.