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Trudeau to sign FTA with Ukraine, interested in promoting Canadian investment in fracking

An anti-fracking protest in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will sign a ‘free trade’ agreement with Ukraine when he visits Kyiv next week.

CBC reports, “A preliminary agreement was negotiated last year by the Harper government, but it’s now being formalized.” Last month, the Ottawa Citizen noted, “[On June 20], Trudeau told a Canada-Ukraine business forum in Toronto that he will be in Ukraine on July 11-12 after attending the NATO leaders’ summit in Poland [on July 8-9].”

Ukraine Today adds, “Ukrainian government has removed all obstacles on the way to the Free Trade zone with Canada. The country’s Cabinet of Ministers has approved the agreement and has authorized the Economy Minister to sign it… [Trudeau] is expected to sign the agreement from the Canadian side.”

A Government of Canada website highlights, “Given Ukraine’s significant unconventional oil and gas deposits, there is increased interest in these sectors.” Bloomberg has reported, “Ukraine may have as much as 1.2 trillion cubic meters of gas trapped in its shale rocks, Europe’s third-largest deposit after France and Norway, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimate.”

The Government of Canada also notes, “Canada already has a [Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement] with Ukraine that entered into force in 1995. An investment chapter in an FTA would build upon this Agreement, and would be based on Canada’s current FIPA model.”

The ability of Canadian – or US corporations with operations in Canada – to challenge future regulations against fracking in Ukraine is a serious problem as the world seeks to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Among other concerns, fracking wells leak 40 to 60 per cent more methane than conventional natural gas wells.

While Trudeau’s trade policy appears similar to Harper’s trade policy, Montreal-based journalist and historian Michael Petrou also argues there’s little difference in the two government’s military and security policies as well.

Petrou highlights, “The Liberals ran for office on a pledge to end Canada’s combat mission against [Iraq and Syria], including an airstrike campaign launched by the Conservatives. …[But] Canadian trainers are calling in airstrikes, Canadian planes are scouting targets, and Canadian officers are on the ground in Baghdad working with the Iraqi military and other members of the U.S.-led international coalition. The Trudeau government still publicly clings to the fiction that this isn’t a combat mission.”

Adding to this the Canadian Press now reports, “Canada is deploying what the Liberal government describes as its largest military contingent to Europe in more than a decade, as NATO prepares for a protracted standoff with a resurgent Russia. [At the NATO summit, Trudeau announced] that Canada will send [up to 1,000] troops and [up to six] fighter jets to eastern Europe, where tensions between NATO and Russia have reached levels not seen since the Cold War. A Canadian frigate will also operate in the region. The commitments are part of an alliance effort to show resolve after Russia annexed Crimea and started supporting separatist forces in eastern Ukraine two years ago.”

Radio Canada International notes, “The deployment goes contrary to the NATO-Russia Founding Act signed in 1997 where the military alliance explicitly agreed not to station troops along the Russian border in former satellite states. …But NATO officials now argue Russia effectively tore up the treaty with the annexation of Crimea and that it has a duty to defend new members, including the Baltic states, Poland and Romania.”

That said, University of Ottawa professor Paul Robinson cautions, “It’s very unlikely it will make things better in terms of our relationships with Russia, it would make things worse. …I think one needs to be realistic about the so-called threat rather than emotional and realize that the Russian threat to the Baltic states doesn’t really exist. …If we can calm things down and build trust on their side as well as on ours, then we’re much more likely to avoid problems, than by stocking tensions. In Russia the public climate is very hostile to NATO at this point in time, and particularly to the United States, and this is just one more thing adding to an already long list of grievances, which will harden attitudes in Moscow rather than make them more flexible or more reasonable.”

The CBC also reports, “[Ukraine’s] ambassador [says] he’s hopeful the Trudeau government will soon allow Canadian companies to export weapons to the embattled nation. …Both Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares wrote to the federal government last summer, expressing concern about allowing Ukraine onto the list of 39 countries where weapons can be sold.” This follows the Trudeau government’s backing of the Harper government’s sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

The Council of Canadians continues to demand the “real change” the Liberals promised voters in the last election.