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UPDATE: Barlow speaks to EU ambassadors on CETA

This morning, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow met with the European Union ambassador to Canada, Matthias Brinkmann, and 24 European member country ambassadors at the EU delegation office in Ottawa.

Barlow raised our concerns – shared by numerous groups in Canada and Europe – about the proposed Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). While the EU ambassador was under the impression that we were one of the few critics of the proposed deal, Barlow made it clear that many groups on both sides of the Atlantic are opposed.

At the meeting the ambassadors expressed their support for ‘free trade’, and their preference for the WTO Doha talks over bilateral agreements, but acknowledged that Canada had sought CETA with them and that some convincing had been needed to pursue the agreement.

On the question of process and transparency, there was surprise expressed by the diplomats that there hasn’t been more public debate on CETA in Canada (although some did see our October 2010 protest from the negotiating room at Old City Hall in Ottawa).

It was also noted after the meeting by one ambassador that his country would look more closely at the investor-state provision being negotiated.

According to the EU ambassador, it is hoped that the ‘concession’ stage of offers will take place this July in Brussels. The Council of Canadians will be present outside these talks – taking place July 11-15 – to continue to voice our opposition along with our Trade Justice Network and European allies. While the delegation says they won’t seek the privatization of public services in Canada, including water utilities, if those services were privatized they, of course, would want access to them.

Barlow highlighted to the ambassadors that the Council of Canadians supports trade, but that trade can be shaped to help promote environmental stewardship and the eradication of poverty, and that CETA is less about trade and more about constraining what governments are able to do in the public interest.

To read Barlow’s speech to the EU ambassadors, go http://canadians.org/trade/documents/CETA/Barlow-EU-address-0611.pdf.

To see a list of 29 Canadian organizations opposed to CETA, see this civil society declaration at http://canadians.org/trade/issues/EU/declaration.html. To see a list of 14 European organizations with concerns about CETA, http://www.s2bnetwork.org/fileadmin/dateien/downloads/EU-Canada_statement_Final.pdf.

For more on our campaign against CETA please go to http://canadians.org/ceta.