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UPDATE: Canada-El Salvador FTA would be a threat to water justice

According to the Government of Canada, “Canada is negotiating a free trade agreement with El Salvador and three other countries in Central America: Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Parallel agreements on labour and environment are also being pursued.” More specifically, a Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada web-page also notes, “On August 12, 2011, Prime Minister Harper announced the conclusion of negotiations for a Canada-Honduras free trade agreement during an official visit to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Canada remains open to re-engaging in free trade agreement negotiations with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua at a future date. …Canada and the CA4 met in Ottawa for the 12th round of negotiations from March 8 to 12, 2010.”

But it doesn’t appear that a Canada-El Salvador trade agreement is imminent. When Stephen Harper was in Latin America to promote free trade agreements this past summer, CBC reported, “Talks with the so-called Central American Four, comprising Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, have dragged on for a decade.”

Perhaps El Salvador is looking at the experience of Honduras with Canada and its free trade deals.

In March 2011, Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew wrote, “Parliament’s foreign affairs committee heard from several witnesses that an FTA with Honduras is the last thing the country needs. Unfortunately for Hondurans, Canada’s foreign policy in Latin America puts mining interests first, real economic development last, and human rights somewhere in between.”

And just this past March, Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams wrote, “(A proposed new mining act in Honduras) would accelerate the licensing process for new mines in Honduras, including open-pit mines, and simplify the rules for mining companies planning to operate in Honduras. It would also reduce environmental standards and privilege water use by mining companies. At the same time, the new law would open the door for foreign states to become title owners of mining concessions, and it fails to ensure the communities that will suffer the most direct impact from the mining have any meaningful say over mining developments. …In creating this new law, the Honduran government has bent over backwards to meet the needs of Canadian and other mining companies…”

Or perhaps El Salvador is keenly aware of how the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement has been used against them to promote mining interests over water justice.

Many readers will also be familiar with the case of Vancouver-based Pacific Rim attempting to use its office in Reno, Nevada to launch a CAFTA challenge against the democratically-elected government of El Salvador’s refusal to allow it to open its El Dorado mine in that country due to environmental concerns. Those concerns included the use of 30,000 litres of water a day by the mine from the same water sources that provide local residents with water only once a week. There are also concerns that the cyanide used to extract the gold and silver would contaminate the area’s groundwater.

For related blogs, please see:
UPDATE: ‘Shout Out’ marches to Pacific Rim offices in Vancouver
NEWS: Right to water bill moves forward in El Salvador
Canada-El Salvador trade deal to further entrench power of rogue mining corporations
Canada-Honduras FTA about mining and sweatshop protection, foreign affairs committee hears

The Council of Canadians will continue to work to oppose a Canada-El Salvador free trade agreement that positions the unfettered rights of mining companies to exploit and profit over the living-needs of Salvadorans and the basic human right to water.