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UPDATE: Council of Canadians intervenes against CETA talks in Brussels

The sixth round of Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations – the second last scheduled before the deal is to be signed at the end of this year – are set to begin Monday January 17 in Brussels, Belgium.

The Council of Canadians will be there to voice our concerns about CETA – a deal the Harper government boasts to be larger in scope than NAFTA – and its impact on water privatization, tar sands expansion, reduced public policy-setting rights (through local procurement restrictions and an investor-state provision), and much more (including projected job losses and increased pharmaceutical costs that would further burden our public health care system).

Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew and I will arrive in Brussels tomorrow. We will be joined by other Trade Justice Network delegation members – National Farmers Union president Terry Boehm, Indigenous Environmental Network tar sands campaigner Clayton Thomas-Muller, Canadian Union of Public Employees researcher Blair Redlin, and ATTAC-Quebec Board member Ronald Cameron.

While in Europe we will also be working with a growing number of allies there including the UK Tar Sands Network (which organized a CETA-tar sands protest in London on Friday), Friends of the Earth Europe, Food and Water Europe, Corporate Europe Observatory, and the European Federation of Public Service Unions.

Highlights of our intervention over the next five days will include a protest against the tar sands in front of the European Commission in Brussels on Monday, the raising of critical questions at a meeting with Canada’s chief negotiator for CETA Steve Verheul, media work (Reuters is already interested in an interview), and meetings with Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France (where the European Parliament will be in full-session), and much more.

In our suitcases today we have copies of Steven Shrybman’s legal opinion on CETA and the tar sands that we launched late last year with the Indigenous Environmental Network. We now have an updated introduction for this opinion with the participation (and financial support) of Friends of the Earth Europe. We are also travelling with copies of a joint Council of Canadians-CUPE research report on CETA and water privatization. We will be giving these reports to as many MEPs as possible this week.

This work will also help set the stage for an intervention at the seventh – and for now final – round of talks which are to take place on April 11-15 in Ottawa. It will also assist with the building of a cross-Canada speaking tour against CETA that the Council and CUPE have been jointly planning for this spring.