Skip to content

Update on trade: Buy America, FCM, Colombia, Peru

It was a busy week at the Council of Canadians for trade work. From the Buy America frenzy and municipal resolutions passed at the FCM to Uribe’s trip to Canada to the Peruvian police massacre of anti-FTA Indigenous protesters, trade issues topped the news agenda almost every day. Here’s an update of where we were and where we’re going on certain key campaigns…

FCM meeting and letters to premiers

Image used in USW op-ed in the Toronto Star recently. The USW endorses a Buy Canada policy and eventual transition to Buy North American.

Image used in USW op-ed in the Toronto Star recently. The USW endorses a Buy Canada policy and eventual transition to Buy North American.

The pressure on the federal government from some municipalities and the Canadian business lobby to counter Obama’s “Buy America” clause in this year’s stimulus bill has been relentless and continues. Much of it swirled around a misplaced resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities from Halton regional council in Ontario barring bids for local infrastructure projects from companies whose country of origin blocked Canadian bids. It was an odd combination of tit-for-tat and industry support, as Halton partnered up with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, CCCE and others on a Fair Trade for Canada campaign that confused and obfuscated.

The problem for us is that the CME, CCCE and other business lobby groups have asked for a new bilateral understanding/agreement with the United States that would liberalize procurement at the sub-national level. The provinces and cities on both sides of the border kept this out of NAFTA and there is little chance the Americans would let go of Buy America provisions for local and state procurement, which go back to the Great Depression. Nonetheless, the federal government and provinces support this new “fair trade” agenda, and have been careful not to mention that cities are also sub-national governments whose powers would be impacted by such an agreement.

We impressed upon the premiers this fact, and the much better solution to Buy America – a reciprocal Buy Canada policy as proposed by the CAW, Steelworkers, CUPE and others – in a joint letter with CUPE sent to each premier individually. You can read the press release that accompanied that letter by clicking here.

While the Halton resolution passed at the FCM last weekend in Whistler by a very narrow margin, a much better resolution, crafted by the Council of Canadians and CUPE, passed easily without debate.

As CUPE wrote on their FCM blog, “Resolution B56 calls for ‘open public consultation before negotiating any internal or international trade and security agreement,’ including municipal input through FCM. The resolution also commits the federation to further researching and monitoring of the effects of trade deals such as the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, the Agreement on Internal Trade and a new Canada-EU free trade agreement on municipalities.”

I was in Montreal last weekend to do a presentation at the 5th Citizen Summit of Montreal with ATTAC Quebec on the interprovincial trade agenda, it’s links to the Buy America frenzy and the EU agreement, and what Quebec municipalities can do to pressure their government to debate this more openly. Charest is the biggest proponent of wiping out interprovincial differences in regulations despite the fact that Quebec has more unique, protected and much loved regulations than any other province. Norah and Richard Chaoloner from the Guelph Chapter of the Council of Canadians, as well as Abdul Pirani from the Montreal chapter, were at the Summit, which should really be reproduced across Canada. It’s basically a social forum and was referred to as the Porto Allegre of Montreal in one columnist’s article.

Colombia FTA, Montreal protests and Uribe’s trip to Ottawa

Maude Barlow, Alex Neve (Amnesty) and Gerry Barr (CCIC) participated in a press conference this Tuesday on the Canada-Colombia FTA in advance of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez’s visit to Canada. Uribe was in Montreal to present to the Montreal Economic Summit of the Americas, or Conference of Montreal – a who’s who of capitalism’s fiercest defenders. The SOS Quebec network was a major organizer of that rally, photos of which are up on the Common Frontiers website.

For comprehensive coverage of the Uribe/Harper press conference and Ottawa rally, including several video clips, see the Harper Index story here.

The Council of Canadians national office participated in another protest in Ottawa on the same day, which took place just before Uribe’s private visit with Stephen Harper. Uribe came to Ottawa after the Montreal summit to discuss the FTA with the Prime Minister, Liberal opposition leader Michael Ignatieff, the full Liberal Caucus and, the following morning, with the Commons International Trade Committee.

For a laugh, you can contrast the Colombian government version of that CIIT meeting with what what was reported in the Canadian media. Liberal Trade Critic Scott Brison, though flattering Uribe on his progress on human and labour rights, nonetheless repeated that the Liberals are not ready to support the FTA without a human rights impact assessment taking place first. But according to one Globe and Mail editor I spoke to, the Liberals will eventually drop their marginal opposition and side Harper some time in the fall.

Peru massacres, Petrolifera and Senate deliberation of Bill C-24
The Peruvian police violence against Indigenous protesters in Bagua province last week, which resulted in over 60 deaths, including police officers, has created global backlash against the Peruvian government and its impossible stance that the tens of thousands of protesters are essentially savages who should get with the economic development program. The Indigenous groups are simply asking that their international right to fair consultation on projects on their land be upheld. The groups are also opposed to the FTAs with Canada and the United States on the grounds they will only further open up the rainforest to unfettered mining, forestry, agricultural and resource extraction, with little benefit to local communities.

PHOTO: Thomas Quirynen (taken from Ben Powless blog for Rabble.ca)

PHOTO: Thomas Quirynen (taken from Ben Powless’ blog for Rabble.ca)

The Council of Canadians participated this week in solidarity protests against Peruvian consulates in Ottawa and Toronto, and our Prairies office organized a demonstration today against the Alberta company Petrolifera, which operates extensively in Peru and which was recently granted exploration rights in a wide swathe of Amazon inhabited by one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes – the Cacataibo. The company’s responses to complaints have been flippant and dismissive. Our rally with the Rainforst Action Network and others will ask the company to cease operations in Peru in protest against the government repression of Indigenous.

But the rally in Calgary is also to ask the Canadian government to halt its FTA with Peru until the conflict with Indigenous groups can be resolved. We joined this week with MiningWatch Canada and Common Frontiers to urge the Senate of Canada to halt passage of the Can-Peru FTA (Bill C-24) and send it back to the Commons for reconsideration.  You can send a letter too by clicking here.

Canada-EU and pork exports

International Trade Minster Stockwell Day announced his first real meeting with the EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton in Montreal last week during the Montreal Economic Summit of the Americas. Most of the news so far has been from agricultural trade publications either worried about supply management of wheat and other crops or excited about the possibility of a brand new pork market – because we really shoud be exporting animal products thousands of kilometers to people who, like an increasing number of Canadians, would prefer to buy close to home.

That’s it for now…