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Modi visit: Council of Canadians deeply concerned about potential free trade agreement with India

Modi and Harper

Ottawa — As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived to meet Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa today, they announced a potential trade agreement between the two countries, which will could be concluded in September and could include investment protection for corporations.

With very few details known, the Council of Canadians is concerned about the deal and its secretive nature.

"In Canada, we have a track record of negotiating trade deals in secret, in the interests of corporations and the one per cent, which attack jobs, social programs and the environment. We are constantly running into this with NAFTA, and we're seeing the same mistakes repeated with CETA, the European free trade agreement," says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "With two 'trickle down' economics adherents – Modi and Harper – united together, we are highly skeptical about this deal."

Harper has long wanted a free trade agreement with India. In November 2009, his government promoted the idea of a Canada-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) within four years.

Under trade agreements such as NAFTA, Canada is the most sued country in the world due to the investor-state dispute settlement provisions in free trade and investor protection agreements.  

Recently, because of dispute settlement provisions in NAFTA, Canada had to pay Exxon $17.3 million because Newfoundland required it to spend money on research and development. Canada lost another suit over Nova Scotia not allowing Bilcon to expand its quarry for environmental reasons.

Brent Patterson, Political Director of the Council of Canadians, hopes that human rights and the environment are being considered in this deal. This is particularly a concern given Modi's human rights track record.

"We call for transparent and democratic negotiations for fair trade agreements that benefit people, respect human rights and protect the environment. We reject free trade agreements that constrain governments from acting in the public interest and that entrench corporate rights," Patterson concludes.

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Photo: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20, Flickr Media Commons, Stephen Harper