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Newfoundland “game changer” on Europe-Canada free trade agreement: pulls out of trade negotiations, could reject deal

As the government of Newfoundland and Labrador made the unprecedented move of threatening not to support CETA, the Europe-Canada free trade agreement ̶ pulling out of all future Canadian trade negotiations  ̶ the Council of Canadians, long-time trade activists, congratulated the government on its announcement.

Yesterday, Darin King, Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development said, “If we see no activity we'll take the actions we've just described to you here from a trade perspective and we'll pull the plug on CETA and Newfoundland will no longer be a part of the deal.”

“Whether it is France, or Germany, there is momentum against this deal. Newfoundland would be in good company if it withdrew its support for CETA,” said Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. ”CETA is not just bad for Newfoundland and Labrador, it is a disaster for all Canadians. It gives a huge amount of power to corporations to sue governments. It is no wonder that Newfoundlanders and their government are upset.”

Newfoundland contests the fact that the Harper government reneged on promises to contribute to a $400 million fisheries fund. This fund would have compensated for jobs lost after CETA eliminated minimum processing requirements in the province's fisheries.

The Council of Canadians reiterates its demand that the province hold public consultations on the deal.

“Once again, Newfoundland could be a game changer in this deal, the one province that is looking after the jobs and the interests of their citizens,” added Ken Kavanagh, a Council of Canadians board member from St. John's. “CETA and the broader 'free trade' agenda is harmful to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We ask that the government go further by holding public consultations on the CETA. Newfoundland could be the first brave province to stand up for Canadians and reject this deal.”

As well as losing regulations that protect fishing jobs, CETA could force Canadians to pay investors for profits lost under investor-state dispute settlement provisions. In 2012, NAFTA tribunals ruled that Newfoundland could not require Hibernia oil field producers to invest some of their profits back into research and development.

In 2010, the Harper government paid $130 million to settle an investor-state claim with AbitibiBowater. While the company was in bankruptcy proceedings, Newfoundland tried to save jobs by expropriating the Grand Falls Windsor mill. The company charged that it expropriated the company's water and timber rights.

Newfoundland and Labrador will also face millions in increased costs for pharmaceutical drug given the Harper government agreed to extending patent protection to highly profitable drug companies under CETA. In 2011, the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association estimated the cost to Newfoundland and Labrador of this provision would be $13.2 million a year. Another study that same year by two of Canada's top academics on pharmaceutical policy put the price tag at $46 million a year.

The Newfoundland government has already lobbied many European embassies. Its actions mean that it is discontinuing all trade negotiations including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Trade in Services Agreement, the Canada-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, and all negotiations related to the World Trade Organization.

The Council of Canadians has been lobbying against CETA and has met with members of parliament in Europe and in Canada.