Ottawa and Montreal – The Trade Justice Network and Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC) make the following comments on the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT) on the ongoing Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiations, which was tabled in the House of Commons this week:
– The committee is split on the value of the CETA to the Canadian economy. This is clear from the concerns and recommendations of the NDP and Liberal members of the trade committee in dissenting opinions attached to the CETA report. The two networks agree with many of these recommendations, in particular those calling for full transparency and public input into the CETA text before it can be signed. The committee had insufficient information on the agreement to conclude it was in Canada's best interest since its contours are still being determined through negotiation.
– The committee needs to hear from more witnesses in Canada and the EU. It is disingenuous to declare, as the CETA report does, "The majority of Canadian witnesses were in favour of negotiations toward a CETA between Canada and the EU, and held the opinion that the impact of an agreement would be positive," since only three critics of the agreement were asked to present before committee. Important voices from within the Trade Justice Network and RQIC network representing farmers, students, cultural, Indigenous groups and labour were left out of the trade committee's inquiry. Not one Quebec group was asked to present, which is unacceptable.
– While the federal government is seriously considering the views of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with respect to the impact CETA will have on local governance, MPs have a responsibility to also consider the preferences of cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton, Burnaby and others, many of which are asking to be exempted from the agreement altogether.
– The committee report does not consider economic studies that question the federal government's economic predictions of the CETA on GDP, job creation and trade flows. These predictions are used over and again to silence discussion about the CETA when the numbers themselves might be faulty. The suggestion in the report that the CETA will create 80,000 new jobs seems to have no basis whatsoever and is contradicted by a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study showing likely job losses of between 28,000 and 150,000. The committee report also does not once mention the Sustainability Impact Assessment, produced for the European Commission by a private firm, which suggests economic benefits in Canada would be half the $12 billion proposed by the federal government.
The two networks stand by the principles agreed to in an October 2011 joint statement endorsed by over 80 Canadian and European civil society groups, including "that trade agreements must promote cooperation and recognize common well-being, public interest, and human and environmental rights as more important than short-term private interests which benefit only transnational corporations."
The CETA provides an opportunity for the federal, provincial and territorial governments to hold a long-overdue debate on Canada's trade and investment liberalization agenda. There must be a means by which all socio-economic actors can provide input into the CETA and other free trade agreements before they are presented to parliament as a fait accompli, as is now the case. The two networks therefore urge the parliamentary international trade committee to hold another inquiry into the CETA prior to a final deal being signed to allow those many voices who were excluded in the preparation of this report to present their points of view.
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The Trade Justice Network (TJN) was formed in February 2010 and collects environmental, labour, cultural, farmers, Indigenous, student, social justice and other civil society organizations challenging Canada's free trade negotiations with the European Union. The Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC) is a multi-sectoral coalition bringing together more than 20 civil society organizations in Quebec representing over a million people. Its mission is to promote an alternative vision for development in the Americas and internationally. The two networks have criticized many parts of the CETA, in particular the lack of transparency but also for the impact the agreement could have on public services, local democracy, environmental policy, Indigenous rights, cultural protections and food sovereignty. Together, the two networks represent over four million people.