Nova Scotia Trading Options coalition challenges Dexter government on European trade talks

The Dexter NDP government is being prodded by a new provincial fair trade coalition -- Trading Options -- to go public with what European trade negotiators are asking of the province in ongoing free trade talks, the second round for which end in Brussels on Friday. In a press release issued today, the coalition (see below for members) writes that, "They want Premier Dexter to establish a mechanism for receiving public input to assess the broader societal impacts of free trade with Europe." Sounds like a good plan for any province. Provincial and national consultations (beyond DFAIT's passive and expired eConsultations) are well overdue. Click on "read more" to see the release.

MEDIA RELEASE

January 21, 2010

Nova Scotia groups caution Dexter government on Canada-European Union trade negotiations

A coalition of Nova Scotia social justice, labour and environmental groups is cautioning the Dexter government against supporting a proposed Canada-European Union free trade agreement. Federal and provincial trade negotiators are wrapping up a second round of negotiations in Brussels, Belgium this week toward a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The groups are asking the Dexter government to be open with Nova Scotians about what is being demanded of the province. They want Premier Dexter to establish a mechanism for receiving public input to assess the broader societal impacts of free trade with Europe.

"We have serious concerns about the scope and process of the proposed free trade agreement with Europe," says Angela Giles, regional organizer with the Council of Canadians and member of the Nova Scotia Trading Options coalition. "Specifically, we're worried about the impact of a one-size-fits-all free trade model on local communities, and the new powers European corporations will have to influence local policy. After hearing about it from the Council of Canadians, Inverness County Council was concerned enough to request a draft EU agreement from the Department of Foreign Affairs."

One especially controversial area is local government procurement - public spending on local and provincial programs and priorities. European trade negotiators want to make it nearly impossible for Nova Scotia and its municipalities to give priority to local companies when spending public funds on goods or services, including public services. Applying EU procurement rules to municipalities could also outlaw sustainable or ethical spending policies that are considered trade-distorting.

"Increasingly our municipalities are including social or even sustainable development criteria in public contracts; this must never be negotiated away in trade agreements," says Danny Cavanagh, President of CUPE-NS and a municipal water worker. "Private European water companies are among the biggest corporate sponsors of this deal because they see dollar signs in using trade rules to privatize public utilities like Halifax Water. The Dexter government must reject any agreement with Europe that makes it easier to dismantle or privatize Canada's public services."

Online consultations from the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade have solicited business input on potential trade barriers in Europe, but there has been no broad and inclusive impact assessment of a possible CETA on the economy, poverty, gender, human rights and the environment. In other jurisdictions, such as Maine, Citizens Trade Commissions have been struck to seek input and put forward concerns from local communities regarding the impacts of trade agreements like CETA.

Trading Options is also urging the Nova Scotia government not to support any deal that precludes the right to set environmental standards that are higher than those we currently have, or that includes an investor-state dispute mechanism such as Chapter 11 in NAFTA.

"Nova Scotians know all too well the illogic of allowing foreign companies to challenge environmental decisions under NAFTA, such as the assessment that put a stop to the Bilcon quarry in Digby Neck," says Janet Eaton of Sierra Club Canada, "The Canadian government is pushing to include these same flawed investor rights in the European trade agreement. Only this time our future as Nova Scotians is really on the line. Provincial and Municipal governments must take a stand against undemocratic and seriously flawed agreements like CETA that threaten our sub-national governments."

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Members of the Trading Options Coalition include: Members of the Trading Options Coalition include: Oxfam Canada - Maritimes, The Canadian Union of Public Employees, Nova Scotia Environmental Network, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, The Council of Canadians, The Public Service Alliance of Canada, Sierra Club Canada - Atlantic Chapter, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the Halifax Dartmouth and District Labour Council.

For more information, please contact:

Angela Giles | Atlantic Regional Organizer| The Council of Canadians
422.7811 | 478.5727

Janet Eaton | Sierra Club Canada
(902) 542.1631

Danny Cavanagh | President | Canadian Union of Public Employees
(902) 957.0822