Trade Justice Network Concerned over Controversial Canada-EU Trade Deal

April 20, 2010, 2:51 PM EST


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Representatives of the Trade Justice Network (TJN), a newly formed coalition of Canadian civil society organizations that includes the CAW, publicly released a leaked draft of the negotiating text for a proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union at a news conference held on Parliament Hill on April 19. The news conference coincided with the start of the third round of trade negotiations between the two countries.

The group says it is seriously concerned about the agreement's potential impact on public and environmental policy, public procurement rules as well as public services in both Canada and Europe, among other issues.

Controversial provisions in the draft text would open Canada's telecommunications sector to full foreign ownership, stop provincial and municipal governments from implementing local or ethical procurement strategies, and require a burdensome necessity test for prudential financial measures designed to help governments mitigate or avoid banking and financial crises, as highlighted by the TJN in a public statement.

The proposed deal also includes an investor-rights dispute settlement mechanism that gained public notoriety in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which grants private investors the right to sue governments over trade and investment decisions.

Peggy Nash, Assistant to the CAW National President, considers the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement an example of a new, more aggressive approach to free trade deals and that Canada should steer clear.

"This trade deal is more than about breaking down barriers to trade in goods, rather it's about dismantling the instruments of Canadian democracy and undercutting our collective ability to make decisions over social, economic, cultural and environmental policies," Nash said.

"Multi-national corporations must not have the power, under a legally binding trade agreement, to exert influence over how a local government spends public money, or how our financial institutions are regulated, or who controls our cultural institutions."

Canada and the EU have been in official negotiations since the fall of 2009. Unlike trade talks in the past that have bound governments at the federal level (including the NAFTA), the proposed Canada-EU deal will also bind provincial governments to its terms and conditions.

The Trade Justice Network has scheduled a series of public forums between April 19 and 21 in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto to share further information about the proposed trade deal and to outline a set of key demands that must be met before the deal is signed.

To learn more about the Trade Justice Network and read the civil society declaration on the CETA, visit: www.tradejustice.ca.

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