Canada-Europe Deal Not About Trade
I have the following letter to the editor in todayâ€™s Prince Albert Daily Herald:
Canada-Europe Deal Not About Trade
In their letter of Dec. 3, Darryl Hickie and other Sask. Party MLAs back away from his previous claim that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union (EU) would be a boon to the Prince Albert Pulp Mill. Indeed, as the federal governmentâ€™s Initial Strategic Environmental Assessment of these trade negotiations noted, â€œPulp and paper products currently enter the EU market duty free, so a CETA is not expected to increase Canadian exports of these products.â€
Since the EUâ€™s average tariff on Canadian goods is already only two per cent, Canadian exporters do not stand to gain much from this â€œfree tradeâ€ deal. No one opposes the continued free movement of goods between Canada and Europe.
But CETA goes far beyond trade. It creates a special process for foreign investors to directly challenge democratic laws in commercial tribunals rather than in Canadian or European courts. Foreign corporations are currently suing Canadian taxpayers for $2.5 billion under similar provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. CETA would expose us to such claims from European multinationals as well.
CETA extends the length of pharmaceutical patents, which would drive up drug costs for provincial healthcare systems and individual Canadians. It bans procurement preferences for local suppliers by Crown corporations and Canadian municipalities. Earlier this year, Prince Albertâ€™s City Council expressed this concern in a letter to the Premier.
The United Steelworkers union has also questioned the removal of foreign-ownership limits from Canadian uranium mines. On Oct. 18, the federal government announced an agreement in principle with the EU and released a 44-page summary that did not even mention uranium. On Oct. 22, our union issued a press release challenging this lack of transparency.
On Oct. 29, the federal government released a â€œTechnical Summaryâ€ confirming that the deal would allow European companies to take control of uranium mines in Canada without partnering with Canadian companies. The letter from Sask. Party MLAs and one from MP Randy Hoback on Dec. 4 cite this document, unveiled a week after the unionâ€™s press release, to allege that it was â€œinaccurateâ€ to point out that the federal government had failed to clearly disclose these changes in uranium policy.
Hoback then waves away concerns that CETA might allow European corporations to import more temporary foreign workers by asserting that Saskatchewan already enjoys â€œfull employment.â€ He should tell that to the 440 Saskatchewan workers just laid off by PotashCorp.
Statistics Canada reports that the province has more than twice as many unemployed workers as vacant jobs. It also reports that, in Prince Albert and Northern Saskatchewan, employment was flat even as the working-age population grew over the past year.
Sask. Party MLAs tout Europeâ€™s potential as an export market. But eliminating the minor European tariffs that still apply to some Canadian products will not significantly change exports.
Any small increase in exports must be weighed against the costs of financial claims by foreign investors, extended pharmaceutical patents, procurement restrictions, foreign control of Canadian resources, and additional temporary foreign workers. Rather than blindly supporting CETA, MLAs should push Hoback to release its full text so that citizens and our elected representatives can make an informed decision.