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The Progressive Economics Forum

Canada-Europe Deal Not About Trade

I have the following letter to the editor in today’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 government’s Initial Strategic Environmental Assessment of these trade negotiations noted, “Pulp and paper products currently enter the EU market duty free, so a CETA is not expected to increase Canadian exports of these products.”

Since the EU’s average tariff on Canadian goods is already only two per cent, Canadian exporters do not stand to gain much from this “free trade” 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 Albert’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 “Technical Summary” 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 union’s press release, to allege that it was “inaccurate” 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 “full employment.” 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 Europe’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.

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Comments

Comment from Mike MacKinnon
Time: December 12, 2013, 5:20 pm

Corporatists have no doubt determined that talking about a one-world government gets people’s hackles up, so they’re basically just forcing governments to surrender their sovereignity through “trade deals”. In Canada, we have a government that has already stated that environmentalists are an “enemy of the state”. What the trade deals do is codify this,i.e. if you indulge in civil disobedience (such as striking for higher pay, or engaging in environmental protests) you could end up costing the government money, so it makes good “economic sense” to pass laws to prevent,or jail such people. This government has already passed bills to build new prisons, so the same corporatists that attack our labour and eco-laws will actually be able to profit from our incarceration in private, for-profit prisons, which already represent one of the fastest growing and profitable investment areas in the US. (Essentially, the government promises that if you build a prison, we will fill it). If you think this is far-fetched I can only repeat:the groundwork has already been laid and our neighbours to the south have provided a working model. Stephen Harper and his gang are determined to prevent Canadians from receiving any benefits at all from the exploitation of our resources and they are also committed to absolving their corporate masters from any responsiblity for the mess they will inevitably leave behind.

Comment from Dan Tan
Time: December 13, 2013, 8:37 am

Erin,

The Conservatives & Liberals are forcing Canada to submit to a foreign kangaroo court?

This foreign kangaroo court will actually hear cases from would-be criminals resentful of Canadian law & the democratic will?

These criminals could claim millions from Canadian taxpayers? Why? Because they were inconvenienced by the rules of civilized North American society?

When they were made aware, Canadians rejected “Sharia tribunals” that threatened our established cultural values & legal norms.

Here come some filthy scavengers demanding the right to violate our environment-protection laws. Here come some patent trolls demanding an undeserved taxpayer subsidy. Here come some irresponsible slackers demanding the right to fail minimal inspections.

When they are made aware, Canadians will reject “Commercial tribunals” that indulge & elevate these uncivilized degenerates.

I will contact both my federal & provincial NDP leaders. I will demand that they oppose this sneaky Liberal-Conservative attempt to comfort criminals & weaken Canadian laws.

On Ne Passe Pas!,
Dan Tan

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