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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Report on CETA Negotiations

Report on CETA for London Chapter, Council of Canadians

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) being negotiated between Canada and the European Union has the same basic goals as the entire family of trade agreements going back to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which went into effect in 1989, and the North American Agreement (NAFTA) which followed in 1994. These and all other such agreements have been initiated and negotiated under pressure from privately owned corporations seeking to gain opportunities for profit by limiting the power of governments to act for public benefit. Governments which have participated in such trade negotiations have been willing, indeed have been eager, to sacrifice public needs, human and environmental, in order to cater to the interests of powerful corporations. We can assume that the European Union negotiators are just as eager to serve corporate interests as our own present government obviously is.

The final formal round of negotiations for CETA took place in Ottawa the week of October 17 to 21. There is some small comfort for us, who oppose it, in the fact that a final draft of CETA was not achieved. Canada's lead negotiator reported in a briefing to representatives of Canadian organizations opposed to CETA, including Trade Justice Network and CoC, that negotiations are becoming “increasingly difficult,” but that there has been “good progress in a number of areas.” Although there will be no more “formal” negotiations, intense informal discussions through video and teleconferences continue, and there will also be “face to face” meetings in Brussels the week of December 5 and in Ottawa in mid-January. The process may be reaching a conclusion “around February or March,” when the agreement could be signed, made public, and brought before Parliament.

Signing the agreement means that the negotiators have completed their task, but does not bring the agreement into effect. After the signing, the document is to be published on the internet. Then we who object would know precisely what we are up against. The Trade Justice Network has done a good job of smoking out the provisions included, but a considerable measure of secrecy continues. Trade Minister Ed Fast briefed friendly journalists after the”final round”, but swore them to secrecy. The briefing given to opponents was vague and general. So the signed document may have some shocks to reveal. The agreement would come to Parliament for an up or down vote. While there is no real chance that our present Parliament would vote it down, there may be some hope that resistance might be effective in Europe. Provinces in Canada would be required to enact “enabling legislation”, and they may be in a position to throw a monkey wrench into the works. We have a tough job ahead of us. When Maude Barlow and Paul Moist are here in London on December 1, we need to learn from them all the procedures involved in promoting the agreement, and how opposition across Canada, including us, can be most effectively mobilized.

George Crowell
(Monetary Policy Chair, London Chapter, Council of Canadians)

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