Federal Government misleading cities on full impacts of European trade deal

Trade Justice Network publishes fact sheets debunking Harper government's myths about the benefits of EU-Canada free trade.

Ottawa (27 April 2012) - A new report released by the Trade Justice Network (TJN) says Canadian municipalities will get a raw deal if a new trade and investment pact between the European Union (EU) and Canada is finalized later this year. The report, CETA Good for Cities: Debunking the Myths about the Benefits of EU-Canada Free Trade (to download click here), comes out as the Harper government holds cross-country events to promote its Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU (CETA), which is increasingly controversial on both sides of the Atlantic.

The report takes aim at federal government efforts to pacify concerns raised by a growing list of municipalities with respect to CETA's negative impact on local purchasing decisions, the provision of public services as well as municipal rights to institute environmental and other regulations.

"The federal government, for example, is wrongly assuring municipalities that they will retain the right to set environmental and social criteria when purchasing goods and services, when that's only half the truth," says trade researcher and author of the report, Scott Sinclair. "In fact, environmental and social conditions can be applied but only if there's no Canadian or local bias in those decisions, and that's a dubious distinction."

Sinclair points to buy-local food policies, intended to favour local farmers by developing local food networks and promoting sustainability, as a smart municipal policy that could be deemed unacceptable under the CETA.

Is CETA Good for Cities also dispels five prevailing myths being perpetuated by the federal government about the deal. These include that:

  • CETA will offer substantially new market opportunities for Canadian firms;
  • local sourcing will not be compromised for municipalities;
  • CETA will have no impact on the provision of municipal services;
  • the "right to regulate" will not be affected; and
  • the above mentioned myth that environmental and social criteria in government contracts are safe.

Over 50 Canadian municipalities have passed motions seeking more information and a greater say in the CETA negotiations. At least 33 of these, including cities like Toronto, Mississauga and Hamilton representing millions of Canadian citizens, are asking the provinces to exclude local governments entirely from the deal

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