Trade Justice Network releases secret draft copy of Canada-European Union trade agreement

Proposed language would open Canada's telecommunications sector to full foreign ownership, restrict municipal procurement policies and make banking and financial regulation much more difficult.

Larry Brown, national secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)Ottawa (19 April 2010) – The newly formed Trade Justice Network (TJN) today released a secret draft text of the proposed Canada-European Union Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – the most significant bilateral trade negotiation since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). (Download the draft text from the TJN Website).

The release of the leaked document was timed to coincide with the opening of the third round of Canada-EU free trade negotiations.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is a TJN member. Larry Brown, NUPGE's national secretary-treasurer, was among the TJN members who commented on the agreement following its release at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

"Our network has serious concerns about the agreement’s potential impact on public and environmental policy," Brown said.

"We are also concerned about the impact on public services in both Canada and Europe – among other issues. We have outlined a set of demands that we feel must be met before negotiations should be allowed to continue."

Alarming proposals

Controversial provisions in the draft text would open Canada’s telecommunications sector to full foreign ownership, stop 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.

The text also presents a direct attack on Ontario’s Green Energy Act, and would virtually eliminate the rights of farmers to save, reuse and sell seed, thus handing biotech, pharmaceutical, pesticide, seed and grain companies powerful new tools to essentially decide who should farm and how.

"Canadian negotiators have also included a controversial investor-state dispute mechanism like the one in NAFTA," Brown says.

"NAFTA's Chapter 11 dispute process has allowed and encouraged large multinationals to sue North American governments for compensation against public health and environmental policies that limit corporate profits."

Demands for change

The Trade Justice Network has outlined a series of demands that its members feel must be met in any trade deal with Europe. These include:

  • a comprehensive impact assessment of the deal on the economy, jobs, poverty, gender, human rights, farmers, culture and the environment;
  • a fundamental protection for public services and expansion of social policy;
  • a recognition of, and protection for, the right to use public procurement as an economic development tool, and of the right to regulate in the public interest based on the precautionary principle;
  • a commitment to strengthen labour and environmental protections and make them as binding, if not more binding, than investor guarantees; and
  • a recognition of the primacy of Indigenous rights over corporate rights in Indigenous lands, territories and waters.

The Trade Justice Network will hold a series of public forums over the next week to draw public attention to the proposed trade deal at the same time that official negotiations are taking place in Ottawa. Forums are scheduled in Ottawa (April 19), Montreal (April 20) and Toronto (April 21).

For a full copy of the consolidated draft negotiating text and more information on the public forums (times and locations), or to learn more about the Trade Justice Network and read the civil society declaration on the CETA, visit the TJN website at www.tradejustice.ca

TJN spokespersons attending the news conference included Peggy Nash of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), Terry Boehm of the National Farmers Union (NFU), Alain Pineau of the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA), Denis Lemelin of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and John Bennett of the Sierra Club of Canada (SCC).

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) also released a report today by Scott Sinclair, entitled Negotiating from Weakness Canada-EU trade treaty threatens Canadian purchasing policies and public services. Copies were distributed at the news conference. The report can also be downloaded at the CCPA website: www.policyalternatives.ca.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

More information:
TJN Canadian Website
• Trade Justice Network Website