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From The Advocate, March 2012

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“The scope of CETA is mind-boggling”

“It’s been an operation of run silent and run deep, and I fear it’s pretty much a done deal.” - Diane Wood, BC FORUM Director


Published March, 2012 - It must have been a surprise to the corporate elite when BC FORUM directors Diane Wood and Miriam Olney showed up.

The European Commission, the Harper government, Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade have been holding meetings across Canada. Their goal is “to promote awareness among the business communities” of the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) currently being negotiated behind closed doors between Canada and the European Union.

The conference held in Vancouver Nov. 28 was the concluding event in this two year long process.

“We were the only two labour people at this session, all the rest were business and some government,” said Wood. “They had the head honchos who are dealing with the negotiations. It’s been an operation of run silent and run deep, and I fear it’s pretty much a done deal.”

The BC FORUM directors asked about the recent $35 billion federal shipbuilding contract, which was restricted to Canadian companies. They learned that such restrictions – using our own tax dollars to promote Canadian jobs and economic development at the national, provincial or community level – would not be permitted under CETA.

There are many more reasons to be concerned about CETA.

The EU’s proposals would lengthen the period of market exclusivity for brand-name drugs by an average of 3.5 years and add $2.8 billion a year to the cost of prescription drugs.

“Pharmaceutical products from the EU already have unfettered access to the Canadian market. These proposals will simply increase profits for brand-name drug companies at the expense of Canada’s health-care system,” said Jim Keon, President of Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

Gary Mason, Globe and Mail, says there’s a perplexing silence over the far-reaching deal.

“Many local governments across the country... use procurement as a tool to promote economic development. A reported 60 per cent of municipalities in B.C. have economic development strategies that include local procurement and hiring,” said Mason. “The scope of CETA is mindboggling, really….”

“For a trade pact that some argue is even bigger in scale (than NAFTA), there is a deafening silence across the land. Canadians have virtually no idea of what is being negotiated on their behalf. They should. The stakes are enormous.”

The Canadian Labour Congress says it would support an agreement that embodies “the most positive features of the European social model, including higher standards and protective regulation – but this is not on offer.

“Instead, the CETA would constrain the ability of the governments in Canada at all levels to meet their democratic responsibilities to citizens and residents. Both sides are trying to achieve the most ‘ambitious’ and ‘comprehensive’ agreement possible in order to export neo-liberalism abroad,” says the CLC.

At the most recent CLC convention, delegates demanded that the negotiations be fully transparent, with opportunity for input from the public. They also warned that the CLC will make it a high priority to campaign against a flawed agreement.

Similar resolutions were adopted by the Council of Union Retirees of Canada, of which BC FORUM is an affiliate.

CETA could mean higher drug prices, more power for corporations and thousands of lost jobs

Larry Brown, Secretary Treasurer of National Union of Public and General Employees and the National President of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, has analyzed what is known to date about the proposed deal.

“It’s not really about tariffs and borders, it’s about adding to the list of things that governments can’t do if they interfere at all with the corporate sector’s unfettered right to make a profit,” says Brown.

“CETA would prohibit governments at all levels from spending tax dollars to encourage local development. Bids would have to be open to European companies and the only consideration allowed would be the cost of the bid. (It) would limit the ability of government agencies to use public spending to achieve social goals like economic development and regional employment.”

A separate study by the CCPA estimates that a free trade deal with the EU would cost Canada between 28,000 and 150,000 jobs, and called that a “cautious” conclusion.

“CETA is a dangerous and potentially destructive new international agreement, based solely on the desires of European and Canadian companies,” concluded Brown – urging Canadians to speak up, stand up, and pressure politicians to stop the deal.


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