Thursday, 19 July 2012

Canadians Want Out Of CETA, Apply For Exemption From Secret Treaty With EU

Rumors of CETA have so far centered on how it might affect the internet but I've discovered that it's so bad, Canadian cities and local authorities want out of the Canada-EU Trade Agreement.

Fears of having their authority undermined by foreign corporations and for the environment have the public service unions, the National Farmers' Union, and environmental groups up in arms. They are garnering support from  grassroots activists and civic organisations. The Council of Canadians, a social justice group, has been working on a campaign to persuade cities, towns, and municipal authorities all over Canada to request exemption from CETA and its procurement rules that would favor European corporations over local suppliers. Over 30 local governments representing over 5.5 million people have taken part in the exemption campaign and another 30 to 40 municipal councils, school boards or associations have asked for more information and more input in the negotiations.


NFU President Terry Boehm, who has apparently had sight of more recent versions, warns in this year's Spring Quarterly newsletter,

...after nine major rounds of negotiations, the agreement is essentially getting worse for Canada and her citizens. This is not to say that it is particularly good for the ordinary European citizen, but it does give European corporate interests unprecedented access and ultimately control over the Canadian economy, down to the sub national level (provinces, territories, and municipalities).

Secrecy and the erosion of national sovereignty seems to be an emerging trend in international treaties, and failure to come to an agreement on CETA may be the driver for Canada's accession to the TPP. Dr. Michael Geist has published an old leaked draft of the intellectual property chapter and warned us of the other implications, but getting hold of the actual documents has been an exercise in frustration. However, it seems that has been able to preserve a copy of the Draft Consolidated Text.

CETA came about because falling growth and dependence on the USA for trade had Canadian leaders looking for ways to open up new business opportunities in Europe, where trade had plateaued. EU insistence on the personal privacy, data protection, and protection from fraud and identity theft is almost completely nullified by the intellectual property chapter (which probably hasn't changed much) and the current surveillance and data retention laws. Officials from Canada's thirteen provinces were included in the negotiations because

...many areas, such as agriculture, labour, health and the environment, are either shared or exclusive provincial jurisdictions. So the worst that could happen would be for the EU to devote time and energy to negotiating CETA only to find out that many of the provisions are not being applied or implemented by some or all of the provinces. Hence, the EU made the provinces’ active participation in the negotiations a conditio sine qua non for beginning the negotiations. It also required that the provinces sign a political agreement that they will not renege on a deal that they agree to. The EU is still taking a risk negotiating CETA with Canada. This is because the legal validity of the provinces’ commitment to implementing an agreement is unclear.

So even if it does go through the ability to actually implement it is uncertain even if the provinces could be taken to court for non-compliance.

Damage control efforts are so far having no effect on the growing opposition. Assurances from the Candian Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ministry on the Myths and Realities page are reminiscent of the EU's ACTA Facts, and the Council of Canadians have a page that debunks them. International trade strategist Peter Clark laughs off the fears Canadians have of corporate control of their water services.

CETA is not about diverting Canada’s lakes and rivers – which would not do Europeans much good in any event because we have no common borders... There is no requirement to privatize services which do not compete with private entities and do not operate on a commercial basis.

There are good reasons for the municipalities' concern about the investors' clauses, but Clark just tells them not to worry their pretty little heads about it and run along. Stonewalling and secrecy are not the way to build confidence in the benefits of CETA. I'm not impressed.

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