Harper's Free Trade Talks with Europe Another Attack on Democracy, say Environmental, Labour and Social Justice Groups
January 22, 2010, 11:46 AM EST
As a second round of Canada-European Union free trade talks wraps up in Brussels, Belgium today, Canadian civil society organizations are demanding full transparency from the Harper government, and a halt to negotiations so countrywide public consultations can be held.
The scope of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) jeopardizes public services, sustainability, social policy and local democracy, say the organizations, which include the Council of Canadians, Canadian Auto Workers union, Sierra Club Canada, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees and National Union of Public and General Employees.
"Harper is trampling on democracy yet again with a new round of secret trade talks in Europe. People around the world are demanding tougher climate and health protections, not an expansion of discredited laissez-faire capitalism," says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.
"We've seen firsthand how NAFTA has destroyed jobs, depressed working conditions and made governments nearly powerless to corporate interests. Canadians can't afford to go down that path again," says CAW National President Ken Lewenza.
"We simply cannot afford another trade agreement that gives investors legal mechanisms to challenge environmental laws and bylaws, particularly at the provincial and municipal levels where European companies are hoping to further constrain policy space," says Janet Eaton, Sierra Club Canada's environment and trade campaigner.
"The European Union has made clear it wants access to procurement and services within provincial jurisdiction. This means our public services like water and health are at risk in these talks. We need the Canadian government to stand up and make clear it is not willing to trade away public services," says Paul Moist, national president, Canadian Union of Public Employees.
"The EU, which is poised to fully deregulate all post offices between 2011 and 2013, has identified postal services as one of its priority sectors, but our government has yet to tell us what position it will be taking on postal issues. The public has a right to know what the Conservatives intend to do with our post office," says Denis Lemelin, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
"This proposed agreement would prevent Canada from developing any new public services, would threaten existing public services, and would prevent governments from using taxpayer's money to develop local economies. Public sector unions both here and in Europe have common concerns about these secretive talks, with their potentially major implications," says Larry Brown, secretary-treasurer with the National Union of Public and General Employees.
Open For Business: Privatization, not higher standards, the main goal of Canada-EU free trade talks - Council of Canadians fact sheet (http://canadians.org/trade/documents/CA-EU-trade-talks.pdf)
A Critical Assessment of the Proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Between the European Union and Canada - A joint position of the European Federation of Public Service Unions and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the National Union of Public and General Employees and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (http://www.nupge.ca/files/publications/Critical_Assess_EU_Can_Deal.pdf)