rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Canada, EU, Japan make first arguments in appeal of WTO decision against Green Energy Act

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

The Canadian government is disputing a World Trade Organization decision in December that declared local content requirements in Ontario's Green Energy Act illegal under WTO non-discrimination rules. According to a February 18 report of the International Centre for Trade and and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), Canada is "insisting that the programme qualifies for an exemption from certain trade rules relating to government procurement under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)."

It looks as if the only thing in the way of an exemption is the WTO's opinion that power purchased in Ontario by the government (via Crown agencies) is put back into the grid "with a view to commercial resale." As ICTSD explains, the WTO felt that publicly purchased power was "sold on the market in competition with private-sector retailers of electricity. This effectively means Canada is not purchasing electricity solely for government purposes, even if Ontario is not profiting directly from the resale of the electricity."

Canada insists that there can be no commercial resale of electricity since there is no stable electricity market in Ontario. Instead, like most hybrid (public-private, with a little too much of the latter) power systems, the province relies on subsidies and regulations. ICTSD reports that "Canada also insists that electricity purchased through the FIT (feed-in-tariff) programme is not resold because it is directly injected by way of renewable energy generators into the grid and pooled with other sources of electricity."

Even though the EU and Japan convinced the WTO panel that the FIT programme in the Green Energy Act discriminates against foreign wind and solar firms, they are pushing the limits of WTO law in their appeals. According to ICTSD, the EU "contends that the government procurement exception should never apply to the TRIMs (Trade-Related Investment Measures) Agreement, and that regardless of whether the programme qualifies as government procurement, Canada is responsible for bringing the programme into alignment with the TRIMs Agreement by eliminating the local content requirement."

The implications of that statement are huge. If the WTO's Appellate Body were to agree with the EU, then even where a country has excluded some government agencies (ex. power and transit bodies, municipal governments, etc) from its WTO procurement commitments, a country could still be found to violate the TRIMs Agreement whenever domestic content or hiring quotas are employed as a sustainable development tool.

The Appellate Body will take a few months to decide whether to uphold or alter the earlier panel report declaring the Green Energy Act's feed-in-tariff programme illegal. The Canadian and Ontario governments would then have to decide whether to keep or scrap the important local content requirements in the GEA, in which case Canada would face countervailing sanctions in Japan and the EU.

The Council of Canadians is one of several groups who jointly sent an amicus curiae (friend of the court) submission to the WTO in defence of the Green Energy Act. Despite its flaws, including an over-emphasis on private power, we believe strongly that Ontario is right to use public spending on electricity to try to develop green infrastructure and green jobs. We believe it is the right of all countries to use procurement in creative ways to address the multiple crises facing our world -- from climate change to food insecurity to financial instability.

To read more about the WTO case and our submission, click here.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.