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.

Business groups antsy about CETA urge Harper to get on with it

Canada's biggest business lobby groups, including the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, have sent a joint letter to International Trade Minister Ed Fast supporting the now four-year-old Canada-EU free trade negotiations, which the groups say should be the government's top priority until the deal is done.

"As associations representing businesses of all sizes with significant interests in the EU market, you can count on our full support as you seek to finalize a balanced agreement that benefits Canadian businesses, workers and communities in all regions and sectors of Canada's economy," concludes the letter. (Until recently, business support for CETA has come mainly from Rx&D and the affiliated Canada-Europe Round Table for Business, both of which represent as many European as Canadian firms.)

But the Canadian Press reports, "Opponents of a Canada-EU trade and investment agreement are also galvanizing forces… On Monday, Canadian civil society groups wrote French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is visiting Canada, to express their opposition with a special emphasis against the investor protection chapter, which allows firms to sue governments over restrictive policies."

The CP article quotes unnamed business insiders suggesting "there is real concern that negotiators have taken the talks about as far as they can go, and that it's now time for political leaders to make the needed decisions." The source says, "We want to give groundcover to the politicians so they can then make some brave decisions."

Are we still talking about a trade deal? It sounds like someone's preparing an invasion.

To the extent that CETA, like other next-generation trade and investment deals, will further handcuff governments where it comes to economic governance, there's some probably (hopefully) unintentional truth to that metaphor. In this case, the "brave decisions" these business lobbyists expect the government to make involve, among other things, extending patent and other monopoly rights to pharmaceutical, entertainment and biotech companies.

And here's where the French Prime Minister might come in handy for these companies and European negotiators. On his first official visit to Canada, Mr. Ayrault is expected to meet with Prime Minister Harper, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. He might not be wearing a Sanofi-Aventis button on his lapel but government support for one of France's pharmaceutical champions is steadfast no matter who is in power.

On a recent Trade Justice Network delegation to France and Belgium that I was a part of, French government officials were clear they expect Canada to make concessions on drugs. In return, the French PM may suggest to Canadian leaders this week that France is willing to give Canadian meat producers that sliver of new market access they're looking for. Ayrault might be here to provide ground beef cover, in other words.

To read the Trade Justice Network and RQIC press release on their joint letter to Prime Minister Ayrault, click here. To ask Prime Minister Harper to just walk away from CETA, use our action alert 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. But 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 only supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help.

If everyone who visits rabble and likes it chipped in a couple of dollars per month, our future would be much more secure and we could do much more: like the things our readers tell us they want to see more of: more staff reporters and more work to complete the upgrade of our website.

We’re asking if you could make a donation, right now, to set rabble on solid footing in 2017.

Make a donation.Become a monthly supporter.


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:


  • 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.


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