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NDP builds on trade policy at Montreal convention

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Photo: NDP.ca

The NDP has expanded its position on trade so that the party would not negotiate NAFTA- and FIPA-like investor-state dispute settlement processes into trade deals, and would preserve the right of municipal governments and key provincial agencies "to include local content and other local economic development requirements as part of their procurement policy."

Delegates to the NDP's convention in Montreal this weekend voted on the changes, which were supported at the mic by MPs Libby Davies and Don Davies, who is also the party's trade critic.

"Great to see strong support for stopping I/S/D (investor-state dispute settlement) in trade agreements & support for local govt's. Keep drug costs down," tweeted Libby Davies on Sunday afternoon as the vote passed unanimously.

With the additional two clauses, the NDP policy on Fair Trade (section 4.5 of the policy book) now reads like this.

New Democrats believe in:

a. Defending Canadians' economic interests, particularly in terms of foreign investment and takeovers.
b. Promoting trade agreements that include enforceable standards for human, workers' and women's rights and environmental sustainability, and that protect public services.
c. Subjecting all proposed international trade agreements and international treaties to a Parliamentary vote and ratification through the legislative process.
d. Demanding more accountability and transparency in international trade organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).
e. Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to protect Canadian sovereignty, especially in investment and energy security.
f. Regulating the flow of international capital and reducing financial speculation.
g. preserving the rights of municipal governments and provincial entities such as Hydro Quebec and Manitoba Hydro to include local content and other local economic development requirements as part of their procurement policy.
h. not negotiating investor-state dispute resolutions mechanisms into trade agreements, consistent with the policy of the Labour government and party of Australia.

The NDP's position on trade has been in the news A LOT in the past year because the Harper government see it as a weak spot to be exploited. Trade Minister Ed Fast and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, even the Prime Minister are not above a little red-baiting to depict the NDP as anti-trade extremist commies who hate our veterans and freedom and your puppy.

The NDP must be worried that Harper's scare tactics are working since Thomas Mulcair has tried to distance himself and the party from the views of those who oppose to the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, and other tools of multinational corporate power.

"You know, if you start off … by saying, 'It's this, this and this' and you go around Canada saying, 'The sky is falling,' well, if the text proves you right, then that's fine. But the sky hasn't fallen yet," Mulcair told CBC last month, adding that the EU was "a good starting point" for the kind of trading partner the NDP would prefer, because of its strong institutions, rule of law and stability.

Maybe the sky hasn't literally fallen from 30 years of free trade, but it's getting a lot warmer. The jobs aren't getting any more full time, more secure, or more well paid. The pressure (and in Europe direct coercion) to privatize public services keeps going up, with that privatization locked in by deals like NAFTA and CETA.

And we have seen the text of the EU deal, at least we've seen a lot of it — enough to know CETA will reproduce the worse parts of NAFTA and then some. CETA will take us further away from the the compassionate, socially just Canada that Mulcair said this weekend the NDP would create if elected.

Mulcair says some good things about trade, too. Like this, also to the CBC in March:

"What we're concerned with overall with the Conservatives is that their only approach seems to be openness for the sake of large companies, without taking into account the public interest," he said.

"The gutting of environmental legislation concomitant with the signing of these deals is no accident. The Conservatives want to make sure that not too much (regulation) is in place so that anything that would be added (after a deal is signed) could be contested by the investors.

"What we're going to be driving is the public interest. They're going for powerful, insider interests."

The Canada-EU trade deal will contain investor-state dispute settlement and restrictions on municipal procurement, or public spending. Hopefully that's enough for the NDP and all other opposition parties to oppose CETA if it ever comes to a vote in the House of Commons.

The Green Party of Canada position on trade can be read here.

The Liberal Party position must be somewhere on their website What We Stand For but it's not as easy to find as the Green or NDP positions.

Bloc Quebecois trade critic André Bellavance explained his party's views on free trade and CETA during a political debate organized by the Trade Justice Network in 2011.

The Conservative Party of Canada has never seen a free trade agreement it didn't automatically like, before even reading it, and without paying attention to anything critical anyone had to say about it.

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