An exciting new Trade Justice Network has come together in response to the proposed Canada/European Union “Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement” (C.E.T.A.)

Environmental, cultural, labour, farm, food safety and pro-democracy groups from Canada and Quebec have joined forces to inform Canadians and Europeans about the disturbing proposals that are on the table. The new trade agreement promises to go much beyond N.A.F.T.A. in constraining the ability of governments to act on behalf of citizens and communities.

On April 19th, the Network released a copy of the previously secret full text of the draft agreement. Amongst other things, the leaked text shows Canada and the E.U. want to eliminate local purchasing policies of municipal and provincial governments; open Canada’s drinking water systems to private water corporations; grant international companies complete access to Canada’s telecommunications sector; restrict the ability for governments to regulate the financial sector; turn copyright and intellectual property rules upside down; and drastically weaken agricultural supply management.

The leaked text also shows that Canada has proposed investor rights rule similar to Chapter 11 of N.A.F.T.A. That’s the N.A.F.T.A. chapter which permits corporations to sue governments for their public policies. None of the previous trade agreements of the E.U. have included such a provision.

Also on April 19th, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released an important new paper by Scott Sinclair called Negotiating from Weakness which analyses what is known about the Canada/E.U. talks so far.

The Canada/E.U. talks are also starting to draw the attention of social movement allies in Europe. The Trade Justice Network is sponsoring public meetings in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto which were planned to feature talks by three Europeans from the farm, labour and fair trade sectors. Unfortunately, the closure of European airports  prevented their arrival in Canada. Two international labour federations based in Europe (Public Services International and EPSU – the European Federation of Public Service Unions) released the text of the Canada/E.U. deal to European media outlets.

It’s encouraging that social movement organisations in both Canada and Europe are coming together to shine the spotlight on this new trade deal. People who care about democracy, public services and the environment will want to pay close attention. We need to expose this new corporate rights deal and then work to stop it.


Blair Redlin

Blair Redlin is a researcher with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, based in Burnaby. In addition to bargaining support for CUPE’s municipal sector in B.C., his research priorities include...