ATAMANENKO: Canada-Eu Free Trade Agreement: what is at stake?
Canada and the European Union are currently negotiating a new free trade agreement called the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). According to a detailed report prepared by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) Negotiating from Weakness, if CETA is implemented as currently written, Canada’s progressive procurement policies will be seriously at risk.
For municipalities and provinces it would mean they could no longer give preference to local businesses when tendering contracts for work, services or goods. Governments at all levels would lose a valuable tool for protecting the environment, creating long-term employment, and helping marginalized groups in their communities. In other words, European companies will be given equal consideration when bidding on local government contracts.
Currently, municipalities and provinces can use procurement (of contractors, services or goods) as a tool for economic development (where not governed by BC’s notorious Bill 30 whenever Provincial funding is present), as well as safeguard their ability to regulate local services including drinking water, waste disposal and electricity. The Europeans want access to government procurement contracts in Canada and we are going to give it to them. What I find disturbing is that all provinces as well as the federal government have signed on to this sell-out.
As far as trade goes, traditional trade barriers between Canada and the EU are already low, with tariffs averaging less than 3% of most of the top-traded products. What the Europeans want is access to government procurement contracts and public services.
As we try to stimulate the Canadian economy, it would make more sense to create as many local jobs as possible. Currently in Ontario, new subway cars will be built in Thunder Bay and the Province’s Green Energy Act offers subsidies in return for cleaner energy sources and local job creation. Many municipalities are adopting buy-local food policies and have contracting policies that give preference to Canadian suppliers, allowing them to reject the lowest bid in favour of local companies. The CETA will put a stop to all of this.
Farmers will also be affected as CETA would require Canada to implement the UPOV’91 (the industry’s Union for the Protection of New Varieties) version of plant breeders’ rights (PBR) which would virtually eliminate farmers’ rights to save, re-use and sell seed. CETA also includes additional intellectual property protection that will give seed companies the power to seize crops, farms and seeding and harvest equipment and freeze bank accounts if companies suspect infringement on a company’s seed rights by a farmer.
I believe it is not in the best interest of Canadians to sign on to trade agreements that limit our control. We have seen how NAFTA has affected our fruit growers by allowing the dumping of cheap US apples, and putting our farmers out of business.
We as a nation need to make a decision: do we want to have control over our policies and programs or do we surrender this sovereignty to multi-national corporations and foreign governments?