Trade Justice Network

Trade Justice Network
Quebec Network on Continental Integration

Quebec Network on Continental Integration

April 29, 2011 13:30 ET

On Eve of Election, Harper's EU Trade Agenda Challenged in Party Survey

OTTAWA, ONTARIO and MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - April 29, 2011) - A survey of federal political parties, released days before the federal election, shows significant differences of opinion, and in some cases strong concerns with the former Conservative government's free trade negotiations with the European Union. The Trade Justice Network and Québec Network on Continental Integration, whose member organizations represent more than four million people, sent 12 questions on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) to the five mainstream parties competing for federal office. The two networks heard back from the Bloc, Liberals and NDP. The Conservative and Green parties did not return surveys.

Questions ranged from the general to specific, including how the parties felt about EU requests to water down Canada's cultural protections, constraints on the spending options of local governments, opening public drinking water systems to private competition, and whether governments should use trade agreements to pressure other countries against adopting climate or public health measures that restrict exports or investment.

The NDP "views investor-state provisions as an inequitable element in trade agreements that privilege corporations in a way that conflicts with the public interest." On CETA's intellectual property chapter, the party says: "Tying Canada further into arrangements that protect the patent drug industry is not in the interests of a country that must reassess its entire approach to pharmaceutical therapy in our public health care system." The NDP supports a broad cultural exception, as well as a health exception stipulating that "nothing in CETA shall be construed as applying to health care or public health insurance." The NDP stated "the current version of the Canada-EU Economic Trade Agreement needs significant improvement if the interests of Canadians are to be protected."

The Liberal Party says "the opportunities for both Canada and Europe are extraordinary and we support the pursuit of this CETA with the EU." The party did not take a position on each question but instead weighed the pros and cons of opening procurement markets, accepting the EU's proposed copyright and patent reforms, and agriculture. A question on supply management is not addressed, and the party does not endorse or reject a cultural exception, claiming: "We must address the conflict between protection versus expansion" of cultural industries.

The Bloc Quebecois says in general it is in Quebec's interests to diversify trade away from the United States, whether in the EU or elsewhere. But the party says CETA gives Canada a chance to incorporate more progressive rules into its trade agreements which would respect labour rights, environmental protections and engage civil society more fully. The Bloc would like to see new benchmarks for investment protection so that environmental and public health policies are not challenged as trade barriers. They insist on a strong cultural exception, they would protect supply management of agricultural sectors, and like the NDP they say public agencies should be able use purchasing, for example of transportation and energy services, as a tool for economic development.

Both the Bloc and NDP would protect public water systems, and retain the ability of the federal government to test whether large foreign takeovers of Canadian firms are in the public interest. The NDP and Liberals say they would be more open and transparent about trade negotiations than the Harper government has been.

The Trade Justice Network and Québec Network on Continental Integration feel strongly there has not been adequate consultation with Canadians on CETA, and that the deal will have an impact on too many domestic policies for it to be decided behind closed doors by a handful of trade negotiators. The networks are calling on whomever forms the next government to seek and acquire an informed, consensual mandate from the public on how, or whether, to continue negotiating CETA with the EU.

To see the questionnaire and responses from parties, please visit http://tradejustice.ca.

ABOUT THE NETWORKS: The Trade Justice Network (http://tradejustice.ca) comprises environmental, labour, cultural, farmers, Indigenous, student and social justice organizations critical of the CETA negotiations for their secrecy, but also for the impact the proposed deal would have on public services, local autonomy, environmental policy, Indigenous rights and cultural protections. The Québec Network on Continental Integration (http://www.rqic.alternatives.ca/RQIC-fr.htm) is a multisectoral coalition that includes more than 20 social organizations from Québec, representing over a million people. Its objective is to promote an alternative vision of development for the Americas and internationally. Together, the networks represent over four million Canadians.

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