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CUPE and other Canadian groups were in Brussels and Strasbourg this week to oppose the Canada-European Union trade deal called CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). The Trade Justice Network delegation concluded its visit to Europe with meetings on CETA with civil society allies in Brussels. Here’s an account of the final day in Brussels by CUPE trade policy expert Blair Redlin.

Blair’s CETA journal from Brussels

We began with a meeting at the Brussels offices of the European Federation of Public Service Unions. EPSU and three of Canada’s main public sector unions issued a joint statement on CETA one year ago.

On hand at the EPSU office in Brussels Thursday were Jan Willem Goudriaan, Deputy General Secretary of EPSU; Pablo Sanchez, Communications and European Parliament Liaison Officer with EPSU; Martin Pigeon of  Corporate Europe Observatory; and Gabriella Zanzanaini of Food and Water Watch Europe.

We discussed ways to build on our earlier meetings with Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and other strategic aspects of influencing the European Commission and European Council. The European Commission has asked the Council for approval for a new negotiating mandate to include a NAFTA-like investor/state provision in the CETA so we brainstormed ways to influence European legislators on this new development. The meeting also focused on how to keep drinking water services out of CETA and how to increase the profile of CETA in European media and amongst European civil society groups. It was a productive and friendly exchange which will doubtless result in greater understanding of CETA in community sectors in Europe.

Next, Stuart Trew and I met with Marc Maes, European Trade Officer for the Belgian development organization 11.11.11. Marc briefed us on this week’s meeting in Vienna of the Seattle to Brussels Network. We were happy to learn that the Seattle to Brussels Network issued an important statement this week in opposition to the CETA.

Finally, we met with Michael Earle, fisheries advisor to the Green/European Free Alliance group of the European Parliament. Michael is originally from Canada, so has a particular interest in CETA developments and - of course - the many ways in which CETA threatens to increase access for European companies to fishing grounds off the east coast of Canada and - potentially - to reduce fish stocks.

These meetings helped increase awareness of CETA within Europe. There is not yet widespread awareness or understanding of the CETA talks within Europe. However, when Europeans learn about the nature of the talks, they share many of the concerns that Canadians have been raising about the proposed trade deal. Follow-up to the strategizing at today’s meetings will do a lot to increase awareness about CETA around Europe.

Today’s meetings were our last this week and we’re heading home. All members of the delegation feel that this week’s meetings were productive and useful. We gained useful information about the current status of the talks and we did a lot to advance awareness of and opposition to CETA in Europe.