Hansen made the statements yesterday during an exclusive press briefing held to counter public fears about the recently enacted trade deal. Gould, who spoke with journalists who were part of the conference call, was engaged by CUPE to respond.
“Minister Hansen is claiming that TILMA is not that far-reaching, that governments are safe from a TILMA challenge if they do not discriminate between B.C. and Alberta businesses,” said Gould. “In fact, the TILMA imposes the most radical restrictions on governments to be found in any existing trade agreement.”
Gould, who wrote a report on TILMA released in February by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, pointed that the agreement has an unprecedented provision - Article 3. This article prohibits governments from implementing regulations or providing programs if they are obstacles to investment.
“Hansen is just wrong when he claims that the existing Agreement on Internal Trade also has a provision stating that there can be no obstacles to investment,” said Gould. “In fact, the Agreement on Internal Trade does not apply the ‘no obstacles’ requirement to investment - and for good reason. Government regulations and public service delivery by their very nature impede the establishment or expansion of private business, so a ‘no obstacles to investment’ clause is a fundamental threat to the capacity of governments to govern.”
Gould also explained why, in contrast with what Hansen told journalists, it was not reassuring that most disputes would be settled before they ever got to a TILMA dispute panel; why B.C. and Alberta do not have control over TILMA panel decisions because they appoint panel members; and why TILMA will inevitably result in the lowering of standards. (For Gould’s detailed rebuttal of Minister Hansen’s statements, visit www.cupe.bc.ca.)
Ellen Gould has consulted on the potential impacts of trade for international consumer groups and the Union of BC Municipalities, as well as doing public consultations on trade agreements for the BC government.