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CUPE and other Canadian groups are in Brussels and Strasbourg, France this week to oppose the Canada-European Union trade deal called CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).

Negotiators for Canada and the European Union are holding the sixth round of negotiations for a sweeping new trade deal that threatens Canada’s public water, gives extensive powers to corporations and limits local democratic control for municipal governments.

Here’s a personal account of the first day of work in Brussels by CUPE trade policy expert Blair Redlin.

Blair’s CETA journal

The first day of activities began with a spirited demonstration outside the offices of the European Commission organized by Friends of the Earth Europe and the UK Tar Sands Network. The theme of the demo was “Keep Europe out of tar sands: Stop the EU-Canada trade talks.”

European environmental and social activists are very concerned about the tar sands implications of the CETA talks. The European Fuel Quality Directive currently defines petroleum from the tar sands as “unconventional” or “dirty” oil, which serves to discourage its use in Europe.

The Harper government is trying to use the CETA talks as an opportunity to change that, but tar sands production generates three to five times as many greenhouse gas emissions as regular oil so European environmental campaigners don’t want to see any use of tar sands expanded in Europe.

They’ve also labelled CETA the “Tar Sands Trade Deal” because of proposals on the table to include “investor rights” provisions that will permit European based oil companies (like BP and Shell) and other corporations to sue governments for their public policies.

After the demonstration, the Canadians met with the EU correspondent for Reuters News to provide background on the range of problems with CETA.

Then it was off to a meeting at the site of the negotiations with the provincial government negotiators for Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

The negotiators updated the civil society group on the progress of negotiations while the group of activists pressed the negotiators hard on issues like protecting public water, the right of municipal and provincial governments to use public purchasing to create local jobs, and the need to keep “investor rights” out of the deal. The group felt this was an important and effective lobby meeting.

I am proud to be here with the other members our Canadian delegation: Terry Boehm, president of the National Farmers’ Union; Ronald Cameron from ATTAC-Quebec; Clayton Thomas-Mueller of the Indigenous Environmental Network; and both Stuart Trew and Brent Patterson of the Council of Canadians.

All in all, our first day was busy and productive. Tuesday it’s off to Strasbourg to meet with members of the European Parliament as Parliament is in session there this week.