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CUPE and other Canadian groups are Brussels and Strasbourg this week to oppose the Canada-European Union trade deal called CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). Their latest meetings were in Strasbourg, France where they met with Members of the European Parliament to make the case about why this deal is flawed.

Here’s a personal account by CUPE trade policy expert Blair Redlin.

Blair’s CETA journal form Strasbourg, France

The delegation from the Trade Justice Network took our case against CETA to the European Parliament today. The European Parliament is in full session in Strasbourg, France this week.

Our visit to the European Parliament today was fascinating, and productive. We feel we helped many members of the Parliament gain a much better understanding of what’s at stake in CETA for both Europeans and Canadians. The collaboration and compromises that are an inherent part of the European parliamentary process were fascinating to watch and learn about.

The highlight of our lobby efforts was a presentation to members of the parliamentary Committee on International Trade (INTA).

More than 20 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and staff from the various parliamentary groupings attended the special meeting, which was organized by Martin Koehler, a staff person with the Greens. A representative of the Canadian government mission to the E.U. also attended. I attended on behalf of CUPE along with Stuart Trew and Brent Patterson from the Council of Canadians; Clayton Thomas-Muller from the Indigenous Environmental Network; Terry Boehm from the National Farmers Union.

Our opening presentations for the MEPs focused on: investor rights (ie. the ability for corporations to sue against public policies they don’t like); intellectual property rights (including demands from big drug companies that will reduce use of generic drugs and increase public health care costs); tar sands and the E.U. fuel quality directive; and the proposed inclusion of drinking water services in the deal (which will increase the risk of water privatization).

There was an animated question and answer period afterwards, with MEPs asking follow-up questions on everything from procurement to investor rights to tar sands and climate change. 

An intervention from Canadian government representative Joanna Kroeger prompted a lively exchange on tar sands policy with MEP Bas Eickhout from the Netherlands, who is with the Group of Greens/European Free Alliance.

Following the special meeting on CETA, our delegation attended a caucus meeting of the Green/European Free Alliance group, chaired by well known French MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit. More than 60 MEPs were on hand for the caucus and we were given a chance to make a brief overview presentation on CETA.

We also had one-on-one meetings with supportive MEPs Joe Higgins of the GUE (United Left) group and Martin Koehler. Additionally, we connected with many parliamentary staff people who had questions about other specific aspects of CETA such as fisheries and procurement. We also learned that a delegation from the European International Trade Committee will be visiting Ottawa this April at the time of the next round of CETA talks.

Tomorrow, it’s back to Brussels for more meetings with representatives of European trade unions and other civil society groups.