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Here’s an account of the closing day of work in Brussels by CUPE senior officer Carol Ferguson and CUPE trade policy expert Blair Redlin.

CUPE’s CETA journal Day 4

The Trade Justice/RQIC delegation to the CETA talks wound up its work in Brussels on Thursday with a series of meetings related to particular aspects of the proposed deal.

Carol Ferguson and Blair Redlin of CUPE joined Teresa Healy as observers at a meeting on public purchasing hosted by Penny Clarke, EU Policy Director for the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU). The Network for Sustainable Development in Public Procurement is a network of more than 20 unions, fair trade organizations and community groups advocating for the creation of good quality employment, quality services and environmental sustainability through public purchasing in Europe.

The European Union is reviewing its public procurement policies, so the network is organizing to drive standards and quality upwards and to include sustainability within public tenders. They want to get the most out of public purchasing and procurement. The work of the network is pertinent to the Canada-EU trade talks because Canada and the European Commission are proposing to strictly limit the ability for local governments, provinces and member states to use procurement for social and economic policy goals of government. The groups we met with are lobbying and organizing to take EU procurement policy in a much more active direction.

Meanwhile, Scott Sinclair of the CCPA and Gary Neal of the Council of Canadians met with the Director General of Trade at the European Commission to discuss cultural aspects of the CETA. It was clear that the negotiators at the Commission have bought into the idea of including “investor-state” dispute settlement within the deal, even though this NAFTA style of “corporate rights” protection has never before been part of a European-wide trade agreement.

Amélie Nguyen of RQIC and Stuart Trew of the Council of Canadians had a meeting with Pierre-Marc Johnson, chief negotiator for Quebec. It was useful to gain the Quebec government perspective on the deal as Quebec has been one of the chief advocates for CETA.

What we accomplished in Brussels

Everyone involved from the Trade Justice/RQIC group felt that it was an extremely useful week. Particularly important were our lobby meetings with Members of the European Parliament, both individually and in committee.

We built stronger solidarity links with trade unions in Europe that will strengthen worker-to-worker ties across the Atlantic. We worked with European civil society groups on a wide range of CETA related issues such as the EU Fuel Quality Directive, asbestos, cultural policy, procurement, water, public services, investor rights, the “negative list” approach and more. We helped Europeans to better understand the potential implications of the deal for European democracy, public services and the environment.

It was clear from our meetings with negotiators for Canada and the provinces that CETA talks are going more slowly than had been planned, in part because of an increasing level of questioning by European parliamentarians, unions and civil society groups. It’s crucial that CUPE and others concerned about CETA continue to work with Europeans to shed light on this potentially very dangerous trade deal.


CUPE is part of a delegation in Europe 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 a critical eighth round of negotiations for a sweeping new trade deal that increases health care costs for Canadians, threatens Canada’s public water, gives extensive powers to corporations, and limits local democratic control for municipal governments. CUPE staffers Blair Redlin and Carol Ferguson are in Brussels to lobby Members of the European Parliament (MEPs); meet with unions and civil society groups; and monitor the negotiations.

Learn more about the dangers of CETA: