The Canadian Union of Public Employees is asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end his secrecy surrounding Canada-European Union trade talks and make it an election issue. The potential trade deal has serious implications for Canadians, and details about the agreement must be made public as citizens choose their next government.
Recent media reports have revealed that Canadian and European officials have drafted a plan to achieve “deep economic integration”. Official talks are expected to be launched at the EU Canada Summit in Montreal on October 17th, three days after the federal election.
While business groups have been prominent in pushing the agreement forward, labour and citizens groups have been excluded. Harper has also been very involved in the plan, but has said nothing in the lead up to the election. Harper’s secrecy about a massive trade deal flies in the face of his promise to provide greater accountability.
Meanwhile, Canadians are left trying to figure out what it all means, with absolutely no tangible information. But for many workers across the country, this deal could have serious implications:
- The text reportedly proposes an open market in government services and procurement, which would allow European companies to bid as equals on public sector contracts. This would take jobs, profits and business opportunities away from Canadians.
- There is no indication that any social or environmental protections would be part of a Canada-EU trade deal. Notably, Canada would have little ability to influence regulations in relation to the EU. Labour standards and product labelling could be compromised.
- It is unlikely that Canadians working overseas would be able to attain the level of social protections that Europeans benefit from.
- The text reportedly boasts an economic windfall of $15 billion for Canada. While it may seem large, $15 billion only amounts to one per cent of Canada’s current GDP. Moreover, the actual credibility of the calculations will remain dubious until they are made available to the public.
- The Canada-EU trade deal will be sold to Canadians as an opportunity for Canada to position itself as a gateway for Europe to the Americas, and reap the economic benefits that come with that role. This would appear to be wishful thinking, given that the EU has bilateral trade relations with over 37 countries, including eight in the Americas. Moreover, progress on EU-US trade relations seems likely in the near future.
The North American Free Trade Agreement has already ushered in privatization and foreign ownership while threatening quality Canadian jobs. We need to renegotiate our current trade agreements. Why should Canada enter a new trade deal with Europe if our own Prime Minister can’t share the details with us during an election?