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In a brief to the Parliamentary Committee on International Trade, CUPE Manitoba has delivered a clear message. The way Canada is negotiating trade agreements is wrong and as a result, citizens’ rights to decide priorities is being undermined.

In a brief to the Committee, Division president Paul Moist explained that unlike the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in the 1980s, the current NAFTA talks are a top-down process. This means that everything is included unless specifically excluded. Previous trade agreements were bottom-up processes, meaning everything was excluded unless specifically included.

“This sounds technical and sounds boring,” said Moist. “But once we let corporations overrule democratic governments, our ability to set priorities is forever lost. The effects of corporations dictating to governments were seen with the Liberals’ inability to ban a gasoline additive that’s ironically banned in the United States. And it’s seen as U.S. corporations take provinces to court to force them to allow mass water exports.”

Last year, the federal government was forced to end a ban on MMT, a harmful gasoline additive, manufactured by Ethyl Corporation. It also had to pay Ethyl millions of dollars in damages 006400650073pite the fact that MMT is banned in the United States because of its dangers.

Sun Belt Corporation of California is also suing the B.C. government, trying to end B.C.’s ban on mass water exports. Once the taps of water exports are forced open by NAFTA, NAFTA prevents them from being turned off.

“Our priorities are to be allowed what all democracies should be allowed 007400680065 power to hold governments accountable instead of facing off against a foreign CEO who’s accountable to no-one,” said Moist.

He emphasized that current public services, and future national homecare or pharmacare programs, are threatened by restrictive trade agreements. “It’s wrong for Canadians to want public programs, yet have forced privatization of our most cherished systems because a massive U.S. corporation has to receive equal treatment to as public hospital,” he said.