A parliamentary committee’s study of the proposed Canada-EU trade deal paints two starkly different pictures of the agreement.
Conservative members of parliament made sure the Parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade heard predominantly from witnesses who toed the party line, with only three opposing voices invited to testify. Most civil society groups were frozen out. Not a single witness from Quebec was invited.
Not surprisingly, the committee report, tabled this week in the House of Commons, paints a rosy picture of CETA’s economic and social impacts.
The government members on the committee also relied heavily on discredited and unsubstantiated economic analysis that vastly overstates the financial benefits and job-creation power of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). A Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study showing CETA will kill – not create – jobs wasn’t on the committee’s reading list. Neither was a European Commission study which cuts the federal government’s economic benefits estimate in half.
The real story lies in the dissenting opinions and recommendations of the NDP and Liberal committee members, and the voices of the Trade Justice Network (TJN) and Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC).
The NDP recommendations in the committee report include:
- Full public disclosure of the CETA text and all Canada’s proposals
- Proper consultation with municipal governments
- The removal of any investor-state arbitration rules
- No extension of pharmaceutical patent protections
- Protection for public water and wastewater services – and all public services
- Protection for health care services and insurance
In an NDP-sponsored roundtable on CETA and health care held earlier this month, witnesses outlined the dangers CETA poses to public health care. Mike McBane of the Canadian Health Coalition explained how CETA aims to open Medicare up to the market. If signed, CETA would weaken protections negotiated under the North American Free Trade Agreement, extending the same market access to US health care corporations.
The roundtable also highlighted the problems with European demands to extend patents for drug companies, delaying the introduction of cheaper generic drugs. The estimated yearly cost to an already-underfunded system is an extra $3 billion.
The ongoing move by municipalities to exempt themselves from CETA – with Toronto as the latest city calling to be excluded – reinforces the need to halt CETA negotiations and fully consult with local governments.
CUPE, through the Trade Justice Network, is calling on the international trade committee to hold another inquiry into CETA before signing it, so that Canadians can learn the truth about this sweeping new agreement.