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Theres hope in the alliance of unions, civil society organizations and NGOs to beat the FTAA, said Paul Moist, National President of CUPE. When theres pressure here in Canada as third world countries have mobilized, then these international trade agreements can be beaten.

Moist was speaking to about 100 participants at the FTAA: Resistance is Not Futile event in Winnipeg on November 29th, organized by the Council of Canadians. The event provided an update on what has recently happened in Cancun and Miami, and what can be done locally to stop the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

These international trade agreements are simply a matter of global capitalism looking for low cost production, according to Moist. While the promotion of the North America Free Trade Agreement, FTAA and other programs of the World Trade Organization focus on trade liberalization and tariff reductions, the basic purpose is to lower production costs and increase profits for multinational corporations.

And US domestic interests trump all else in these agreements, he said.

He noted how Canadian officials are actively supporting the US agenda on trade, but that we are opposed to the Liberal governments agenda on free trade in the Americas.

Theres a direct link between the expansion of corporate rights under these agreements and the privatization of public services across the Americas, he emphasized. These are not in the interest of workers in any of the countries involved and we have a lot to give and learn from each other as we mobilize against these agreements.

Other speakers at the workshop included Rob Hilliard, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour and Fred Tait, former vice-president of the National Farmers Union.

Hilliard itemized in some detail how these international agreements were decimating the ranks of unionized workers in Canada. He described how legislation was being enacted to make union organizing more difficult in most provinces and decertifications easier in Ontario. He noted that successor rights are being legislated away in several provinces and right to work legislation is now openly discussed by several right wing parties in Canada.

There’s a shift taking place across North America of more power for the employers under these agreements. For workers it means more jobs are going south, theres an increase in contingent (part time and casual) work and a decline in union density.

Tait noted how corporate agriculture has decimated farming communities in Canada. He spoke of how there has been a basic shift in wealth from rural communities to huge multinational corporations, and that now NAFTA and the FTAA want to transfer this system of agriculture to the Third World.

He described how technological and policy changes have reduced the capacity of Canadian agriculture to meet Canadian needs. Now, international trade agreements are going to make Canadians even more vulnerable to corporate interests. He quoted from a Cargill Grain memo that stated to control seed is to control farmers, to control food is to control the nation.

Gerry Flood, a member of CUPE Local 110 who attended the event, said he was encouraged by the speakers shared analysis. When it comes to these international agreements theres a strong bond between workers in the public and private sector, farmers and community activists. Its great. We need to build on this though.