ROUSING THE RABBLE: Hurtling towards Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

Information is sparse but there are ongoing CETA talks, with deal completion likely by year's end.

Information about the Canada-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is sparse, but we do know that talks are continuing in secret and that it is expected that an agreement will be reached likely by the end of 2012.

In an effort to convince Canadians that the deal will be good for them, various politicians fanned out across Canada in late-April to meet with workers, business and community leaders and stakeholders across the country to highlight the wide range of benefits that the agreement will bring to people, no matter where they live.

High on the list of touted benefits of the agreement are the jobs it will provide and the money that will flow into Canadian coffers.

We must keep in mind that the promises made by the federal government about what CETA will bring by way of benefits are pure conjecture.

The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway told a meeting of the Economic Club of Canada on April 27 that “A trade agreement with Europe is by far the most ambitious trade initiative in our nation’s history, with the potential to be broader in scope and deeper in ambition than the historic North American Free Trade Agreement.

Whether you are a fisherman, farmer, manufacturer or high-tech worker, the benefits of an ambitious agreement to you, your family and your community will be real and significant.”

What more could we want as Canadians but the jobs and the security CETA might bring? Different benefits for Canadians are being highlighted, depending on where they live.

The sale of manufacture goods will provide jobs in Newfoundland; fish products preparation will provide the jobs in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Manitobans will benefit from the export of grain and pulse.  Fish, seafood and renewable energy will bring jobs to British Columbia. The fossil fuel industry will provide the jobs in Alberta.

It is said that CETA will be beneficial to “hard working Canadians and Europeans alike.” However, the devil is in the details and the government is keeping those details secret.

Numbers are being provided but can we trust them when their validity has been questioned by a joint Canada-EU economic assessment group?

A study determined that Canada’s trade deficit would grow by at least $8 billion with the signing of CETA and jobs would actually disappear if there were a deficit. According to one study, the loss of jobs would be in the order of between 23,000 and 150,000.

Municipal councils across the country are nervous about CETA and its impact on their operations and they have notified the federal government that they want to be excluded from the agreement because of the procurement and policy restrictions that would undermine their local autonomy and spending powers.

Grand Forks recently passed a bylaw to that effect.

Canadians don’t like CETA and the EU doesn’t appear happy with it either. It’s now projected that a final draft will be signed some time this fall so we can be sure that Stephen Harper’s negotiators have been given instructions to get a deal signed.

The EU is home to the world’s biggest private companies that are involved in managing drinking water, transit and other municipal services such as sewage disposal. These companies would like to be operating in Canada and CETA opens the door to them. If they get a foothold in Canada it will be next to impossible to get rid of them.

CETA should be about trade, but it is also about foreign control and that is why municipal governments must pay close attention.

– Roy Ronaghan is a columnist for the Grand Forks Gazette