By CCU President John Hanrahan
On September 25, Canada and the European Union are expected to announce the completed text of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), paving the way for the ratification process of the new free trade deal between Canada and the 28 member states of the EU.
CETA is a product of secret negotiations between the governments and their corporate advisors and no details of the proposed agreement have been officially released. Like its predecessor, the North American Free Trade Agreement, CETA appears to be less about regulating trade than it is about increasing the rights and powers of multi-national corporations by limiting the rights of democratically-elected governments to make laws and regulations. Recently leaked documents have revealed provisions in the agreement the CCU sees as significant causes for concern.
• CETA provides a mechanism of dispute resolution called Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which gives multi-national corporations the right to sue governments that enact laws or regulations that affect their profits. These types of provisions serve to place corporations above the law and set them in a position to dictate laws and policy to democratically-elected governments.
• Under CETA, certain government agencies can be prohibited from choosing to purchase Canadian goods and services.
• CETA appears to open the door to a broader privatization of public services such as water utilities, energy utilities, transit, and healthcare.
• CETA will likely increase healthcare costs by adding hundreds of millions of dollars to the price of drugs.
• The agreement could prevent the federal and provincial governments from enacting laws or regulations that protect the environment and sustain resource development.
In recent decades, the largest problem facing our economy has been income inequality. Workers as a group have seen their share of the national income fall steadily. This kind of agreement only provides for a future of increased inequality as corporations are provided with sweeping new powers to enrich themselves at the expense of democratically-elected governments and the working people they are supposed to represent.