Canada-Europe free trade deal is about expanding corporate power and shrinking democratic control
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is busy promoting CETA, the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement while on his travels in Europe. Critics claim that the agreement is less about free trade and more about extending the power of huge global corporations.
The deal has been criticized ever since negotiations began. Among the claims of critics is that the deal could add up to $3 billion to the price of Canadian drugs by extending patent lengths. It could also restrict the manner in which local governments are able to spend money and also ban any buy local policies. The Wall Street Journal reports that Canadian negotiators have agreed that their will be no investment review on any European firm's takeover or investment in a Canadian firm unless it is over $1.5 billion. Currently any deal over $330 million is subject to review. The higher amount would be phased in over several years. As it liberalizes the rules for giant global European based corporations Canada has at the same time increased the scrutiny of international state-owned enterprises. The rules are for the interest of global capital not enterprises that might further the interests and agenda of a particular country. This is seen by the fact that much of the deal has to do with copyright and ensuring that both sides enforce intellectual property laws. As an article in Wikipedia puts it:
Part of the Agreement is stricter enforcement of intellectual property, including liability for Internet Service Providers, a ban on technologies that can be used to circumvent copyright, and other provisions similar to controversial ACTA, DMCA, PIPA, and SOPA..., Electronic Frontier Foundation stated that this "trade agreement replicates ACTA's notorious copyright provisions".Americans should take notice since a similar deal is planned between the US and Europe. CETA would ban both 'buy local' or even "buy Canadian policies. In March of this year a UN report on poverty in Canada suggested that poverty reduction measures could be "undermined by the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union, currently in draft form, which would prohibit municipal governments from using procurement of goods and services valued over $340,000 in a way that favours local or Canadian goods, services or labour." Several municipalities from Nanaimo in BC to Toronto in Ontario have requested they be excluded from CETA provisions. The agreement would set up an investor-state dispute settlement process that could stymie attempts to legislate environmental protections or other measures that were regarded as interference in trade. Some Canadian banking regulations could be challenged by European banks. Stephen Harper, Canadian Prime Minister said that although there difficulties within the negotiating process:
".. both of our countries look to considerable gains from an eventual agreement, and we will continue to work with that objective in mind."Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast claims that the deal could boost the Canadian economy by $12 billion a year and create 80,000 jobs. A joint study by Canada and Europe in 2008 shows that Europe would benefit even more. The negative effects pointed out by critics are conveniently left out of the picture. Global capital is busy promoting other "free trade" deals as well including the TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership. The article on the TTP notes:
Anti-globalization advocates accuse the TPP of going far beyond the realm of tariff reduction and trade promotion, granting unprecedented power to corporations and infringing upon consumer, labour, and environmental interests. One widely republished article claims the TPP is "a wish list of the 1%" and that "of the 26 chapters under negotiation, only a few have to do directly with trade. The other chapters enshrine new rights and privileges for major corporations while weakening the power of nation states to oppose them."As with CETA negotiations they take place behind closed doors and terms being negotiated are often known only through leaks.