Canada-EU free trade agreement called corporate Trojan horse

With NDP, Liberals and civil society groups criticizing Canada's secretive CETA agreement, VO launches a series on its impact on Canadians' water, democracy, jobs and health. Part I takes a broad look at CETA - and the secrecy surrounding it.

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Criticism to the deal has coalesced from a coalition of trade unions, environmental organizations and social justice advocacy groups – but there have also been significant questions raised by municipalities and generic drug producers.

 
“We've seen a number of copies of the draft text,” said Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Of course, when you don't have information, you become more concerned – they haven't explained to people what's in it.
 
“There's no evidence that these extreme investment protections encourage investment flows into Canada. Why would Canada – in an almost masochistic way – continue to negotiate a process which has put its own environmental and health policies at risk, while offering no benefits? It doesn't make sense to us.”
 
In a speech last month, Conservative trade minister Ed Fast responded to journalists' questions about the impact of CETA. Fast insisted the deal is in the country's interests, and that negotiators in this home stretch have instructions to “defend Canadian interests.”
 
“What we’re looking for is an overall highly ambitious trade agreement between Canada and the EU,” Fast told reporters. “It will likely be the most ambitious agreement that either one of the two parties has ever entered into.”
 
But without public information – aside from the status of the negotiating rounds – the Canada-EU free trade deal hasn't yet been widely publicized or discussed. While most international negotiations – whether on environmental, economic and security – would be conducted with some degree of secrecy, critics in the Opposition and civil society alike are demanding more information.
 
Some organizations, however, believe the government has no interest in discussing CETA openly, and has been relatively silent on the matter for good reason: more widespread public criticism could put pressure on negotiators to change or scrap the deal.

“Already, governments are not doing enough to deal with income inequality and climate change,” said trade lawyer Stephen Shrybman, with the firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, who has authored a number of critical reports on the deal. “This entire regime is about reducing the ability of governments to do that.

“It's a completely one-sided, lopsided deal in which we give and they take. People should be worried about it.”

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