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Remarks to a Town Hall Meeting on the CETA

December 12, 2011

1-minute read

Last week I spoke along with Maude Barlow and Paul Moist at a well-attended public meeting in Charlottetown on the Canada – European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).  The PEI meeting was the last stop in a cross-country tour by Maude and Paul. Here are my opening remarks.

No one questions that international trade is vital for the Canadian economy.  But there are legitimate questions that need to be asked about who benefits from trade and about the role of public policies in ensuring that those benefits are shared as widely as possible.

Today, one of Canada’s world-class trading companies faces a dire threat to its very existence. For decades it has operated successfully in cutthroat global markets on the basis of the highest quality and consistency, commanding a premium price for Canadian products. It is one of Canada’s most recognizable and internationally respected brands.

This Canadian export powerhouse has annual revenues of between $4 and 8 billion and exports to over 70 countries.  Each year it sells about 21 million tons of Canadian commodities. This enterprise is threatened not because it couldn’t compete internationally, but because it competes too successfully.  It is under attack from relentless ideologues working on behalf of foreign interests.

In their eyes, this organization’s sin is that it shares the benefits of international trade with primary producers.  Last year it had revenues of $5.2 billion.  It returned every penny, minus administration costs of $75 million, to Canadian grain farmers.  And this is the reason the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and Canada’s world-class grain system may perish.

I want to take a moment to congratulate the Council of Canadians, the Friends of the CWB, The Public Service Alliance of Canada, lawyer Steven Shrybman, and everyone else involved in the case for their stellar work in defending the CWB.  A federal court judgement found that the move by the Conservative government and minister Gerry Ritz to abolish the CWB without consulting farmers is “an affront to the rule of law.”

Don’t be fooled by simplistic notions that critics of trade and investment treaties are reflexively anti-trade or that their proponents are consistent champions of international commerce.

Question everything.  Read the fine print.  Ask yourself … who benefits?

The same goes for agreements such as the CETA, which are about far more than simply trade. These agreements have developed into constitutional-style documents that affect public regulation of investment, services, intellectual property, public purchasing and other important matters that are only peripherally related to trade.

To read the rest of the remarks:

Scott Sinclair is the director of the CCPA's Trade and Investment Research Project.

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