Friday, October 28, 2016

Thomas Walkom on CETA

While it is disappointing to see that Wallonia has dropped its opposition to the CETA deal, thus paving the way for signing and ultimate ratification, all may not be lost, at least for the Europeans, according to Thomas Walkom. Morever, this imbroglio has brought forth some interesting facts, facts that again raise questions about Canada's underlying motivation in so aggressively pursuing the deal.
... the deal as written contains a fundamental imbalance. European firms would be able to challenge, at special investment courts, Canadian laws and regulations that interfere with profit-making.

But Canadian firms would have the same rights only in those EU countries that specifically allow such challenges. That’s because the EU treats the proposed Investment Court System as a matter of national, rather than Pan-European, concern.

In Canada, on the other hand, investment courts need only the imprimatur of the federal government to come into effect.
Think about that for a moment. The EU has structural protections built in to permit or exclude such challenges, while our own federal government raises not one objection to them. Indeed, you may recall how International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeladn has described CETA as "gold-plated," after tinkering around the edges of the investor state dispute settlement process, tinkering that was, for all intents and purposes, cosmetic.

Walkom cites Osgoode Hall law professor and trade expert Gus Van Harten, who says,
Ottawa may want to put the investment court portion of the deal on ice until the EU nations decide which of them will agree to it.

The Guardian reports that as part of its deal with Wallonia, Belgium has agreed to ask the European Court of Justice whether the investment court dispute settlement proposal is even legal.
However, investor rights are only the most egregious part of a very flawed deal:
A 2010 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimated that removing tariffs on European cars and trucks would cost the Canadian auto industry between 28,000 and 150,000 jobs.

According to one 2013 estimate, drug patent rules envisioned by the treaty would end up costing both individual consumers and provincial governments up to $1.6 billion each year, making it even more difficult to set up a national pharmacare plan.

Canadian dairy farmers would be hurt as would fish processors. Canadian beef and pork producers would probably benefit from exporting more to Europe — although the scale of this has been called into question.
So what does the deal come down to for Canadians?
The main economic benefit of CETA may be that it would allow Canadians to buy European luxury goods at marginally cheaper prices.

Otherwise, this never was a compelling deal. Even without CETA, the EU is already Canada’s second-largest trading partner.
Ordinary Canadians have every right to demand an explanation for why Canada is so content with protecting the investor rights that will so hamper our sovereignty, as has been our experience with NAFTA.

Government rhetoric and neoliberal enthusiasms notwithstanding, we all deserve much, much better from the people we elected to protect and advance our interests.


  1. This is more of the same, Lorne. There is nothing to celebrate.

    1. There is no way that the Liberals can dress up this deal as a win for everyone, Owen, at least not to those who choose to exercise a modicum of critical thinking.

  2. Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

    I'll say it's more of the same.

    It seems that in at least one part of the country one of the few industries that stands to benefit from the CETA is finding it difficult to keep up with current demand possibilities because of labour market supply challenges:

    "[O]ne of the big issues we had was the source of labor that we need for our plants and for our barns often has been coming from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The previous government made adjustments that were not going to work for us. They were going to make it more difficult for us to access a labour source. ...

    "On the processors side the previous government had restricted the percent of foreign workers that could work at the plant and this new government has expanded that so that more foreign workers can work in our processing plants. This government seems to be stepping back and making adjustments so that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program can work for the pork industry."

    - George Matheson, Manitoba Pork

    If what's taking place now seems familiar, it's because it should. It reminds me of a series of projects that were engineered back in the Chretien-Martin years when, under the threat of plant closures, massive wage concessions were demanded and secured in the same industry by one of our prominent national brands, as the company suddenly realized that it wouldn't be able to compete with the economies of scale and blind-eye treatment, by both business and government toward the undocumented worker question, enjoyed by Smithfield in the US (another NAFTA success story). In one part of the country our Federal Government was prepared to assist the company in dealing with the flood of resignations that took place in the wake of the wage cuts with a readied supply of workers from South East Asia, while in another, the challenge of locating workers who would fill the positions that had abruptly become "jobs that Canadians won't do" was solved through some sort of experimental arrangement with labour contractors having connections in China. As I recall, some industry expansion and major corporate rationalization projects were occurring at the time and the Chinese worker solution didn't work out quite as planned. So Plan B was implemented: a cadre of different and more suitable foreign nationals was sourced and recruited.

    I'm pretty sure that one of our well-known international unions and some of the old hands who've been tutoring Justin on this file could clarify what occurred at that time.

    1. The picture, John, is not pretty, as your commentary shows. Clearly, we can expect the race to the bottom to continue apace.

  3. Trudeau and Freeland are the loudest cheerleaders for all involved to sign and ratify a deal that is not only unconstitutional, but will do great damage economically, politically, socially and judicially to our country.

    Canadians have been ignored completely in the decision making around this deal as both Trudeau and Freeland self-righteously deliver our sovereignty to the trash can. Why? Again what's in it for them? Their betrayal must have underlying reasons. The answer is there to be found and I will find it.

    As a side issue, I'm just starting to read a book titled "Battling Wall Street" "The Kennedy Presidency". Kennedy realized that the entrenched interests of the financial oligarchs and business elites would have to be challenged.It's a side to Kennedy that I know nothing about. Maybe the key to understanding this power elite is what happens when they are seriously challenged. The author is Donald Gibson.

    I'll let you know what I discover when I've finished reading.Maybe it may even contain the answer I'm looking for.

    1. I look forward to learning the fruits of your research, Pamela. Remember, I always welcome guest posts from people like you.