Trade Agreements – CETA and the TPP

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Canada has signed 12 international trade agreements, concluded but not yet signed two, and entered negotiations for nine more. The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) are multilateral (involve several countries) and extensive, dealing with most areas of the economy. Others are bilateral, such as the proposed Comprehensive and High‐Level Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan.These agreements are negotiated in secret, with details made public only after they are finalized. CETA has not yet been ratified, and TPP is still under negotiation.

While called trade agreements, these pacts are designed to limit the authority of national governments over their own economies and expand the scope and power of multinational corporations. Agriculture is always contentious in these negotiations, as many countries believe it is essential to ensure that their own farmers can produce the food to feed their people. Often food carries important cultural values as well. The NFU is a member of La Via Campesina (LVC), the international organization of small farmers. In the early 1990s, LVC stood opposed to World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations around agriculture, called for the exemption of agriculture and food from talks, and proposed instead its new concept “Food Sovereignty” as the proper guiding principle. Today, Food Sovereignty has been embraced around the world, including by the NFU.

Many groups have highlighted the anti-democratic nature of trade agreements, particularly Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, which enable corporations to sue governments for compensation if new laws limit the company’s future profits. ISDS has become so contentious in Europe that some observers believe the issue could prevent ratification of CETA and the TTIP, a similar deal between the EU and the USA.

The NFU has pointed out that CETA does not benefit beef and hog producers as claimed by government, and the harm to the dairy sector that would result from allowing increased EU cheese imports is significant. CETA, combined with Canada's new, restrictive UPOV '91 compliant seed law, would enable the courts to impose draconian and unjust measures against farmers accused of infringing on Plant Breeders' Rights.

As the most recent round of TPP negotiations concluded in July, Canada’s representatives made a major concession on dairy tariffs – details are secret of course – in spite of its promise that keeping supply management was a priority.

Trade agreements are promoted on the grounds that they will open markets for Canadian producers. However, at the same time, they open Canada’s markets for other countries. Most small and medium-sized businesses do not have the capacity to do overseas marketing. Thus, growth in trade will be accomplished by multinational corporations occupying economic space in both trade-agreement countries at the expense of each country's home-grown local, regional and national-scale enterprises. For farmers, this means that agribusiness corporations can seek out the lowest-cost provider of commodities, pitting farmer against farmer around the world, with prices spiralling ever downward. Compounding this problem, food processing is increasingly done countries with weak (or no) labour protection laws. This puts downward pressure on workers' wages, and shifts production of perishable agriculture products (such as fruit, vegetables and meat) away from Canada. Current agriculture/trade policies accelerate globalization while stalling food sovereignty.

The NFU calls for international relations based on mutual respect for the whole of each society, trade that is conducted fairly without destroying the cultural and economic institutions people have built, and people having a real say in the economic choices that affect their lives.
 
Will the next federal government develop a national food and agriculture policy that reflects the values of food sovereignty instead of pursuing the ever-tightening noose of corporate control embodied in the Free Trade Agreements?
 
PS - The latest USDA analysis of EU livestock and livestock products tells that Europe's pork, beef and dairy markets are all saturated. It says:
  • Elevated swine slaughter, mostly in Spain and Germany, will result in an excess supply of pork that cannot be absorbed by the current level of EU demand.As a result, the EU is forecast to export a record volume of pork in 2015.
  • Liberalization of the dairy market led to an expansion of the dairy herd from 2014. In 2015 and 2016, the EU cattle herd is expected to continue to expand but at a slower pace than realized in 2014. The main factor for the increasing herd is the abolishment of the milk quotas in 2015.
  • In 2015, total beef imports are anticipated to fall slightly due to increased domestic availability.

In addition, the USDA reports Argentina's beef exports are at the highest level in the past seven years, and will soon implement policy changes to make its beef even more competitive. Europe imports most of its hormone-free beef from Argentina, making it highly unlikely Canada would actually sell beef to Europe if CETA is ratified.

 
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