Federal Government is Weak-Minded on CETA Deal
The National Farmers Union wonders whether the Federal Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries promoting the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement across Canada today have actually read the text of the agreement? Or did they simply memorize pre-digested talking points? The devil is in the details. Canadians want to know the actual content and implications of this agreement, which is being negotiated behind closed doors. Instead we are being sold a load of weak-minded hype.
The NFU has obtained leaked copies of the draft CETA text at several stages of the negotiations and has analyzed each one from the point of view of agriculture, food and farmers. It has become clear that CETA is not so much about removing trade barriers – few exist between Canada and Europe – but more about limiting the power of elected governments to prevent them from making laws that would restrict global corporations, and to ensure that these corporations will have permanent economic and legal advantages over individual citizens and independent businesses. We know that CETA is not necessary and that trade with Europe will certainly continue without the deal.
In a press conference today, NFU President Terry Boehm, outlined a few of our key concerns, and stated:
CETA is the first international “trade deal” that would require provincial and local governments to comply with its conditions. In public procurement contracts above specific (fairly low) minimums CETA would prohibit cities, towns, villages, schools, universities and hospitals from giving preferential treatment to local businesses for the supply of goods and services and for construction projects. The very people whose tax dollars will be spent on public procurement will thus be forced to compete with large European corporations for their own town or city’s business. Local food programs would also be jeopardized as a result of this condition, destroying an important economic opportunity for farmers, especially young and new farmers.
CETA will not automatically open up European markets for products such as genetically modified canola. The Annexes to CETA show that European countries can still exclude GM crops under CETA, and in any case, European consumers are not interested in buying GM food. The EU is pushing Canada to change our dairy import rules, a key component of supply management, in return for more access to its beef and pork markets. But it is doubtful that there would be any significant increase in Canadian sales of hormone-free beef and antibiotic-free pork, given that Europe is already one of the world’s largest exporters of pork and it obtains nearly all its imported beef from Brazil and Argentina, countries that have a competitive advantage over Canada due to low labour costs and year-round production capacity.
CETA’s investor protection measures eliminate government’s ability to restrict the movement of capital, so that Canada would not be able to restrict foreign ownership, and could no longer address balance of payments issues – a key tool in monetary policy.
CETA includes draconian measures to enforce intellectual property rights, such as plant breeders’ rights and seed patents. If a seed company such as Bayer or Monsanto suspected a farmer of violating a seed patent, it could get the courts to seize the farmer’s seed, land, equipment and bank accounts before any wrong-doing was proven. Third parties that were suspected of helping the farmer in his or her alleged breach would also be subject to the same precautionary seizure measures. Stripped of their assets, the accused would then have no means to defend themselves. In addition, CETA calls for prison terms for people found violating certain intellectual property rights.
The National Farmers Union is calling upon the federal government to publicly release its negotiating text in full to permit a broad and open discussion. Canadians can then decide whether CETA will really benefit us as citizens or if it merely allows corporations to tie the hands of our elected governments to prevent them from passing laws in the public interest.
– 30 –
For more Information:
Terry Boehm, NFU President: (306) 255-2880 or (306) 257-3689
Ann Slater, NFU Region 3 (Ontario) Coordinator: (519) 349-2448
Source: Statistics Canada
Realized net farm income – what farmers take home after paying the cost of production.
Agri-food exports – the value of agriculture and food products exported from Canada to other countries.
Agri-food imports – the value of agriculture and food products imported into Canada from other countries.
Canada’s agriculture exports are nearly four times what they were in 1988 when the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement was signed. The amount of food imported into Canada has increased nearly as fast. But the realized net farm income of farmers has actually dropped during this same time period. Trade promotion has resulted in more trade, but not in prosperity for farmers. Canadian farmers are now carrying $64 billion of debt.