Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It’s time to kill the newest job-killing free trade deal, the Canada EU trade agreement (CETA)

We are told that this proposed free trade deal with the EU will be good for us, those of us who make up the 99%. That’s as true as the argument that rising incomes for the wealthy will help the economy.

By Larry Brown
October 19, 2011

The comparison is mind-numbing.

In a downtown park in Ottawa citizens are ‘occupying’ the park grounds to underline the public’s concerns about some major issues: the growing inequality between the rich and the rest of us, the fact that our government is more and more a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy and that the 1% have gotten obscenely rich while the 99% have struggled.

Meanwhile, in another part of Ottawa, in a warm and comfortable conference room, Canadian government officials are meeting with European Union (EU) officials to move us ever closer to a new trade deal that will benefit only the 1% and that will hurt the interests of the 99% - the rest of us.

We are told that this proposed free trade deal with the EU will be good for us. That’s as true as the argument that rising incomes for the wealthy will help the economy. Rising incomes for the wealthy makes them richer; freer trade makes some companies more profitable and costs the rest of us jobs and good wages. End of story.

Of course, the Harper government never bothers to use facts when a good talking point will do.

The fact is that this deal will kill jobs in Canada, just like NAFTA did. Under free trade, large companies do well but the jobs they used to provide disappear. We lost 360,000 good manufacturing jobs in Canada under NAFTA while big corporate profit increased.

A recent study of the likely effects of a free trade deal with Europe, by reputable economist Jim Stanford, shows that we will likely lose between 28,000 and 152,000 jobs as a direct result of this deal. The deal will further cripple Canada’s already battered manufacturing sector, wiping out thousands of jobs in food processing, apparel making and the auto industry.

The proposed deal will cost our health care system another $2 billion plus per year as drug companies will use the deal to demand greater patent protection. That protection will cost Canadians big time as our governments will have to come up with another $2 billion plus a year just to stay even with where they are now. Public health care spending will be even more squeezed, hospitals and healthcare services will be cut back to make up the difference and health care workers will be expected to pay for this extra expense with their jobs and their wages.

The Stanford study didn’t even include these public health care job losses.

The government’s robotic response to all this direct evidence? We are reassured, shamelessly, that this deal will actually create 80,000 new jobs. Yet this figure came from a study that was done before negotiations started, didn’t even consider the actual deal being negotiated and had no credibility in the first place. The study has since been completely demolished by two actual studies of what is on the table. It’s a lie, dressed up for dinner.

We are reassured that this proposed deal will actually add $12 billion to the Canadian economy, a claim which has been repeatedly shown to be ludicrous.

The proposed deal will give European companies the right to directly challenge the decisions of our federal and provincial governments and our city and municipal governments. Those companies will have greater rights than we do as citizens.

The proposed deal will allow EU companies to elbow their way into the provision of Canada’s public services, or public construction, or the provision of public utilities.

The 99% are finally saying no. Not just ‘no’ to inequality, not just ‘no’ to government by corporations for corporations, but ‘no’ to the whole agenda that got us to this point; and part of that agenda, make no mistake, is free trade agreements.

It’s time to stop our government from signing one more job-killing free trade agreement. It's time to save Canadian jobs, our public services and start to rebuild our democracy.

Larry Brown is the National Secretary-Treasurer of the 340,000 member National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)

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