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Risks to Canada Outweigh Benefits of EU Free Trade Deal, Report Says

Posted October 08, 2014

In the same week Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European leaders gathered in Ottawa last month to sign the Canadian-European Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released the first comprehensive analysis of the ambitious trade deal.
CETA Report
Based on the completed text of CETA’s most controversial chapters that were leaked in August, the study, involving experts from Canada and the EU, claims to demonstrate in detail that the trade agreement is "unbalanced, favouring large multinational corporations at the expense of consumers, the environment, and the greater public interest."

The left-leaning think tank’s analysis, entitled “Making Sense of CETA,” includes assessments of the agreement’s impacts on intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical products; investment protection, investor-state dispute settlement and financial services regulation; infrastructure procurement and buy-local food policies; public services, and many other areas.

Among other things, CCPA’s report contends that:

  • The elimination of tariffs on trade between Canada and the EU, while possibly boosting export sales for Canadian companies, is unlikely to reduce Canada’s current $20-billion trade deficit with Europe. Moreover, industries in Canada that have previously enjoyed tariff protection — such as processed foods, textiles and motor vehicles — may find it harder to compete.
  • Once the deal is fully implemented in several years, changes to Canadian patent protection rules for pharmaceuticals will delay the availability of cheaper generic alternatives, thereby costing Canadians an additional $850 million for patented drugs.
  • The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism enabling transnational corporations to go before a special tribunal, rather than regular courts, to protect investments by suing governments over regulations a company believes are discriminatory, could effectively constrain the ability of governments at all levels to introduce new regulations or new public services.
  • For the first time in an international agreement signed by Canada, subnational government entities will be subject to procurement commitments that, with a few notable exceptions, would prevent provincial and municipal governments from giving local companies preferential consideration when awarding contracts above a certain monetary level.

“Canadians are making a lot of sacrifices to get a deal that mainly benefits large multinational corporations,” says Scott Sinclair, senior trade policy researcher with the CCPA, and co-editor of the study. “Even more than past Canadian agreements, the CETA substantially constrains the democratic right of governments at all levels to implement public interest legislation, job-creation strategies, environmental protection policy, and new public services.”

Click here to download the complete report.