Free Trade Deal
By Mary Boyd (guest opinion)
As Canadians wait for our federal government to release the CETA text we wonder why if it is such a great deal for Canada is it so secretive? Erin O’Toole MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade gave the US/Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA), NAFTA, and CETA by implication, glowing reports in the Guardian Public Forum, June 26. We citizens have some information from leaked parts of the agreement including the Trade in Services Chapter and the information gives us reason to worry about CETA’s impact on services including Medicare.
My June 23 letter stated that CETA could hinder federal and provincial government rights to protect universal Medicare and expand and create new public health services such as home care and a universal pharmaceutical plan. Once we open the door to privatization we make ourselves vulnerable to international trade panels outside the country and possible heavy fines. This will happen if the European Union has its way and Annex 1 is dropped. This Annex was added to NAFTA after strong public pressure to better protect health care. Annex 11 on its own only protects health care and other social services if they are established for a public purpose, something that is difficult to distinguish with some delivery services. We need to insist that; “Nothing in CETA shall be construed to apply to measures adopted or maintained by a party with respect to our ability to expand coverage of public health care or public health insurance.”
Without this protective Annex private corporations would be free to sue future governments using a trade challenge or investor-state lawsuit for attempting to return the services to the public domain. This is irresponsible and dangerous. Canada’s health system belongs to Canadians and Canadians should make the decisions about current and future programs, not panels of three people outside of the country.
Mr. O’Toole made no mention of the Harper government’s big mistake of agreeing to extend patents on brand name European pharmaceuticals by 2 years making Canada’s patents rights the longest in the world.
Cost of our already very expensive medications will increase by $850 million to $1.6 billion ($3–$4.5 million for P.E.I.) paid for by the sick and seniors.
Mr. O’Toole paints a rosy picture of the gains made through the Canada-USA Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA, both of which turned out to be a Bill of Rights for large corporations at the expense of the public good. Their main purpose was investment and deregulation. Trade was secondary according to reputable economists who hold trade agreements responsible for much of the troubling inequality that exists in Canada today.
Business productivity was at 70 per cent of the U.S. level when the FTA was signed 26 years ago and it is still 70 per cent today. In addition, two-thirds of the exports Mr. O’Toole praises are raw materials including unprocessed petroleum. Our value added exports have actually declined to only one-third of exports. Again, many reputable economists point out that manufacturing in Canada has suffered a severe blow under the FTA and NAFTA. Bottom line, the one per cent has gained a great deal. Real median family income was the same in 2010 as it was 30 years previous but CEO salaries have mushroomed. When will Mr. O’Toole fulfill his democratic duty and release the CETA Agreement text for democratic discussion?
Mary Boyd is Chair, P.E.I. Health Coalition