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OPINION: Justice in NAFTA trade negotiations requires public access


BY TONY REDDIN, ANN WHEATLEY AND LOU RICHARD
GUEST OPINION


Trade Justice P.E.I. calls on our Island MPs to take action so that the current NAFTA negotiations become open, transparent and democratic.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland must release the current negotiating text and government’s negotiation priorities, as well as the over 46,400 submissions received as part of the government’s NAFTA public consultation, in advance of any agreements being reached between negotiating countries.

The Canadian Government has not made public what Canadians are saying about NAFTA and their current trade agenda. It looks as if they are interested in a public relations exercise rather than any meaningful consultation process. Consultation is pointless if we can’t see what others are saying and how our input is taken into account.

Public participation in the negotiation rounds has been very limited and Canadians have yet to see whether the government is acting on behalf of our best interests. A new NAFTA agreement could affect many aspects of our daily lives. There are key issues still on the negotiating table such as the U.S. demand that our supply management system be dismantled and the pharmaceutical industry’s demands that the agreement lock in their ability to extend patent protection on brand name drugs, which will increase drug costs for us all. Ironically the eighth round of negotiations was cancelled in favour of one-on-one meetings between ministers of the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Just as the hot topics were being negotiated, the level of secrecy was ramped up.

Trade Justice P.E.I. has always maintained that the P.E.I. government, as well, should include all Islanders, not just the business community, in the ongoing consultations it has had, and will have in the near future, with the federal government on NAFTA.

There is a growing movement in Canada and around the world demanding a system of global trade and cooperation with a fundamentally different starting point and value system — one which respects the rights of all citizens to have input into trade policy and the priorities it reflects. Trade must be viewed as a means to enhance the lives of Islanders; not as an end in itself.

Under the current model, trade rules put an end to policies and regulations that were put in place by Islanders to create jobs, and to protect our health and our eco-systems. Justin Trudeau keeps pursuing the same type of agreement, again and again; those are corporate rights documents which are inappropriate in today's world.

Any and all new Canadian trade agreements must not favour corporate rights over the public interest, nor hamper Canada’s ability to set laws and regulations in the public interest. Public services such as education, health care, energy and water must be protected, and excluded from NAFTA.

National and local control over food policy must be ensured, including the protection of Canada’s supply management system.

NAFTA must include stronger environmental protections which meet the standards set by domestic environmental laws and by multilateral environmental agreements, including greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement. Canada should become an international champion of action on climate change, and our trade policy has to be compatible with our climate action objectives.

An alternative model of trade must be rooted in principles of equality, human rights and social and ecological justice.

Readers who want to add their voices to our objections to this NAFTA process should send emails to all four PEI MPs: ([email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]), and to Minister Freeland ([email protected]). Include a question, such as “What will you do to make NAFTA better for Canadians, not corporations?” and request a prompt reply.
 

Lou Richard, Ann Wheatley and Tony Reddin write on behalf of Trade Justice P.E.I., a network of Island organizations and individuals concerned about the potential impacts of NAFTA and other trade agreements on Canadian society.

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