Why the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a Bad Idea

cows in an Ontario field

The Harper Government is giving Canada CETA, (the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) which they tell us is “the most ambitious [Free Trade Agreement] Canada has ever attempted, encompassing every sector of the economy from automobiles to financial services, intellectual property to government procurement” as reported by the CBC in Stephen Harper signs EU trade deal in Brussels. Although the details are sketchy, there is a slick website designed to sell CETA to Canadians. Canadian reporters were “briefed” with what the government wants them to know about the deal before today’s press conference.

It isn’t just reporters being kept in the dark.  As Michael Geist points out, Canadians don’t know what the actual terms of CETA are. Instead of releasing the full text of the agreement, our government has only issued summaries, essentially a press release. The deal has been in the works since 2008, and enough dribs and drabs of information have been leaked to raise quite a few red flags. This is the opposite of government transparency; instead of consultation, Canadians are being told in glowing terms what our government does in our name after it is already done.

Democracy?  I think not.

We are being told CETA paves the way for a large increase in Canadian meat exports to the EU, but it will come with a cost to the Canadian cheese industry which faces a dramatic increase in EU cheese imports.  Now we know which Canadian cows had the more powerful lobby group.

But a free market?  Hardly.  But CETA is so much more than that.

THE COPYRIGHT QUESTION

Last year there was a great deal of concern that CETA was being used as a backdoor mechanism to revive ACTA.

But now the Harper Government says CETA is in line with Canada’s current Copyright Law. We are told we won’t need to implement the onerous copyright provisions once contemplated in order to make Canada ACTA compliant in earlier CETA drafts.  These provisions were supposed to have been removed because of strong ACTA opposition in the EU.  

Apparently the EU listens to its citizens.  Democracy, eh? 

Since they have not released the text of the CETA agreement, the reality is that we won’t know what CETA will do to Canadian Copyright Law until after the deal is ratified and made public.

COUNTERFEIT LAW

CETA is expected to increase border powers to seize counterfeit goods that allegedly infringe trademark, copyright or patent law without a court order.

This is the physical good equivalent to DMCA take downs, which treat copyright infringement allegations as though they are evidence.  This streamlines the process, dispensing with that inconvenient idea of innocence until guilt is proven.  After the web page or website has been taken down, (and your business is disrupted, and its reputation damaged) the accused must demonstrate innocence to get their website restored. But at least people can get it back.

Will the same be true at the border? Or will the seized goods be destroyed ~ as counterfeits routinely are ~ before it can be shown they have not infringed anything?

BRANDS

The sparkling wine pioneered in Champagne, France came to be known throughout the world as “champagne.” But the vintners in the Champagne region felt hard done by when sparkling wines made elsewhere were called “champagne,” so in recent years the LCBO has labelled it “sparking wine” at the LCBO unless it actually comes from France.  Hundreds of European items enjoy this kind of “brand protection” and CETA will extend it further.

They call this “Geographical Indications,” and what it means governments are dictating what language we humans are allowed use.

INTERNET SURVEILLANCE

Electronic commerce (page 27)
“Canadians shop and plan holidays online, and buy and download software and entertainment content, including movies, television and music. Advertisers are making increased use of “smart advertising” on the Web to track our shopping habits and promote specific deals likely to interest us.”

Do Canadian citizens really need to be subjected to even more internet surveillance?

TELECOM

Improved competition ensures greater choice for consumers  (Page 24)

“CETA will ensure that all players in the telecommunications market have fair access to networks and services, and ensure that regulators act impartially, objectively and in a transparent manner. Service providers and investors will benefit from increased transparency and predictability of the regulatory environment and secure, competitive marketplaces.”

Many Canadians know the CRTC has not protected our interests, effectively putting us at the mercy of the telecommunication companies for Internet, Broadcast television or Cell phone systems.  We already pay some of the highest prices in the world for insufficient to mediocre service.   Sounds like CETA will only make this worse.

PATENT LAW

CETA will allow large pharmaceutical companies to extend patent terms and keep generic medicines off the market for longer.  But instead of reinvesting increased revenues in advances, Michael Geist points out that the research and development in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry has decreased as patent “protection” increases.

Critics say this “could drive up costs for provincial drug plans and consumers by about $1 billion.”

FREE TRADE

Canadian Flag

The Harper Government is talking about compensating the industries for the losses CETA will cause as though this is a reasonable solution.

This means the same taxpayers who have not been consulted will foot the bill for CETA’s corporate welfare.

Canadians have seen the damage so-called free trade agreements can do.  Free Trade has made Canada the sixth most sued country in the world.

But CETA doesn’t just give away our natural resources, it threatens our health care.   Why do our governments keep doing these things?  It isn’t about free markets, or democracy, this is another winner takes all tale.  Once agaisn the most powerful lobby group wins, and leave the citizens to pay the piper.

Canadians need Proportional Representation if we’re ever to have democracy.

“If signed, CETA could unfairly restrict how local governments spend money and ban “buy local” policies, add up to $3 billion to the price of drugs, create pressure to increase privatization of local water systems, transit and energy, and much more.”

— The Council For Canadians: Canada-EU (CETA)

The only question Canadians need ask is, who will CETA benefit?

Not us, certainly.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Further Reading:

Proposed CETA deal will put small cheesemakers out of business—DFC

Harper’s CETA Priority Is to Protect Big Corporations, Not Human Rights

Canada-EU Free Trade Deal: European Drug Demands Would Cost Canadians Up To $2B A Year

Excessive corporate rights in Canada-EU trade deal are unacceptable to broad section of European, Canadian and Quebec society

Michael Geist: Canada – EU Trade Agreement Reached “In Principle”, Part One: Now Release the Text

Canada – EU Trade Agreement Reached “In Principle”, Part Two: The Intellectual Property Provisions

CETA Reached “In Principle”, Part Three: Meaningless Claims on Telecom & E-commerce
CETA Reached “In Principle”, Part Four: Pharma Gets Patent Extension Despite Declining R&D in Canada

Canada-EU trade deal: Sell-out or celebration? Public needs a veto on massive corporate rights treaty

The Council of Canadians: Canada-EU (CETA)

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s