Tag Archives: Free trade

ICYMI: Conservative Party’s disastrous approach to Ukraine embraced by Liberals

Image description: Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, both standing, shake hands in front of a row of Canadian and Ukrainian flags on July 14, 2015. In front of them is a table with two chairs, two sets of documents and pens, and a vase of flowers. To either side of the Prime Ministers are two unidentified observers. (Image credit: Uncredicted/pm.gc.ca via the Wayback Machine)

Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada says that the new Liberal government hasn’t departed in any major way from the policies of the old Conservative one – and that’s cause for major concern.

But unlike other continuities from the Harper era which have garnered much more attention, the new administration’s steady-as-she-goes approach to the Ukraine file is drawing precious little comment from the press or the public.

While debate rages over the Trudeau government’s retooled war non-combat operation in Iraq, for instance, a renewed deployment of Canadian Forces troops on a virtually identical “training” “non-combat” mission to Ukraine came and went with a minimum of national attention or fuss.

But that’s a problem, because the mission was never subject to much public scrutiny to begin with. That was despite the fact that there were major concerns that Canadian troops would be training Nazis.

Typically, the word “Nazi” is deployed as a hyperbolic epithet, but in this case we’re talking about actual factual honest-to-God Nazis: Continue Reading

The Liberals’ attitude toward the TPP is actually not completely discouraging

Image description: a massively muscled cartoon of the Incredible Hulk, with the captions "Stop TPP" and "NAFTA on Steroids" (Image credit: Phil Ebersole)

Image description: a massively muscled (like, more than usual) cartoon of the Incredible Hulk, with the captions “Stop TPP” and “NAFTA on Steroids” (Image credit: Phil Ebersole)

As you may have heard by now, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland announced today that Canada will be signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership at a formal signing ceremony in Auckland, New Zealand, in early February.

Freeland hastened to add that signing the deal and ratifying it are two different things entirely, and that on the subject of ratification, the Liberals are still far from making up their minds. In all of her rhetoric, she leans ever-so-slightly in favour of ratifying the deal (“Just as it is too soon to endorse the TPP, it is also too soon to close the door…It is clear that many feel the TPP presents significant opportunities, while others have concerns…”), but is careful to always include the contrary viewpoint as a hedge. Her careful phrasing is a massive departure from the pro-anything-trade-related effusion which typified Stephen Harper and his lapdog cabinet (there’s that famous difference in tone yet again).

Some observers are skeptical of this prevarication and feel certain that, after the whole elaborate public-consultation listening tour show is over, the beholden-to-Bay-Street Liberals will use their substantial majority in the House of Commons to push the deal through.

Initially, I have to confess, that was my suspicion. However, the Libs seem more wobbly on this with each passing month. Back in November, I pointed to incoming Agriculture Minister and Liberal good ol’ boy Lawrence MacAulay’s declaration of support for the TPP as a major indicator of which way the party was leaning. However, parsing Freeland’s carefully equivocal statements over the past several weeks has led me to conclude that she’s either got an extremely strong poker face or she is legitimately uncommitted to passing this deal. Continue Reading

TPP: Canadian government as corporate cheerleader in trade lawsuits

CW – meat & the meat industry.

On December 18, 2015, the day that the U.S.’s country-of-origin labelling (COOL) laws were struck down, a pair of high-profile Trudeau cabinet ministers celebrated.

“This is a real vindication of the power and significance of the WTO dispute-resolution mechanism, which has secured a real win for Canada,” said International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, while Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay proclaimed his intention to ensure that the law stayed dead: “We will be monitoring the situation to make sure there are no problems in this area.”

Freeland and MacAulay weren’t alone in celebrating COOL’s demise; The Western Producer, an agricultural-industry trade publication, crowed that “Canadian cattle and hog producers are getting their Christmas gifts early this year,” and added some effusive quotations from industry spokespeople:

“After all these years, it’s wonderful news,” said Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Dave Solverson about repeal of labelling legislation that the CCA and others have fought since 2008.

Solverson noted the support of the federal government, past and present, in pressing the issue through the World Trade Organization. The WTO ruled in Canada’s favour four times, supporting the contention that COOL violated international trade rules. [my bold]

What was COOL, you ask? Well, it was nothing more than this: a law (and a popular one at that) which mandated that meat be sold with a label indicating what country it was grown and slaughtered in.

If that sounds like a totally reasonable regulation, you’re not alone. Pretty much the only folks who didn’t like this law were meat-producers, slaughterhouses, and meatpackers in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, and of course their loyal lackeys in government.

(If you’re also sick of the federal government constantly fighting on behalf of meat producers, you’ve got a friend in this grumpy vegan, but that’s another post for another day.) Continue Reading

TPP update – Liberal support looking more certain, despite dire warnings

For months now, I’ve been writing about the Trans-Pacific Partnership without knowing precisely what of provisions were contained within it.

Negotiated under intense secrecy, the TPP has for a long time been like an ominous raincloud on the horizon, looming and threatening in an indistinct and distant way. Occasionally a draft chapter would make its way into the hands of Wikileaks, and experts in the field would carefully parse through the dense legal language and pronounce the agreement dangerous and a threat to (sovereignty/democracy/the environment/ labour/creativity/etc.), but for all intents and purposes the TPP was a black box.

That in itself was reason to be suspicious. The high-level access to negotiations which was granted to over five hundred of the world’s largest corporations, and the complete and total lack of access granted to pretty much every other affected group, was a pretty strong tell as to whom this deal was going to favour.

As you’ve likely heard, the full text of the deal was finally made public last week. And now that we can actually read the damn thing, all the experts who thought they were alarmed before are having to redefine their definition of “alarmed” to accommodate their new levels of alarmedness.

Chris Hedges, for instance, says of the deal that it is “the most brazen corporate power grab in American history”, adding:

These three agreements [the TPP, TTIP, and TISA] solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.

And before you go and call Hedges an alarmist, consider these facts: Continue Reading

TPP update – watch out for last-minute negotiations in the next few weeks

When we last left the TPP, it was on life support.

That was waaaay back in early August, when supposedly final negotiations in Hawaii completely broke down over fairly major differences. This gave hope to folks like me who have long been terrified of this insidious “trade” agreement.

(For some background on the Trans Pacific Partnership, see my summary here.)

But just as zombies are hell-bent on devouring brains, international corporate interests are hell-bent on extracting profits and rents wherever they can, and so the pressure to get a deal done – and soon! – is relentless.

Part of the big rush is related to Canada’s upcoming election; negotiators seem determined to seal the deal before we go to the polls October 19th. For the life of me, I’m not sure what they’re worried about; as Green Party candidate Paul Manly points out, the Big Three Parties are uniformly in favour of this sovereignty-destroying, regulation-eroding, wage-suppressing calamity of a treaty. Regardless of this election’s outcome, Capital will get what it wants out of these negotiations.

Another major component of the time pressure has to do with next year’s US election. Due to arcane Senate rules, any treaty must wait several months before receiving approval, meaning a deal must be sealed within the next few months to avoid running into the heavy-duty American election season, when nothing of substance can get done because the parties become completely incapable of cooperating.

(And we trust these people to make decisions on our behalf?)

Over the past week, negotiators from Mexico, Japan, Canada, and the United States met in Washington to try to resolve outstanding disputes surrounding the auto sector. But it seems that they weren’t able to resolve their differences, at least according to this Japan Times article: Continue Reading

Exploring the latest Wiki-leak on the TPP – CBC, Canada Post in danger

You may have heard that Christmas, er, election season is coming early this year. The signs are all around us (figuratively; wait a few weeks for the signs to literally be on every lawn). From the campaign-style announcements of big cash giveaways, to the barn-storming leaders’ tours through key regions, to the swirling rumours that our Fearless Leader is going to visit the Actual Head of State’s Puppet Representative to get ‘er Majesty’s permission to dissolve Parliament, cause that’s how we roll here in Canada, still, for some reason nobody’s ever been able to convincingly explain to me, it seems that everywhere you look, the election is in the air.

Some have questioned the timing of this election call, given that by law, the actual election day is more than two months away. If the rumours are true, this will be the longest election Canada’s had since the twenties – and you gotta remember that back then, YouTube’s market penetration was WAY lower, and so politicians had to go around the country by train to make sure their vicious personal attacks got heard by key constituencies in swing ridings.

These things took time, y’see.

But this time around, the logic seems to be that under new campaign finance laws (which the Conservatives unilaterally passed without consulting either the Opposition or the public) the Conservatives are pretty well set up to have way more money than any of their opponents. (Funny how that works out.) So the longer the campaign is, the more the Cons will be able to outspend the opposition.

In other words, if you’re already fed up with the constant drone of radio commercials basically implying that Justin Trudeau is a stoned fratboy who wants to have sexytimes with terrorists and fritter away your hard-earned tax dollars on daily visits to the hair salon, you may want to consider either leaving the country or hiding in the woods until late October, cause that shit’s about to kick up several notches.

Of course, pissing on/belittling/slandering your opponents doesn’t by itself win elections. It’s also necessary to massively distort and oversell your own accomplishments and plans. The Cons had no doubt been counting on running on their strong economic record, but given the latest monthly data (Scotiabank analysts called it “ugly”, which lemme tell you won’t be good for the economy’s self-esteem at all), it seem that they’re going to have to come up with something else to pompously monologue about for the next two and a half months.

Enter the TPP – that once-obscure “trade” treaty which has shot to recent prominence as negotiations near completion. Apparently Harper & Co. are pushing for the deal to be done within the next few days, so they can start bragging about their Herculean international prowess right out of the election’s starting gate.  Continue Reading

Getting “left behind” on the TPP is fine by me – we shouldn’t buy into this race to the bottom

It’s been called the sleeper issue of this fall’s federal election campaign, but my riding’s Liberal candidate sure seemed surprised that I brought it up when he came knocking on my door earlier this week.

I got home from work just in time to catch Arif Virani in the hallway of my building. I gotta admit, I was pretty impressed to see him out canvassing on a weekday afternoon three months before the election – and I was excited to give him a piece of my mind.

I saw a certain look of resignation in his eyes when I mentioned Bill C-51 – and indeed, he had a well-thought-out reply to the oft-made criticisms of that bill. (It was an argument that I didn’t particularly buy into, but it was a thorough and well-prepared one, and one I imagine he’d had to make pretty frequently.)

But he had quite clearly not heard about the Trans Pacific Partnership from nearly as many people in his door-knocking.

I made it clear to him that the TPP is for me one of the biggest issues of this year’s election, and that any party that can endorse that sovereignty-destroying nightmare of a “trade” agreement won’t get my vote. (I didn’t mention that I’m not entirely certain I’m going to vote anyway – didn’t want to undercut my argument!)

To his credit, he didn’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, but instead frankly acknowledged that he didn’t know much about the issue, beyond the squabbling over supply management which has dominated recent coverage of the mysterious deal: Continue Reading

ICYMI – Canadian and Ukrainian PMs sign deal to screw over Ukraine’s working class

It’s a great misfortune that the very words “trade agreement” have been known to cause eyes to glaze over, yawns to spring unbidden to mouths, and minds to wander. “I should probably do the laundry when I get home,” you think, “but I don’t really want to,” as some blowhard drones on about the significance of CETA or the TPP (that second one’s by yrs truly, btw -I am that blowhard!).

Trade agreements are notoriously boring subjects. They are stuffed with arcane legal terminology and have an absolute alphabet soup of acronyms, and they are entirely lacking in sex appeal, action shots, and gripping human interest angles. For precisely these reasons, they don’t sell newspapers or attract viewers. The most exciting visuals you’re gonna get out of them is a formal signing ceremony, replete with the flags of the member nations and earnest besuited politicians earnestly mumbling about the incalculable benefits of free trade and the incredible economic opportunities that will ensue from this agreement – a scene much like this one:

That’s right – Canada just signed a free trade agreement with Ukraine! Surprise! Bet you didn’t hear about it.

But before your eyes go all focussed-on-the-middle-distance-y and your mind gloms on to the first thing it can find to distract you from the menace of listening to me talk about the nuances of a bilateral trade agreement with an eastern European nation, just let me say that I promise to do my best to make it entertaining. (Although I can’t do anything about the total lack of sex appeal, I can promise you some rock and roll if you stay tuned to the end.) Continue Reading

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