Democratize our trade agreement process
I’m happy to share some good news – the House of Commons will have an extensive debate on the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), and the International Trade Committee will be studying it within the next few weeks. Council of Canadians supporters like you sent nearly 4,000 letters demanding Parliament debate the new NAFTA – and the government was forced to listen.
This debate is a step in the right direction, but we have a long way to go. Our trade process is still secretive and anti-democratic. Right now, the only official role Canadian politicians have is to debate and then rubber stamp trade agreements at the end.
I know Canada can do better. In the European Union and the United States, there is much more public and parliamentary involvement in the negotiation of the agreement, right from the start. In these countries, by law and design – not by the whims of the government of the day – public involvement is mandated in many parts of the process. In Canada, we must follow suit. We should have independent economic, environmental and social impact studies plus oversight by provinces, municipalities and Indigenous Peoples.
Working on trade agreements for the last few years, I have been astonished at how little Canadian politicians and the public are involved in the process. Meanwhile, my colleagues in the U.S. and in Europe make me jealous with stories of how their governments involve elected officials, activists and stakeholders.
In the U.S, our allies were able to remove many toxic provisions in CUSMA because their Congress and the public had powers that we just don’t have. In Europe, their pivotal legislation guarantees the public a voice. These consultations may not undo corporate power, but they get better results for people in the U.S. and Europe.
In Canada, we are written out of our process. Yet, somehow, lobbyists seem to have their hands on the agreement from the beginning. Why is this secret to everyone except for the well-connected few? No wonder the trade agreements we get in Canada are heavily tilted in favour of corporations and the one per cent, with no scrutiny of the environment or public interest.
After watching these NAFTA 2.1.negotiations, I know we need to do things differently.
Right now, there are proposals circulating on Parliament Hill. There is talk of publishing and debating what the government negotiates in Parliament and in the public, mandating that the public be consulted and involved in the process, and that there need to be economic, environmental and social impact studies so that we know that our trade deals are actually benefiting people.
Will you help change the trade process? Write today to the International Trade Committee and share your thoughts.
There is a small window for change. With a minority parliament we could be the balance of power in this important debate.
– Sujata Dey
Trade Campaigner, The Council of Canadians