Canadian Cities Looking To Opt-Out Of CETA Rather Than Get Roped Into An ACTA-Like Situation

from the municipalities-fight-back dept

Though the specific process differs from country to country, international agreements are generally negotiated and signed at the highest levels of government, with input from everyone else filtering up (in theory) through the hierarchy—at least until you get something like ACTA, where the public rises up en masse and essentially overrides the whole system. One thing that you don't often see is municipal governments standing up to take a direct role in international negotiations—but that's exactly what's happening now in Canada, where cities are seeking to avoid an ACTA-like situation by asking to opt out of the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA) at the municipal level.

The effort is being led by The Council of Canadians, a social justice group which is working to persuade cities, towns, and municipal authorities all over Canada to request exemption from CETA. Their core concern is about the agreement's procurement chapter, which sets down rules about how governments and other public bodies can spend money on goods and services, and which they fear will unduly restrict municipalities:

For example, new rules in CETA on how public bodies spend money would:
  • Prohibit municipalities from putting buy local or buy Canadian preferences on contracts, or requiring that bidders use some portion of local or Canadian goods, services or labour. This would end the ability of municipalities to use procurement as a local economic or social development tool.
  • Prohibit municipalities from using public spending to create or support a market for innovative goods and services, including green technologies, if the effect would favour Canadian producers or attract investment to Canada.
  • Prohibit municipalities from spending public money in ways that support sustainability, for example through buy local food policies like the one Toronto passed to reduce emissions from food miles.

As long as municipal governments are part of the CETA deal, these prohibitions will apply to local purchases. We need to make sure cities, towns, school boards and hospitals are not bound by these unnecessary rules.

So far, over 30 local governments representing over 5.5 million people have joined the exemption campaign and another 30 to 40 municipal councils, school boards or associations have asked for more information and more input in the negotiations. Unfortunately, as is common with these situations, such concerns have been largely brushed off in a weak damage control effort by the federal government. Assurances from the Candian Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ministry on the Myths and Realities page are reminiscent of the EU's ACTA Facts, and the Council of Canadians have a page that debunks them. International trade strategist Peter Clark laughs off the fears Canadians have of corporate control of their water services.

CETA is not about diverting Canada’s lakes and rivers – which would not do Europeans much good in any event because we have no common borders... There is no requirement to privatize services which do not compete with private entities and do not operate on a commercial basis.

There are good reasons for the municipalities' concern about the investors' clauses, but Clark just tells them not to worry their pretty little heads about it and run along. Stonewalling and secrecy are not the way to build confidence in the benefits of CETA.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    relghuar, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 11:50pm

    ...not the way to build confidence...

    ... well, unless there's not much to build confidence IN, but there is a lot that needs a quick smoke cover.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2012 @ 12:12am

    5.5 million people and counting and around 40 municipal councils, school boards or associations asking for more info, and this Clark fellow thinks telling the people lies and asking them not to worry will stop them? Not only is this Deja Vu, but it looks like someone is deluded. This won't end well for him.

     

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  3.  
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    Christopher (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 12:31am

    Re:

    True..... I think Canada has the 'recall', where an elected official can be removed from office if people get enough signatures calling for it.

     

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  4.  
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    Lorpius Prime (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 12:48am

    Sigh

    And this has been exactly my fear about the whole ACTA and similar debates. That the revolt against crappy IP laws would be twisted into opposition to free trade.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2012 @ 1:23am

    I'm sorry, but this all doesn't add up to much.

    The municipalities are happy as hell to host jobs that exist because of free trade, but they don't want to participate. It's a two way street, not a one way.

    It's sad that they seem to think they live in a vacuum.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2012 @ 1:38am

    Re:

    It's municipal governments that represent 5.5 million people ON THE MUNICIPAL LEVEL. These same people (and the other 25 or so million citizens) are also represented on the Federal level by the government in Ottawa.

    Don't the "representing" number to suggest for a second that they are holding the views of those people.

    Sorry to disturb your sleep, sheep.

     

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  7.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 1:54am

    Re: Sigh

    to be fair: ANYONE who actually knows what the fuck they're talking about and wants their home to actually Develop economically is against free trade.

    that way lies colonial supply-region economies in every region that does not already dominate an industry.

    the only time you can get away with free trade is if you have a separate currency on the city-region level, at which point the fluctuations in the currency value achieve the Same Effect. (note that they do NOT if you have a National currency, or bigger, as the various cities states dampen and mask one another, resulting in erroneous feedback into the system and preventing error correction. at best.)

    seriously, free trade is terrible.

    (that said, production subsidies are even worse. as in: up there with copyright on the 'stupid' level for anything that A: there isn't shortage of and B: you can do without.)

    the obsession with free trade is an obsession with keeping the big multinationals in control as much as possible. nothing more. aside from that, it encourages hyper-specialisation, which makes lots of money for a very short time, and leads to utter economic collapse the moment the markets shift. which leads to even more emphasis being put on preventing disruptive changes, because those Cause said market shifts, and thus trigger the catastrophe which results from the collapse of such an unstable setup.

    basically, can have free trade if you have, economically at least, independent city states. you can have a national or super-national currency ... if you don't mind imposing trade barriers. otherwise you're creating a problem.

     

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  8.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 1:57am

    Re: Re: Sigh

    (if you don't get it or disagree, i suggest reading Jane Jacobs' 'the economy of cities' and 'cities and the wealth of nations'. in that order. they're cheap enough to get hold of and very clearly written and well explained. i disagree with a couple of her ultimate conclusions in terms of 'these are the only things we can do about it' at the end of the second one (seperate-enough currencies don't really REQUIRE separate sovereignties, exactly.) but the rest of it's spot on, and quite blatantly obvious when you look at it without getting tangled up in neo-clasical economic nonsense.)

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2012 @ 1:57am

    Re: Re: Sigh

    Yet, the internet is the thing most people support here, and it is the ultimate in free trade.

    If you watch really closely, you can see Mike frothing and trying to come up with a spin for this guest poster's item.

     

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  10.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 1:59am

    Re:

    free trade does not create jobs, except Possibly in the transport industry.

    when it appears to, it's at the expense of More jobs in other sectors or locations.

    the exception being when previous regulation of such was badly applied in such a way as to reduce jobs, in which case it's the effect of getting rid of negative elements, not the 'positive' of free trade.

     

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  11.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 2:05am

    if only...

    if only that could be done here.

    unfortunately, unitary system says that all local government derives authority from the crown, which is fine... except the way things are run these days that means they have exactly the authority parliament grants them, and parliament is quite within their rights to dissolve them. (and it doesn't always take a law to do so.)

    and they're quite willing to do it when it suits them.

    (the Environment Canterbury (a regional resource management and conservation type government entity with large quantities of democratic participation) was dissolved basically because the farmers kept bitching about not being allowed more and more water rights for raising more and more cattle (which the area is wholly unsuited for), especially as there were issues about dealing with the resulting run-off. the issue was going through proper processes, many people were speaking against it, ultimately, from memory, E-Can ruled that it couldn't be done, or was about to. Farmers complained to the national government that E-Can was deliberately stalling and being 'obstructionist' and other such rubbish... the national government responded by dissolving E-Can. ... ... to be fair, our national government has ALWAYS somehow confused 'milk output' with 'economic growth'... it was nonsense under Muldoon, it's nonsense now. (again, that way lies a supply-region economy and economic collapse in the face of market shifts. which has HAPPENED here before, to some extent, but the lesson remains unlearned.))

    so, yeah, Go Canada!

     

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  12.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 2:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Sigh

    not quite the same thing.

    meaningful economic entities:
    city-regions
    the world.

    the internet is the latter.

    nothing preventing a government requiring a tariff on things imported just because you payed for it over the internet.

    free trade =/= free market.

    IP in general undermines the free market.
    it has Nothing to do with free trade.
    the internet greatly facilitates the free market and trade in general.
    it does not Require free trade. it does not even really have, so far as i can tell, meaningful effect in favour of or against free trade.

    the problem is that 'protectionism' is used as the opposite of free trade to cover both regulation that is actually beneficial to the economy of the place being protected (good regulation) AND regulation used specifically to cripple other people's ability to compete to protect specific lobbies, industries, whatever. (bad regulation.)

    basically, protecting the economy of a city-region is a good thing.
    protecting a specific industry, cartel, or business is Not.
    IP is about the latter. modern US 'free trade' agreements are more about that than about actual free trade.

    basically, ideally, you want to replace imports with local production so that A: your internal economy grows, B: you an afford to import new things instead, and C: you can produce more things to export (and thus import more.) ... this process is ever changing as to exactly What things are being produced where.
    regulation should be set up to encourage the replacement of imports with local production, and discourage the collapse of local industry due to outside sources being simply Cheaper (as opposed to the product being obsolete (which is the case if the outside product is superior, too.)). generally speaking, if a city-region has it's own currency, simple fluctuations of the value of that will do the job by itself, or at least most of it. if not, you need to introduce tariffs to replace the effect. the internet doesn't change this at all. it just introduce a category of goods (digital) which is its impractical (and, GASP! unnecessary!) to introduce a tariff on.
    when your regulation is set up entirely to support an industry which is producing obsolete product in an inferior manner at a greater cost (or some sufficiently negative combined value of these factors), discouraging innovation and constant import replacement/export development which is needed to compensate for market shifts over time... that regulation is instead strangling your economy, and and should be stripped away.

    modern copyright, patents, and to a lesser extent trademarks, are the latter sort of regulation.

    hopefully these thoughts are clear.

     

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  13.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 2:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Sigh

    (if nothing else: need separate words for the two things ladled 'protectionism' )

     

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  14.  
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    Lorpius Prime (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 2:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Sigh

    Jane Jacobs may have been an insightful activist, but she was not an economist, and she did not somehow invalidate all of macroeconomics or overturn centuries of experience supporting comparative advantage theory in favor of import substitution.

    Trying to prop up a municipal economy at the expense of the rest of the world just screws over the consumers in your city while limiting total wealth and opportunity.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2012 @ 4:20am

    Re: Re:

    Free trade doesn't hurt jobs either. However, it does expose where jobs are being overpaid enough that you can afford to move production to another location, and pay to truck the stuff back.

    Most places fear free trade because they are near the top of the wage ladder, and realize that there are plenty of others willing to undercut them.

    It's protectionism at it's finest.

     

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  16.  
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    Tobias Harms (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 4:22am

    "There is no requirement to privatize services which do not compete with private entities and do not operate on a commercial basis."

    Sounds almost good on paper but what service wouldn't a company somewhere be interested in providing? One company says "I do!" and that is that enought that they are forced to privatize the service?

    We have unfortunately have the same development in Sweden. What really galls me is that the government are selling our companies at below market value. For instance a hospital was sold for around $100k and it was five years later sold for almost 3 million dollars.
    Or selling companies for less than what they make each year. They don't even seem to blink.

     

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  17.  
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    Brent (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 6:40am

    In order to provide better copyright and IP 'protection', all sub-federal governments must have greatly diminished power.

    That is the apparent underlying message behind all of these ACTA type laws. The sad thing is that the federal governments are corrupt enough to overlook that basic fact, preferring to be blinded by their greed to increase their power. If they could look beyond their own greed, they would remember that the US system (the one that many others have come to model in one way or another) was initially established with the intention of never allowing that exact thing to happen. So in other words, the majority of our (USA) federal government's representatives have shown their intentions and underlying beliefs to be Anti-American at heart. How did they get elected?

     

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  18.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re: Re:

    We don't actually have "free trade". If we did doctors licensed in India or Somolia could practice in any country without having to be recertified. I have not noticed that happening.

     

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  19.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 27th, 2012 @ 11:25am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You are right that "Free trade doesn't hurt jobs". The issue is that Free trade agreements do hurt jobs. Once you regulate trade with agreements, it becomes something less than free trade. The current batch of free trade agreements are the modern equivalent of the East India Company all over again.

     

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