CETA: Stop negotiations immediately and scrap the deal!
Young Communist League demands a Charter of Youth Rights, not Corporate Rights
Shrouded in secrecy, the Harper Conservative government, the European Union, and major trans-national corporations recently concluded the final round of negotiations for the largest free-trade agreement in Canada’s history since NAFTA.
The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a over-arching Bill of Rights for big business – at the expense of all the non-corporate population, not least youth and students. The Agreement is now being ‘fine tuned’ by representatives of government and big business for release in Spring 2012.
Negotiations began in May 2009 and the agreement has attracted opposition from a broad range of labour, youth and student, and other community groups who have come together in the Trade Justice Network in English-speaking Canada and Réseau Québécois sur l’Intégration Continentale (RQIC) in Quebec.
Youth, young worker and student organizations urgently need to reinforce their vocal full opposition to CETA.
CETA is a dangerously far-reaching free trade agreement with serious danger to the future of the youth. CETA would prohibit most tariffs between Canada and the EU while extending “behind the border” to change various non-trade related government policies that may impact corporate profits such as differences (however small) in labour, health, education, intellectual “property”, cultural, farming, public safety or environmental rules and regulations. This is a direct attack on the democratic sovereignty of all peoples in Canada.
CETA will increase the oppression and exploitation of the youth and students across Canada and Europe. Its danger must be exposed to the working people and all civil society, and the agreement stopped!
Highlights of what the CETA could potentially do:
- effectively abolish the democratic ability of Canadian municipalities, school boards, hospitals, universities, provincial agencies and Crown corporations, as well as the people of Québec and current or future self-governing Aboriginal communities, to control purchases of local goods and services ensuring local workers are hired;
- entrench the “rights” of capital – investors and private corporations – to attack and potentially abolish Canadian laws and all regulations (ie. environmental, social, etc);
- privatize drinking water (including municipal procurement of water services like sewers and sanitation) by comprehensively covering these items for the first time in Canadian trade negotiations;
- lock-in full and partial water utility privatizations making these services virtually impossible to bring back into public hands;
- force privatization of other public services like liquor stores and Canada Post by transnational corporations;
- allow corporations to crack into the goldmine of Post-Secondary Education (PSE) and further erode PSE’s status as a right and a public service, not a commodity to be bought and sold on the market;
- threaten the integrity of our post-secondary education research programs, with private companies suing students who whistle-blow unethical research practices;
- attack Aboriginal people’s treaty rights and sovereignty and self-determination with the agreements sweeping scope, such as foreign industries operating in First Nations, Inuit and Métis lands, territories and water;
- undermine already tepid government policy on Climate Change and Green House Gasses, such as the Green Energy Act;
- entrench the low, crisis-creating commitments to sustainable development in existing Canadian and European trade agreements, protecting capital from democratic regulations and to lock-in unsustainable trading patterns;
- stop the EU from passing regulation to differentiate products based on their “carbon content” such as Alberta Tar Sands oil vs. conventional oil;
- allow EU energy companies added investment protections to stop any regulation of the Tar Sands – the largest single industrial polluter project on the planet;
- skyrocket prescription drug costs by at least $2.8 billion per year;
CETA and the crisis of capitalism
The idea that CETA will somehow move Canada closer to the “European model” of social programmes is very misleading.
The CETA is being negotiated in the framework of a prolonged structural crisis of capitalism. Every advance of the working class is basically under attack. This trade agreement is therefore not just another poisonous recipe from the book of the neo-liberal cooks (whose attack has already undermined accessible, quality public education, employment for youth and many other issues that have already left the scars of vicious ‘reforms’ on the backs of the people). With the current prolonged break-down in the World Trade Organization (WTO) “Doha round” of negotiations, imperialism must find another way forward to mega-profits.
The major capitalist powers of the European Union (which are undergoing a turbulent internal struggle in the face of the so-called “Euro-zone debt crisis”) are also desperately seeking plunder and profit – like Libya’s oil resources or penetrating Canadian markets with the CETA. Despite the rivalries between different states, these bourgeois governments are united in their attack on the working people and the youth.
On the other hand, Canadian imperialism is also pursuing a very determined response to the economic crisis. This also includes increased military spending, deepened participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), cunningly extending the occupation in Afghanistan, and most recently the deadly bombing of Libya. The Canadian government has no money for social programmes or the crisis on Aboriginal reserves but millions for bombs.
On the economic level Canada is pushing self-described “aggressive attempts” to secure foreign markets beyond the USA and strengthen its investment position in the so-called developing or emerging economies as well as the European Union. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is a ‘jewel in the crown’ of this strategy of Canadian imperialism.
The “Global Commerce Strategy”
In association with the 2009 federal budget, the Harper Conservative government launched its “Global Commerce Strategy.” Therefore, after a lull in Free Trade agreements following NAFTA Canada has signed agreements with Honduras (Aug 2011), Colombia (Aug 2011), Panama (May 2010), Jordan (June 2009), Peru (Aug 2009) and the earlier Canada-European Free Trade Association (July 2009) with Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
It is important to note that Canada is also quietly in negotiation with a number of other trade-blocks and countries including the so-called Andean community, the Caribbean community, the Central American Four (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), as well as Morocco, India, South Korea and Singapore. These agreements underscore the links of Canadian capital to Latin America and the Caribbean – linkages that are challenged by new developments like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the progressive Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), and now Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
There has also been a marked increase of Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection agreements with the Harper Conservatives signing deals in Kuwait (Sept. 2011), Slovakia (July 2010), Bahrain (Feb. 2010), Jordan (Dec. 2009), Czech Republic (May 2009), Romania (May 2009), Latvia (May 2009), Madagascar (Aug. 2008), and Peru (June 2007). Negotiations are ongoing in five Asian countries and four Africa states.
CETA is a new kind of free trade creature
This blitzkrieg of trade agreements underscores two points. First, for Canadian capital (and also the capitalists of the European Union) the CETA agreement is a special prize because it allows access to advanced state-monopoly economies not just the “emerging” or “developing” economies (although in terms of the balance of economic power, Canadian capital is in a much weaker negotiating position).
Secondly, while it may seem like there is increasing elimination of “trade protectionism,” these developments actually reflect the sharpening rivalries across the entire imperialist pyramid as the capitalists try to manage their way out of the crisis (while maximizing the situation to attack working people). Canadian big business is now dealing with its overwhelming main market, the United States, adopting the “Buy American” strategy by the US Congress showing the one-sided nature of NAFTA.
In fact CETA is a new kind of free trade agreement going well beyond the issues dealt with in NAFTA, to address changes in the nature of the global economy, including multinational production chains involving components, intellectual “property” and investment from a variety of countries. This is why it is referred to as “comprehensive.” This is very dangerous for students and young workers.
Attack on students
Already various international agreements have greatly increasing the sheer volume of international students, paying far higher fees on two-tier tuition rates as potential cash cows for an under-funded system. There is also the market-oriented delivery of education by monopoly capital like cross-border e-learning, the franchising of offshore campuses, and the sale of curricula and course materials overseas are all features of an emerging multi-billion dollar trade in education. Education privatization is a gold-mine for capital – an area it can rapidly increase profits.
Thus now is the time to right the alarm bells like the student movement did towards the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which became the WTO negotiations. The same attack agenda characterizes CETA. The EU trade negotiators have clearly said that “Health care and education is on the table to the extent that it is open for commercial activity.”
CETA may likely bring across the Atlantic the dangerous Lisbon Strategy and Bologna Treaty which students across Europe are now rallying against. These agreements are a sweeping and anti-democratic plan to standardize education across Europe introducing new student fees (often where none existed before) increased private investment and, in most cases, the removal of local governments’ ability to set tuition, funding and research policies.
Education will function in the interest of capital, not for the emancipation of youth. This is producing a deeper hierarchical and elitist categorization between European Post-Secondary Education institutions. Similar processes are already at work in Canada.
Attack on young workers
Young workers in Canada have already faced the devastating impact of Free Trade in the form of NAFTA which also promised “economic prosperity” and instead allowed for the asset-stripping of Canada’s industry by finance capital at the expense of the working class who were left at the end with increased exploitation.
NAFTA has sucked the country of manufacturing jobs, for example effectively terminating the Auto Pact protecting workers in the auto industry. The future of millions of young workers has now been limited unemployment – or low-paying, non-union, “service sector” jobs, that are generally dangerous and precarious work.
Democratic sovereignty has been severely limited with environmental regulations shredded, for example the over-turn of the dangerous gasoline additive MMT under corporate pressure in the context of NAFTA regulations. Control over our resources, such as the nationalization of energy, is effectively prohibited by NAFTA. On the other hand, the agreement has set-up a scenario for further negotiations sometimes called the “Security, Peace and Prosperity Partnership” (SPP) with the US and Mexico. The SPP includes “deep integration,” funnelling Canada’s resource wealth into US corporate pockets.
In Mexico, NAFTA has created a social-economic crisis, especially in rural communities. The end result has been the breaking up communities and families as millions of people search for jobs in the North. These immigrant and migrant workers are treated like second-class citizens or forced labour in the USA and Canada.
In short, NAFTA shows free trade agreements like CETA to be a dead-end solution for working people and youth. The European Union states have already launched a full-scale attack on workers over the past decade with the imposition of the Stability and Growth Pact, the Lisbon Strategy and especially the Bolkestein Directive which are all against the youth, workers and people's rights.
Struggle is the way forward!
Imperialism has never forgotten the failed Multi-lateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) and the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) – agreements which were both defeated in the context of mass public mobilization – and have openly said CETA is a step towards a multi-lateral agreement. But whereas the FTAA was described as “NAFTA on steroids,” CETA could be considered NAFTA on crack.
Imperialism is forced to sign trade deals by the drive for an increasing rate of profit. These deals cannot be amended with a more human or socially-just approach. Unity and resistance rejecting these agreements is the only realistic and effective strategy. Our future can not be stolen from us! We can not be reduced to beggars in our lands!
The YCL calls upon all progressive youth to work as quickly as we can break the silence about the danger of CETA through mass education, and sound the alarm bell through broad visible mobilization, standing with the labour movement. Provincial governments, which must sign on to CETA, are also vulnerable to pressure. We urge the youth and student movement to seek out as many ways possible to integrate opposition towards this new scourge of Free Trade deals into our daily and immediate struggles!
The major cross-Canada mobilization the students called by the Canadian Federation of Students for February 2011 is fully supported by the YCL-LJC. This is an opportunity to ‘think globally’ and raise this issue. Likewise, the general student strike planned by Québec students in March 2011 can and must connect with the cross-Canada and international-level attack on education. The Young Communist League categorically opposes CETA agreement and calls for total disengagement by Canada, the immediate abolition of the agreement, as well as full disclosure of negotiations. Drop-out now!
All imperialist agreements must be abrogated – including NAFTA and NATO – in favour of economic relations that break with the policies of the corporate pirates and instead enshrine values of peace, disarmament and non-proliferation; ecology and climate justice; friendship between peoples; mutual respect of sovereignty; and solidarity in our common struggles. This requires a new, transformational framework, with revolutionary scope based on people’s needs, and people’s power.
If socialist Cuba, a poor country, can send doctors around the world – why can’t Canada? The Young Communist League supports the call for a Charter of Youth Rights, not corporate rights, to guarantee a life with a future for the youth.
Central Executive Committee
Young Communist League of Canada