March 8, 2012, 5:05 PM EST
A panel of trade experts gathered in downtown Halifax on March 6 to discuss the possible impacts a Canada-EU free trade deal will have on the Nova Scotia economy.
CAW Economist Jim Stanford said that he expects the proposed Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) could cost Nova Scotia up to 3000 net direct jobs as a result, even more once spin-off and multiplier effects are considered.
“Nova Scotia’s trading relationship with the EU is even more precariously unbalanced than is the rest of Canada’s,” Stanford told the crowd of over 100 labour, government and business representatives. “Nova Scotia accounts for barely 1 per cent of Canada’s already inadequate exports to Europe, yet Nova Scotia imports 7.5 times as much from Europe as it exports there.”
“There is no conceivable scenario in which NS could benefit from this agreement.”
Scott Sinclair, a senior research fellow with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, stressed that a top priority for EU negotiators in these talks is for unconditional access to provincial and municipal markets for goods and services.
Sinclair said that the CETA could prohibit “offsets,” which are defined as any condition that encourages local development and can include ‘buy local’ provisions, similar to those utilized in the recent record federal shipbuilding contract awarded to the Halifax shipyard under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.
“Why shouldn’t the sensible approach taken in the shipbuilding contracts be applied to other major contracts such as mass transit, food purchases by hospitals and nursing homes, or renewable energy?” Sinclair said.
Greater Halifax Partnership Vice President and Chief Economist Fred Morley said the deal could have some benefits to Nova Scotia’s fishing and agricultural industries but also acknowledged the need for a greater level of engagement in these trade talks from all sectors of the economy, something that has so far been lacking.
The government of Nova Scotia (along with other Canadian provinces and territories) has not disclosed any of its offers with respect to public services or procurement contracts under the CETA. This closed-door approach to trade negotiations is fuelling mistrust and frustration among those concerned that this deal will favour corporations over the rights of citizens, said CAW Atlantic Region Director Les Holloway.
“This agreement threatens to tie the hands of local governments from setting smart policy that builds communities,” Holloway said. “How can this be a good thing for our local economies, or for local democracy?”
Holloway has called on Premier Darryl Dexter to engage Nova Scotians in a more open and honest discussion about the potential impacts of CETA and says he hopes the government heeds the message delivered by the panelists.
The event was organized by the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, in conjunction with the Canadian Auto Workers union.
Negotiations for a new Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are heading into their eleventh round, with a deal expected sometime this year or next. CETA will mark the first international bilateral trade agreement that explicitly binds provinces and municipalities under its terms and conditions with respect to public purchasing, services and investment.
So far, over 50 municipalities across the country have raised concerns over the deal. Dozens, including the City of Toronto, are calling on the provincial government to exempt them from the deal.