In the lead-up to the Funding Democracy summit, we have talked about a number of financial and policy challenges from the austerity agenda to corruption and whistleblower protection. Trade agreements are another crucial piece of this puzzle.

The Canadian government is currently involved in closed negotiations for three different trade agreements:

  • The Comprehensive Economics and Trade Agreement (CETA)
  • The Trades in Services Agreement (TISA)
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

International trade is important, especially in our increasingly globalized world. But I am very concerned that the negotiations for these wide-ranging trade deals that will affect all Canadians are being held in secret.

Because of the secretive nature of these agreements we don’t yet know their full impact, but leaked information suggests that they pose significant threats to the delivery of quality public services in Canada and across the world.

Just this week, seventeen separate documents from the TISA were leaked which continue to demonstrate that the public is being kept completely in the dark about crucial negotiations around that affect us all.

As Public Services International President Rosa Pavanelli rightly points out, “The irony of the text containing repeated references to transparency, and an entire Annex on transparency requiring governments to provide information useful to business, being negotiated in secret from the population exposes in whose interests these agreements are being made.”

Another serious issue with these trade agreements is that they are designed to encourage irreversible privatization. This is not only bad for the public servants who perform these services, it’s bad for all Canadians. Evidence from several countries around the world shows that, in the long term, privatized services and those provided by public-private partnerships are more costly and of a lower quality.

Both CETA and TISA also expand the right of corporations to sue governments should governments interfere with their “right to profit.” That’s right – corporations could end up with the legally-enshrined right to make money.

And if these corporations did take our governments to court, who would determine whether damages are to be awarded? Closed private courts staffed with corporate lawyers.

What’s more, “right to profit” would restrict the ability of governments to legislate in areas such as workers’ safety, environmental regulations, consumer protection and universal service obligations. This just isn’t acceptable.

All trade agreements should be negotiated in a way that is transparent and fair, and the agreements themselves should benefit all citizens. ACFO demands transparency in the negotiation process and for the Canadian government to reconsider what they are willing to offer up to corporate interests in the name of freer trade of services.

By pushing back against these terms and negotiation processes, ACFO hopes to defend the rights of our FI Community and all Canadian public servants from trade agreements that would undermine democratic rights in favour of the economic interests of a fortunate few.

Transparently-negotiated, sustainable trade agreements are just one of the topics we will be addressing at the Funding Democracy summit on June 16-17.

Hope to see you there,

Milt Isaacs, CPA, CMA, CPFA
President, Association of Canadian Financial Officers