There are good reasons to oppose trade deals

Letters to the Editor (The Telegram)
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By Marilyn Reid
Wednesday’s editorial (“Whew! That’s over”) included two quotes from the recent NDP convention: “Nothing good happens when big business takes over things …,” and “CETA and evil have both got four letters, and to me they’re both the same thing.”

Not having attended the convention, I don’t know where the quotes came from, nor what the supporting arguments were. However, I take issue with two of The Telegram’s conclusions.

“Politics is about forging a middle ground, one that isn’t going to scare off either end of the spectrum.” Unfortunately, the middle ground in politics today bears little resemblance to how we governed ourselves 50 years ago. Green Party leader Elizabeth May perhaps summed it up best in an interview with the McGill Reporter.

“It’s arguable that we now live in a dictatorship, punctuated by manipulated elections. The symptoms of the problem are easy to spot — low voter turnout, with worryingly low levels among young people with no sign they will start voting once they are over 30, a less than vital Fourth Estate, undermined by an alarming level of concentration of media ownership in very few hands, public apathy, indifference bordering on antipathy toward the whole process, excessive power in the hands of the few (or the one, since I refer to PMO), a loss of respect for the

fundamental principle of the supremacy of Parliament, misuse of the talents of members of Parliament of the large parties, as MPs are expected to toe the party line on every issue, big and small, and its flip-side, excessive control by the unelected top party brass in all three main parties.”

May’s conclusions are very much in line with what is happening elsewhere. A recent study by Gillens and Page of Princeton and Northwestern Universities concluded that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

Nowhere is this erosion of democracy more evident than in the way we negotiate trade agreements. It’s not just that concerned civil society groups are denied any kind of access to what is being negotiated. So, too, are our elected MPs and MHAs.

Meanwhile, transnational corporations are working hand in hand with our negotiators to ensure that their interests are taken care of. That’s been true with CETA, the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) which we’re negotiating with 11 countries and probably to the little known but alarming Trade and Services Agreement (TISA) which includes 23 countries representing 50 countries.

Trade agreements tend to build on the ones before them, so that any protections for public services or regulatory capacity achieved in a specific agreement become targets for elimination in the next one. The common thread throughout is an agenda skewed towards global corporate interests and the super-rich elites behind them.

The solution is not, as The Telegram’s editorial suggests, “a little more scrutiny and oversight” of trade deals. We need a full discussion of how this generation’s treaties have evolved into constitutional-style documents that constrain governments, and in ways that are only loosely related to trade. We need to talk about how government and the mainstream media stifle debate by typecasting those of us who oppose the agenda of these new trade agreements as being anti-trade in general.

The latter was subtly evident in your editorial reference to the “Business-is-evil old guard” of the NDP. Those of us who oppose CETA, the TPP and TISA are not against trade agreements or business. But we are against trade agreements that erode democratic rights and hand over power to huge transnational corporations that concentrate wealth in the hands of offshore elites. We believe that a healthy democracy must include strong, vibrant, small- and medium-size businesses. They are a disappearing breed, and trade agreements — contrary to the rhetoric — rarely benefit them.

Perhaps that’s what the discussion was about at the NDP convention.

Marilyn Reid writes from Conception Bay South.

Organizations: Green Party, McGill Reporter, Princeton and Northwestern Universities NDP Trade and Services

Geographic location: U.S.

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  • Paul
    May 28, 2014 - 10:34

    "There are good reasons not to support trade deals" THAT HEADING REPRESENTS your organization's position on all trade agreements! There are no perfect "relationships" trade or otherwise in life! You can't please all parties!! I sick of hearing about your Multinational bad, business bad, blah blah blah. Be specific stop changing the mantra!!

  • Morris
    May 28, 2014 - 07:00

    Marilyn, PLEASE name one trade agreement Canada entered into that you and your organization HAS SUPPORTED, kindly restrict your answer to within 30 years! You never in all your letters cite examples of a good international trade agreement. Please stop with the copy and paste of other opinions! I heard the most boring interview on CNC RADIO a few months back where you kept repeating positions without explanations, and my take at the end was, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD TRADE AGREEMENT!

  • Christopher
    May 27, 2014 - 19:32

    In other words Marilyn Reid you are opposed to large multinational corporations paying their employees large wages. I've worked both with small business and large multinational corporations, and to be honest never will I work for small business again UNLESS they pay the same wages for same work.

  • Ken kavanagh
    May 27, 2014 - 15:06

    Well said Marilyn. I, like you, am all for trade but fair trade that is really about trade and not a Bill of Rights for huge, powerful multi-national corporations. ken Kavanagh Bell island

  • CETA,CIDA and giving peace a chance
    May 27, 2014 - 14:39

    I sort of agree with the letter writer. You could almost "hear" the Telegram editorial writer rolling his/her eyes writing about the stereotypical "socialist" perspective. True it can be tedious at times, but if not the organized social democrats, then who? However the terms "big business", "transnational", "super-rich elite" are also well worn phrases often associated with prejudice from time to time? How times have changed. "Small and medium sized businesses" (including farmers and fishermen" are indeed the life line of any people, but they cannot do it all. Who is there to oppose "evil" industry or "evil" mega capitalists if not our own version of the tyrant. I remember on my school bus there were bullies. Then someone snuck boxing gloves and helmets onto the school grounds. Behind the school (until the VP caught us) all the kids (including some favourite victims of the Bullies) where cheering "....our [school] bus bully is tougher than YOUR [school] bus bully!!...". Norway - that oil wealthy nordic/"socialist?" country has a $250B Oil Ca$h $ta$h? (We have a $10B? debt after 20yrs first oil). However what if their Arctic Neighbour thinks there are some ethnic Russian Lapps up north being picked on by their neighbours. The big A in NATO means more than just Atlantic…. it is you know who. "....who y'all gonna call?....". Big capital? Big industry? Big military? Then again many trusted that a facist bully was better than a Communist bully in Europe circa 1935 – that didn’t work out so well. I would not venture to even paraphrase the author of the letter, but maybe "corrupt" or "exploitive" could be used with some of the entities of which she speaks to distinguish between the more harmless tyrants?? And perhaps she is right? Who would know if she didn't write, who would know if the Telegram (Editorialist included) did not publish? The Cold War is over, the world is adjusting, say your peace but give it time.

  • Ken Collis
    May 27, 2014 - 08:49

    My biggest concern with these trade agreements is when the voting power of the majority can undermine the well being of a geographic minority. With CETA, for instance, the NL fishery is being decimated to benefit Upper Canada, much like when the P.E.T. government allowed Russia unlimited fishing rights as long as they bought western Canada grain. This sort of situation should be more of a concern than most Canadians realise.

    • Curious
      May 27, 2014 - 10:41

      Doesn't CETA require the approval of the provinces.

    • Ken Collis
      May 27, 2014 - 19:41

      Approval of the provinces is required but our downfall was that Dunderdale took the 30 pieces of silver.

    • Morris
      May 28, 2014 - 10:37

      " With CETA, for instance, the NL fishery is being decimated to benefit Upper Canada," FINE STATEMENT, However, not a fact. What CETA PROVISION r u referring to!