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Opposition Opens Up Central American Trade DealWednesday, November 01, 2006 > 09:45:30
(Embassy – Newspaper Online via I.E News Bulletin)
The NDP trade critic calls for public disclosure of a trade agreement with four central American countries, but the committee chair says the resolution prejudges the witnesses.
In an effort to ensure that the protection of labour and human rights are built into a free trade agreement being negotiated with four Central American countries, the Standing Committee on International Trade passed a resolution last week calling for the disclosure of all agreement draft texts and Canadian negotiating proposals.
The resolution also called for public consultations and debate and further study on the potential impacts of a Canadian-Central American free trade agreement, especially in terms of human rights. The committee will also report back to the House on the negotiations.
"We need to have a real public consultation on this and disclosure of the text to see what we are putting on the table," said NDP international trade critic Peter Julian, who tabled the resolution and was supported by the committee's opposition MPs.
"It is not only what are we giving away, but it is also what impact will the agreement have on labour rights in these countries," he added. "It's a real question whether Canadian values are included in this agreement."
A delegation from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua was in Ottawa from Oct. 12-13, and International Trade spokeswoman Valerie Noftle described the talks as "well-advanced."
"Canadian and CA4 officials have been seeking to address the few remaining obstacles and, to this end, have met three times since May 2006," she said. "While a date for the next meeting has not yet been set, Canadian and CA4 officials have agreed to continue to explore ways to overcome the remaining obstacles."
Ms. Noftle said the government, prior to launching Canada-Chile and Canada-Israel negotiations, "undertook comprehensive consultations" with the public and industry in a variety of ways, but critics say consultations are limited and do not match true public debate.
As for Mr. Julian's resolution, Ms. Noftle said: "The House of Commons' legal branch is reviewing the motion to determine whether it can be referred to the House of Commons for debate."