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Canadian and Central American NGOs call for transparency and parliamentary debate on Free Trade Agreement

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Wednesday June 21, 2006

Canadian and Central American NGOs Call for Transparency and Parliamentary
Debate on Free Trade Agreement

OTTAWA- Canadian and Central American NGOs are calling on the Canadian
government to lift the veil of secrecy behind the negotiations of the
proposed Canada - Central America Four Free Trade Agreement (CA4FTA) at a
hearing before The Standing Committee on International Trade this
afternoon (3:30-5:30 pm, Room #308, West Block).

Salvadoran economist and trade activist Raúl Moreno is in Canada to raise
concerns before the committee today about the impacts this kind of free
trade agreement could have on Central America, a region struggling with
poverty and inequality.

“We have substantial evidence that this "free trade" model violates human
rights, environmental standards, and labour rights, and jeopardizes the
livelihood of communities and farmers,” says Dr. Raúl Moreno, representing
regional networks opposing the agreement. “Now Canada - a long-time friend
of Central America - is poised to actually undermine democracy,
development and national sovereignty in the region rather than support
it."

Negotiations between Canada and the four Central American countries
implicated in the agreement - El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and
Nicaragua - stalled in 2003 as Central American governments were trying to
reach a deal on the hotly contested CAFTA with the U.S. Now, Canadian and
Central American countries are returning to the negotiating table intent
on quickly wrapping up the agreement - while citizens and parliamentarians
are left in the dark.

“Since negotiations first began in 2001, civil society groups, now joined
by parliamentarians, have been demanding the release of the draft text for
public and parliamentary consideration. Here we are in 2006, and we are
still being denied access to the text”, says Gerry Barr, President-CEO of
the Canadian Council for International Co-operation.

The Americas Policy Group (APG) of the Canadian Council for International
Co-operation is concerned about the agreement’s inclusion of a NAFTA-style
investment chapter that strengthens the rights of private corporations
while restricting the rights of communities. This could become a
particularly contentious issue while many Central American communities
resist Canadian mining companies’ presence on their soil and struggle to
deal with a host of problems, including lack of community consultation by
the companies and environmental contamination.

The APG and Dr. Moreno will deliver an open letter to the Minister of
International Trade today at 2:30 p.m. calling for the release of the text
and informed public and parliamentary debate prior to any further
negotiations. The letter is signed by 200 organizations from across the
hemisphere and available at http://www.ccic.ca/e/003/apg.shtml.

The CA4FTA would be the first bilateral trade agreement signed by the
Conservative government. “This agreement is a litmus test for whether the
current government is serious about transparency and accountability”, says
Rusa Jeremic of KAIROS Canada and co-chair of the CCIC Americas Policy
Group, one of the groups testifying today. “The government can no longer
exclude citizens and parliamentarians from having a role in determining
the how and the what of bilateral trade agreements. The CA4FTA presents
an opportunity for Canada to ’get it right’.”

To arrange an interview with Rusa Jeremic or Raúl Moreno (interpretation
provided) please contact:

Nadja Drost Co-ordinator, Americas Policy Group Canadian Council for
International Co-operation (CCIC)

[email protected] Office: (613) 241-7007 extension 333. Cell: (613) 255-1373


 source: CCIC