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Cities seek exemptions from EU-Canada trade deal

Postmedia News April 17, 2012

Cities seek exemptions from EU-Canada trade deal

As Canada and the European Union negotiate final details on a free-trade deal expected to be completed this year, dozens of communities across the country are voicing major concerns or seeking exemptions from the pact.

The Conservative government, however, says the provinces support it and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recognizes the deal would produce economic benefits across Canada.

Yet, dozens of cities and towns - including major centres such as Toronto, Mississauga and Hamilton in Ontario - have passed motions highlighting their concerns with the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, with many asking for permanent exemptions.

Most of the communities are worried that provisions in the agreement on government procurement will restrict their decision-making capabilities and hurt their local economies.

They want more details from the federal government and argue the trade deal could limit their abilities to adopt ’buy local’ procurement policies, create jobs and enforce some environmental standards.

"There’s some uneasiness that rests with some of them," Berry Vrbanovic, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said Monday.

"Some of the motions are really becoming an expression of urgency from their point of view, in terms of what’s being expected by local governments."

On the West Coast, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities has passed motions asking that local governments be exempted from CETA on government procurement, and also called on the provincial government to remove water services from any commitments.

"It’s still not filtering into the public awareness that these resolutions are happening," said Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, a citizens group that has been fighting the agreement.

"It will be difficult for the provinces to sell this agreement if they have ignored the will of important cities like Toronto and Hamilton."

Federal officials say the agreement will either immediately eliminate all trade tariffs or phase them out over time, ultimately lowering the prices of goods and services for consumers, while also creating new and better jobs for Canadians.

 source: Postmedia News