Free market stealth economics at G20

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Outgoing Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, with whom Canada signed a free trade agreement, was a featured guest at the G20 summit (photo courtesy Polinizaciones)

Toronto Media Co-op | 27 June 2010

Free market stealth economics at G20

by STEFAN CHRISTOFF →TORONTO NEWS

Toronto — Behind razor sharp security walls and thousands of armed police, Canada’s Conservative government is utilising the G20 summit as a political platform to push forward bilateral trade agreements globally, according to recent statements from the Canadian government.

“Our government’s aggressive free trade agenda … will be [delivered] to our existing and future trade partners at the upcoming G-20 meeting,” outlined Canada’s Minister for International Trade in a recent speech leading-up to the Toronto summit.

Canada has been particularly vocal on pushing bilateral trade at the G20: “Canada and many other governments are committed to more aggressively pursuing bilateral and regional trade deals as a way of kick-starting the process, while we see the Doha talks remaining stalled,” outlined Stephen Harper at a news conference in Toronto, referring to the 2003 WTO negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, which broke down amid mass protest and unrest, and have not been reopened. Since then, the world’s powerful economies have pushed towards bilateral and regional agreements.“

At first bilateral trade agreements were seen as a fall-back option, as western governments were attempting to pass through these stealth agreements, which included elements that weren’t possible to secure through institutions WTO,” explained Aziz Choudry of bilaterals.org. “After the collapse of the [2003] Cancun WTO talks bilateral trade accords are being pursued as the tool of choice by both governments and corporation; Today there are many weapons of corporate capital which will be utilized at different times and in different variations depending on the moment, with the simple goal of guaranteeing corporations the most power and control.”

Canada is currently perusing bilateral deals with multiple countries throughout the global south and has recently signed accords with Peru, Jordan, Panama and the European Free Trade Association: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Canada’s recent bilateral accord with Colombia was on full display during the G8 summit, as out-going right-wing Colombian president Alvaro Uribe was a featured guest. Colombia has a dismal human rights record, including extra-judicial assassinations targeting labour activists and journalists. U.S. Congress has stalled ratifying a similar bilateral accord with Colombia due to opposition from Democratic politicians concered about its record of human rights abuses.

Inherent in the politics involved in bilateral and regional trade deals is often a deeper imbalance in power between national negotiating partners. In the multilateral negotiation process at the WTO, demands fronted by southern countries – particularly Brazil and India – derailed the negotiation process, whereas bilateral accords often see small southern nations negotiating trade terms with the world’s most powerful economic giants.

for more information and analysis on bilateral / regional trade accords visit http://www.bilaterals.org/