CLI research paper outlines perils of trade deals


TRADE DEALS ARE A LOT LIKE ICEBERGS. It’s the part you don’t see that can really hurt you. Nadia Ibrahim explains exactly how in Dicey Deals: Trade deals and social services, the latest publication from CLI (Canadian Labour Institute) and the PSFC (Public Services Foundation of Canada).

Trade deals, in and of themselves, are not the problem writes Ibrahim. The problem lies with the model that now prevails in the structure of the deals.

“This prevailing model of trade is linked to, or indeed a component of, neoliberalism,” writes Ibrahim. The real goal is not just so-called “free trade,” she says. The prevailing agreements “do much more than facilitate, or reduce barriers to, the movement of goods across borders.”

Way beyond moving goods

As such, they “go beyond what we typically conceive of as ‘free trade’  as they do much more than facilitate, or reduce barriers to, the movement of goods across borders.

She writes: “[The agreements] extend to cover matters only peripherally related to trade, including environmental regulation, agriculture, health and food safety standards, intellectual property rights, investment protection, government procurement and, of particular interest here, public and social services.”

It is a reality that offers too many opportunities to undermine Canadian values and sovereignty.

Ibrahim sets out her arguments in four sections:

  • an analysis of the links between trade liberalization and public and social services in Canada
  • the inadequate protection for public services found in trade and investment agreements
  • a case study of trade impacts on the Canadian health care system
  • a renewed call to defend public and social services in Canada.

Dicey Deals: Trade deals and social services reminds us again that there is a hidden threat in all the trade deals being foisted on us these days: they leave public services largely unprotected and open to reduction or elimination; and, they increase the likelihood of private and permanent privatization of public services.

All this is bad enough. But the worst result of all is that these deals often leave our governments unable to stand up for and defend Canadian values and sovereignty. Canadian democracy is bargained away, piece by piece, for access to markets. Which makes all these deals dicey indeed.

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