ETUC wants FTA with Ottawa to strengthen workers’ rights
By Joanna Sopinska | Tuesday 05 July 2011
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has called on Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht to ensure that the free trade agreement currently negotiated with Canada strengthens workers’ rights. In a letter dated 4 July and sent to De Gucht, Bernadette Ségol, ETUC’s general secretary, asked the EU to adjust its negotiating position in order to include in the final agreement a “strong” dispute settlement mechanism, with the possibility of fines being imposed for breaches of international obligations on labour standards.
“Such a provision, which the Canadian side supports, would send a strong message also in the context of negotiations with other countries that the EU wants to ensure the full observance of standards set by the International Labour Organisation as part of its trade policy,” Ségol said. The comment came ahead of the next round of negotiations between the EU and Canada, on 11-15 July.
The EU-Canada free trade talks were launched in May 2009. Both sides aim to go beyond World Trade Organisation (WTO) commitments generally, with a maximum degree of liberalisation of trade in goods and services. In particular, the European Commission is eager to secure access to Canada’s national and provincial public procurement markets and to gain greater access for dairy products. Canada, for its part, wants barriers to Europe’s financial services markets eased, and access to agricultural markets for pork, beef and grain products.
The ETUC is pursuing other issues in relation to the EU-Canada negotiations. It in particular opposes the inclusion of investment protection provisions in the future agreement, which it believes would lack any justification and give businesses powers to bring into question democratic decisions and extract huge monetary compensations.