NFU Canada: Free Trade Agreement with EU is a sell-out

At the recent food food sovereignty conference The Hague 24 Jan. 2014,  the former chair of Canada’s National Farmers’ Union Terry Boehm also contributed to the forum. For a more concrete appraisal of the Free Trade agreement see below, but here is first his general outline presented in The Hague:

‘The institutional Agricultural arrangements of over a century ago have become unglued. Now the government organises ‘consultations’ for all ‘stakehoders’, where farmers, 1% of the population, can enter into discussions with other stakeholders. A morphing interests occurs with no clear outcomes, in  which process corporations are happy to offer solutions….. There has been a shift in the balance of power. Our governments are negotiating their and our sovereignty away in investment agreements that are subjecting the state.  Trade agreements are a sort of constitutions for corporations. The corporations refer to these supra-national agreements in legal court cases where the national laws are overruled. Farmers toe the line because of threats. ‘

from Trade Agreement is sell-out: (go to this webpage for links etc.)

The National Farmers Union has joined with other citizens’ organizations in the Trade Justice Network to challenge the scope and secret negotiating process of CETA, the Canada-European Union free trade negotiations, and to highlight the need for a more sustainable, equitable and socially just international trade regime.

In October 2013 Prime Minister Harper announced that he has signed the CETA agreement ‘in principle’e, however the actual text of the deal is still being kept secret, while some details have yet to be finalized. Press reports have focussed on the “beef and pork for cheese” trade-off. NFU research shows that there will be little to no benefit to beef and pork producers, while the dairy sector will suffer real losses if CETA is implemented.

The NFU obtained leaked copies of the draft tekst at several stages of the negotiations and has analyzed each one from the point of view of agriculture, food and farmers. It has become clear that CETA is not so much about removing trade barriers – few exist between Canada and Europe – but more about limiting the power of elected governments to prevent them from making laws that would restrict global corporation,s and to ensure that these corporations will have permanent economic and legal advantages over individual citizens and independent businesses.

In February 2013, the NFU signed on to the Transatlantic Statement Opposing Excessive Corporate Rights (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) in the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). We join labour, environmental, Indigenous, women’s, academic, health sector and fair trade organizations from Europe, Canada and Quebec representing more than 65 million people who are demanding that Canada and the EU stop negotiating an excessive and controversial investor rights chapter in the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

If CETA is adopted and includes the measures seen in the draft texts and press reports, there will be severe impacts, including:

severe restrictions on farmers’ right to save and re-use seeds, with penalties potentially including jail time for violators

precautionary  (= op voorhand), als voorzorgsmaatregel)  seizure of a farmers assets (including crop, machinery and bank account) on alleged (not proven) patent infringement (overtreden van patentwet, zie onder) , precautionary seizure of the assets of a third party (such as a seed cleaner) if alleged to be assisting patent infringement

loss of local food market potential due to rules against local procurement (aanbestedingsregels) by municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals.(GG: it is forbidden to source from local producers for such  ‘social catering’)

restrictive rules around the use of Georgraphic Indications – the names of products such as “feta cheese” and “parma ham” based on where they are traditionally produced.

13,000 tonne reduction in domestic market for Canadian cheese, which will harm our artisanal cheesemakers and dairy farmers.

It is also worth noting that the EU subsidizes its farmers and Canada does not.The EU spends $50 billion/year on agricultural subsidies. In the Netherlands, for example, farmers receive more than € 400 per hectare ($218/acre). Canada provides a limited safety net program, called Business Risk Management (BRM). From 2007 to 2010 BRM programs paid out about $3.4 billion/year. If these funds were applied evenly on a per-acre basis (which they are not), the program would pay out about $20/acre of Canadian farmland.Canadian dairy, egg, chicken and turkey farmers do not use the BRM programs because the supply management system ensures they earn an adequate income from selling their product.Canada’s dairy sector operates almost entirely within the domestic market.Canada’s Agriculture Ministers have repeatedly stated that farmers should get their income from the marketplace, not the mailbox so it is unlikely that Canadian farmers will ever get European- style subsidies.

The benefits of CETA to the agriculture being touted by the federal government are unlikely to materialize.

– Europe has exempted (gevrijwaard)  its regulations around GMO crops from CETA, meaning that Canadian farmers who use GMO technology will not gain access to the European market through CETA.

– Europe has elected to pay penalties under the World Trade Organization in order to avoid importing Canadian beef that has been produced using growth hormones. CETA will not open the European market to producers who continue to use these hormones, while Europe already allows hormone-free beef to be imported.

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SEEDS

For a recent (22 jan. 2014) paper sent to the Canadian Parliament see A farmers’ seed act

Quote: The National Farmers Union calls for a new Seed Act for Farmers in which Canada recognizes the inherent rights of farmers  — derived from thousands of years of custom and tradition—to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds. Current and proposed restrictions on farmers’ traditional practices, whether from commercial contracts, identity preservation (IP) systems, or legislation—criminalize these ancient practices and harm farmers, citizens, and society in general.

Canadians therefore call upon Parliament to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act that would further restrict farmers’ rights or add to farmers’ costs.

See the link above for the full document, inlucding the articles in the proposed act.

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