International trade agreements must include environmental and human rights commitments, says Green Party

NANAIMO, BC — The massive increase in international trade is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. While trade has created jobs in developing countries, poor working conditions and low wages reflect the global competition for foreign investment. A Green government will work to restructure global trade relations to address climate change and social justice imperatives.

“How is it that Canada’s two most polluting industries, fossil fuels and mineral extraction, are the main beneficiaries of trade agreements like CETA (Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement)?” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

“The climate emergency makes it imperative that we change our priorities. We can go from being one of the biggest emitters and exporters of greenhouse gases to being leaders in the field of renewable energy at home and abroad. It’s time to renegotiate trade agreements to include environmental and human rights commitments.”

Green Party international trade critic and candidate for re-election in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Paul Manly, said that the Green Party will support fair and equitable trade and trade agreements that enshrine human rights, labour rights, consumer standards, health and safety standards and environmental protections.

“We are very disappointed in the current international trade and investment agreements that Canada has signed,” said Mr. Manly. “We understand that improving them will be a gradual process, but the objective is to ensure that multinational corporations do not have the ability to unduly exploit people and the environment and drive standards down. Greens believe that governments elected by the people should have the authority to make decisions in the best interest of citizens and the environment on which we depend. Greens believe that the World Trade Organization agreement should be strengthened to include a global agreement on climate change, the environment and social justice which supersedes the myriad of corporate rights agreements passing themselves off as Free Trade.”

Mr. Manly added that the Green Party is opposed to Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms that give foreign multinationals the ability to seek financial compensation when the decisions of democratically elected governments  get in the way of their profits.

“Canadian mining companies should not be able to seek billions of dollars in compensation through private trade tribunals when governments rule against a proposed mining project that would be detrimental to the environment or the social wellbeing of a community.

“We are not opposed to fair compensation for expropriation to cover real losses but the current ISDS model goes far beyond that. We like the European Union model of trade integration where countries that join the EU are required to improve their standards to the highest level rather than join a race to the bottom.”

A Green government will:

  • Revamp national trade policy to align with national and international climate change plans. This includes reducing the distances over which food is shipped by increasing domestic and local food production.
  • Protect supply management and ensure that products which are banned in Canada are not imported in food from other countries, for example bovine growth hormone in milk products.
  • Facilitate a global effort to reform the World Trade Organization. Building on General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) article XX, which was always intended to insulate legislated domestic conservation efforts from trade disciplines.
  • Revamp the World Trade Organization to the World Trade and Climate Organization to ensure that trade is consistent with a global carbon budget. Tariffs will be assigned based on the carbon intensity of imported products.

Mr. Manly said that Greens will improve internal trade between provinces through the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT). “We currently have some very strange barriers to trade in goods and services between provinces,” he observed. “It doesn’t make sense that it’s easier to trade with other countries than between provinces. In the AIT Greens will ensure that investors do not get rights that supercede the rights of governments to regulate in the best interests of citizens and the environment the way they do in international agreements.”

“Electing more Greens to parliament next week will ensure that existing and future trade agreements are held to higher labour, health, safety and environmental standards,” concluded Ms. May. “The climate crisis brings new urgency to all such agreements and everything has to be negotiated through that lens.”

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For more information or to arrange an interview contact:

Rosie Emery
Press Secretary