At the height of the battle over the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) the biggest pushers of the deal, the Business Council on National Issues (the 160 largest public corporations) took out full page ads promising the country it would bring “more jobs, better jobs.” It was intended to counter the effective campaign of opponents who warned Canadians that tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs would be lost. Opponents won the hearts and minds battle but lost the 1988 election on the issue thus making Canada and the US “free trade” guinea pigs. Hundreds of such deals have been signed since in spite of the fact that the critics were right: Canada lost some 270,000 jobs as a direct result.
Since 1988, the promoters of these investment protection agreements have held sway in large part because of massive media support. But almost 30 years after the first experiment there are signs that, finally, citizens around the world are beginning to ask the uncomfortable question: just who do governments govern for? Regrettably, that question is being asked more in the EU and the US than it is in Canada. Nonetheless, opposition to such deals in these two powerhouse economies could save us from more of them– specifically the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Canada’s proposed deal with the EU – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). If the US-EU deal (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – TTIP ) fails CETA is unlikely to survive.