Volume 94, Issue 69

Thursday, January 25, 2001


Government initiates funding for more nursing

Helicopter improves cops: prof

Year-round school to be debated

Free trade could span education and health

Canadians getting older and healthier


Planet Me

Free trade could span education and health

By Chris Lackner
Gazette Staff

A proposed free trade agreement which would span North and South America is on track for approval, despite concerns the deal could see publicly funded services like education and health care opened to the market.

Natalie Debué, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said the 34 countries involved in the Free Trade Area of the Americas have a combined gross domestic product of $11-trillion, and a combined population of 800 million.

She said education and health care will not be open for negotiation. "There is always a chance to exempt certain areas," she said.

However, Steven Staples, an executive co-ordinator for the Council of Canadians, said the council received a report from one of the service groups negotiating the FTAA.

He said the FTAA incorporates the most business-friendly aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization. "It's all about deregulation and the promotion of privatization," he said.

Staples said the free market push of the FTAA will create a system of investor states, in which the rights of foreign corporations are put before the powers of the government, adding private health and education providers could both be eligible for the government subsidies that are currently given to the public sector.

Erin George, president of the Canadian Federation of Students, said the FTAA agreement could allow foreign private institutions to set up in Canada and gain access to public education funding such as operating and research grants. "It could open a Pandora's box," she said.

Leo Charbonneau, media spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Universities and Colleges, said the CAUC has a standing advisory committee on international relations which will be monitoring the FTAA negotiations to see what impact it could have on post-secondary education.

Sheila Kapz, a national representative for the Canadian Labour Congress, said the CLC is part of a hemisphere-wide anti-FTAA solidarity movement which consists of organizers such as union groups, women's right activists and environmentalists. "This deal will benefit trans-national corporations while acting as a detriment to workers, communities and the environment."

Debué said some of the goals of the FTAA include the elimination of export subsidies and the reduction of trade tariffs. "We're looking for greater market access to the Americas," she said.

She said Canadian citizens could expect a public report on the FTAA initiative in the beginning of April, following the summit of Americas In Quebec City, in which the 34 heads of state will work to finalize the trade deal.

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