TORONTO, Oct. 22, 2013 /CNW/ - The Conservative government must come clean on reports that the European Union trade deal will remove foreign-ownership limits from Canada's uranium industry, says the United Steelworkers (USW), Canada's largest union of uranium miners.
"We ask the federal government to clarify how this trade deal will affect foreign ownership of Canadian uranium mines," said Ken Neumann, USW's National Director for Canada.
"The lack of transparency about this important issue begs the question of what other controversial policy changes are hidden in this agreement. Canadians need to see the full text before our governments sign onto it," Neumann said.
Last Thursday the federal government released a 44-page summary of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that features the word "transparent" 15 times, but does not mention the word "uranium."
However, the Saskatchewan government issued a press release Friday that stated: "The new agreement will also ease Canadian restrictions on EU investment, including in the uranium mining sector."
The Canadian Press then quoted the Saskatchewan premier as saying, "My understanding is that simply the provisions will be gone for these companies … they'll be able to own a mine outright."
Current rules cap foreign ownership of Canadian uranium mines at 49 per cent. This compromise has allowed substantial foreign investment in Canada's uranium mines, but has required foreign investors to partner with Canadian companies.
"Ensuring majority Canadian ownership safeguards national security and protects against foreign electric utilities that may have an incentive to buy mines in Canada to extract our uranium at discounted prices," Neumann said.
"Rio Tinto is publicly applauding the reported removal of foreign-ownership limits from Canadian uranium," he said.
"After taking over Alcan, Rio Tinto demanded vast concessions from Canadian workers and locked out 800 employees for six months at Alma, Quebec, last year. Governments should be reluctant to allow this EU-based company to take full control of other Canadian facilities."
Neumann also noted that Saskatchewan's last provincial budget slashed uranium royalty rates. Under CETA, EU-based companies may be the main recipients of that gift, he added.
"Why are the federal and Saskatchewan governments so keen to give away our natural resources to foreign corporations?"
USW is also very concerned about CETA's investor-state dispute resolution provisions and its extension of pharmaceutical patents.
CETA's aggressive investor-state provisions will allow multinational corporations to sue democratically elected governments at all levels in Canada and to challenge laws and policies adopted in the public interest.
Appointed and unaccountable tribunals, operating outside of the traditional legal system, will rule on such claims. Canadian taxpayers will be on the hook for damages awarded to corporations for claims of potential losses arising from our democratic laws.
"It is unclear why corporations and investors need this special, unaccountable process, given the rule of law and effective judicial systems in both Canada and Europe," Neumann said.
CETA's extension of pharmaceutical patents will substantially increase drug prices, making it more expensive for governments to provide public healthcare and more difficult for employees to negotiate workplace drug plans, he said.
"Canada should not sign CETA if the final deal gives foreign investors a special, unaccountable process to challenge public policy and extends patent protection for medicines."
SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information:
Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-544-5951
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, [email protected]