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Ottawa's CETA concessions limit options for provinces and municipalities

Meeting European Union demands for a trade agreement would mean giving up the power to do things like insist Okanagan apples be available in Okanagan hospitals, said British Columbia NDP leader Adrian Dix.

"It means essentially we've given preferred status to Europeans over Canadian jurisdictions," said Dix, talking about provisions included in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement that Canada and the EU are negotiating.

"They limit our abilities as communities to be resilient in difficult times," he said. "They exclude options people might otherwise try."

Negotiations on the CETA are reportedly in their final stages, with both sides hoping to be completed by the end of the year. A leaked Nov. 6, 2012 EU document said Canada had already offered much greater access to public contracts, but that EU negotiators hoped to win further concessions.

As a party to the negotiations, B.C. officials have in the past declined to comment on the province's positions, despite Premier Christy Clark's former promise to consult the public on the agreement.

Dix said he hopes B.C. will speak out and put pressure on the federal government to be tough at the bargaining table. "We're going to continue to put the pressure on for people to recognize the central importance of these issues."

The terms the federal government is agreeing to would leave municipal and provincial governments in Canada vulnerable to costly legal action, he said.

Some 40 Canadian municipalities have asked to be excluded from CETA, a recent Council of Canadians press release said. In 2010 the Union of BC Municipalities passed a resolution requesting a permanent exemption from the trade agreement.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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