Why does the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement include asbestos?

Tue, Nov 7, 2017


Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca

A Free Trade Agreement signed by Canada and Ukraine, which came into effect on August 1, 2017, includes asbestos.

Promoting trade in asbestos is in complete contradiction with Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to ban the import, export and use of all asbestos by 2018.

The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) may have been negotiated by the previous Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who supported plans to make Canada the second biggest exporter of asbestos in the world. However, the Trudeau government has been in power since October 2015 and has, it appears, failed to notice the inclusion of and require the removal of asbestos from the Trade Agreement.

Neither the Minister of International Trade, François-Philippe Champagne, who is responsible for CUFTA, nor Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment & Climate Change, who is responsible for implementing Canada’s asbestos ban, have responded to requests to explain why asbestos is in the Agreement and what action they will take to ensure asbestos is removed from the Agreement.

Section XIII of the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement includes: Articles of stone, plaster, cement, asbestos, mica or similar materials; ceramic products; glass and glassware. Chapter 68 includes: Articles of Stone, Plaster, Cement, Asbestos, Mica or Similar Materials.

Asbestos industry uses trade negotiations as a weapon to bully countries into accepting asbestos

It is disturbing to note that the asbestos industry brought pressure to bear on the government of Ukraine to prevent it from implementing a ban on asbestos this year, as Ukraine’s Ministry of Health had announced.

Asbestos industrialists have for many years wielded economic and political power behind the scenes in Ukraine.

It seems that these asbestos interests are now exerting secret, improper influence to obstruct a decision by the government of Ukraine to ban asbestos and a decision by the government of Canada to ban asbestos.

Putting corporate profits ahead of democracy and human rights

Free Trade Agreements are legally binding and put the protection of corporate profits ahead of democratic rights. They give corporations the right to sue governments for passing regulations that protect health and the environment if the corporation feels such action might interfere with its desired profits. Under these trade agreements, decisions, that are legally binding, are made behind closed doors by a panel of trade lawyers. Public participation and an open hearing are prohibited. At the present moment, for example, a US corporation, Lone Pine,  is suing Canada for US $118.9 million, arguing that the government of Quebec did not have the right to pass An Act to limit oil and gas activities. The Act was passed in 2011 by the Quebec National Assembly, after environmental studies and hearings by Quebec’s Environmental Commission called for such action in order to prevent harmful fracking activities in and close to the St Lawrence River.

Thus, under CUFTA, any refusal by Canada to accept asbestos products from Ukraine could be challenged by companies in Ukraine wishing to export asbestos-containing products to Canada and seeking compensation for “lost profits”.

On every level, the inclusion of asbestos in CUFTA is wrong and unacceptable. The asbestos industry is using secret and corrupt tactics, such as trade deals and hiring spies, to protect its profits. But it cannot stop the inevitable march towards a global asbestos ban.

Regardless of whatever CUFTA says, the Government of Canada will be forced to implement its commitment to ban asbestos by 2018. The Canadian public will tolerate nothing less.

A further report will be provided shortly, as more information becomes available.

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One Response to “Why does the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement include asbestos?”


  1. […] has been in power for two years. It has taken no action to remove asbestos from CUFTA and has refused to answer the question of whether it intends to do […]

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