Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Atlantica Meeting ready for protests

The fact that the chair of the Atlantic Chamber of Commerces does not even live in Canada is symbolic. This whole group seems to be a part of the process of integration with the US. Capital does not really care for borders especially if erasing national differences can be seen as increasing profit.

Police ready riot squad for Atlantica meeting
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 13, 2007 | 10:32 AM AT
CBC News
Halifax is bracing for a free-trade conference later this week that is expected to draw hundreds of protesters.

The conference, hosted by the Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce, promotes the idea of Atlantica, a zone of freer trade between Atlantic Canada, eastern Quebec and the northeastern United States.

The chamber and the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, a conservative think-tank, say Atlantic Canada would prosper by becoming the gateway for trade between Asia and the U.S.

"NAFTA has made it easier to trade north-south, but you still continue to have barriers, particularly at the state and provincial level, that keep the states and provinces from actually realizing the full potential of NAFTA," said Charles Cirtwell, acting president of AIMS.

Halifax police will have a riot squad on standby. The conference begins Thursday.

Last year's Atlantica conference in Saint John, N.B., attracted a group of protesters, and the Alliance Against Atlantica says thousands are expected at the upcoming meeting.

The group says Atlantica is about cheaper energy and consumer goods for Americans, not economic prosperity for all.

"It's a free-for-all for the business and private elites to do whatever they want to in this region no matter what hindrances might be in the way, such as environmental regulations or social protections," said Dave Ron, who is also with the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group.

Truck traffic bad for environment: report
Earlier this year, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report saying the Atlantica proposal turns the region into a springboard for Asian goods destined for the U.S. Midwest with few benefits for Atlantic Canada. Heavy truck traffic would be bad for the environment and damage the highways, the report noted.

While critics say Atlantica is an attack on unions, environmental standards and even the minimum wage, proponents say it's all about Atlantic Canada getting a bigger share of the globalization pie.

The new chairman of the Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce, Jonathan Daniels, lives in Maine. As a board member for several years, his appointment was deliberate and planned, said the outgoing Halifax-based chairman, Stephen Dempsey.

"It really started five years ago when we formally embraced our Atlantica agenda, and we understood if we were going to expand our operation beyond the four Atlantic provinces, then we had to really reach out and engage business people beyond the border," Dempsey said.

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