Learn more about our policy experts.

Media Contacts

Angela Bradbery, Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7741
c. (202) 503-6768
abradbery@citizen.org, Twitter

Don Owens, Deputy Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7767
dowens@citizen.org

Karilyn Gower, Press Officer
w. (202) 588-7779
kgower@citizen.org

David Rosen, Press Officer, Regulatory Affairs
w. (202) 588-7742
drosen@citizen.org

Nicholas Florko, Communications Officer, Global Trade Watch
w. (202) 454-5108
nflorko@citizen.org

Other Important Links

Press Release Database
Citizen Vox blog
Texas Vox blog
Consumer Law and Policy blog
Energy Vox blog
Eyes on Trade blog
Facebook/publiccitizen

Follow us on Twitter

 

June 24, 2010

On Eve of G-20 Summit, Canadian Government Bashes Others for Trade Distortions While Poised to OK Huge Subsidy for Asbestos Exports

EU Parliamentarian Calls for WTO Challenge of $58 Million Loan Guarantee Subsidy for Deadly Exports

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Hypocrisy!” may be the leading headline coming out of the imminent G-20 and G-8 summits as news of host country Canada’s pending $58 million loan guarantee subsidy to restart Canadian asbestos exports slams into the government’s recent pre-summit lectures about the need for participating countries to avoid trade distortions, Public Citizen said today.

“The Canadian government endlessly chastises other countries’ purported trade distortions but apparently the Harper administration’s fealty to free trade does not apply to Canada creating a massive new subsidy that would boost exports of a deadly substance, asbestos,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division.

The open-pit Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec, has exported huge amounts of asbestos for the past century. Now, its surface asbestos supply exhausted, the company is under bankruptcy protection. After not being able to find financing on the private market, the mine’s owners have sought a $58 million loan guarantee from the Quebec government to open a new underground mine so that it can export asbestos to developing countries for the next 25 years. Under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, a loan guarantee that facilitates financing on terms more favorable than otherwise available in the market is considered a subsidy. The subsidy is expected to be approved by July 1.

Very little of the asbestos that would be mined at the Jeffrey Mine would enter commerce in Canada. Almost all of it would be exported – with much going to WTO-member nations to whom Canada has trade obligations that forbid export subsidization. While WTO rules generally discipline government subsidies, export subsidies are explicitly forbidden. 

The Harper government attacked U.S. Buy America provisions in the 2009 Economic Stimulus bill that fully complied with U.S., WTO and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) obligations. Yet, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minister of Natural Resources, Christian Paradis, is a leading advocate of this major subsidy to boost Canadian exports despite trade pacts rules that forbid export subsidy trade distortions.

“You do not have to be a fan of the current trade rules to be outraged by the stunning hypocrisy of the Canadian government supporting a massive government subsidy to resume operations at an asbestos mine whose deadly product will mainly be exported to developing countries,” Wallach said. 

European parliamentarian Stephen Hughes (U.K.) recently tabled an inquiry calling for a WTO challenge of the proposed Canadian subsidy. The European Union has banned all use of asbestos and extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos products in 2005.

“A new WTO challenge of a new Canadian export subsidy certainly would make a mockery of the Canadian government’s pre-summit briefings that have criticized other countries’ purported slide toward protectionism and trade distortions,” Wallach said.

Quebec and the rest of Canada, like other industrialized countries, refuse to use asbestos and are experiencing an epidemic of asbestos-related disease from past use. The world’s leading health authorities have called for asbestos to be banned. Fifty-two countries have banned all forms of asbestos.

###

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit public interest organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.

.

 


 

Copyright © 2016 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

You can support the fight for greater government and corporate accountability through a donation to either Public Citizen, Inc., or Public Citizen Foundation, Inc.

Public Citizen lobbies Congress and federal agencies to advance Public Citizen’s mission of advancing government and corporate accountability. When you make a contribution to Public Citizen, you become a member of Public Citizen, showing your support and entitling you to benefits such as Public Citizen News. Contributions to Public Citizen are not tax-deductible.

Public Citizen Foundation focuses on research, public education, and litigation in support of our mission. By law, the Foundation can engage in only very limited lobbying. Contributions to Public Citizen Foundation are tax-deductible.