Wednesday, July 16, 1997
OTTAWA - Today, the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition (CCRC) called on Jim Peterson, the new federal Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), to disclose who the government consulted about its initial offer to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the WTO's financial services industry agreement, released yesterday, and to set out its plans for public consultation on the offer.
The WTO agreement is currently under negotiation in secret in Geneva, and it is expected about 50 countries of the WTO will sign an agreement by the end of this year that will remove barriers to foreign financial institutions entering Canada and other countries.
To date, the federal government has not conducted any consultation with consumer or small business interests concerning its position on the agreement. "We are very concerned about the potential impact of the WTO agreement on Canadian financial consumers, small businesses and access to capital for job creation," said Duff Conacher, Chairperson of the CCRC, "The government has a duty to consult the public to ensure that it addresses financial consumer and small business concerns before it finalizes its position and signs the WTO agreement."
The initial offer to the WTO by the federal government continues the historical protection the government has given Canada's big banks because it would not allow foreign banks to compete against Canada's banks for retail deposits. As well, the federal government's Task Force on the Future of the Canadian Financial Services Sector last week endorsed mergers in the financial services sector, which will lead to further concentration and reduced competition in the sector.
"The government must consult with financial consumers and small businesses to determine whether they want the barriers to foreign banks lowered so that competition and consumer choice in the banking sector will be maintained," said Conacher, "Banking policy should not be made in secret or focussed solely on protecting Canada's big banks."
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