Thursday, June 12, 1997

OTTAWA - Today, the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition (CCRC) called on Jim Peterson, the new Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), to consult the public about the government's position on the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on the financial services industry.

According to the 1995 interim WTO agreement, a final agreement (currently under negotiation in Geneva) further liberalizing the financial services sector is to be completed by December 15th of this year, and it is expected that about 50 countries of the WTO will sign the final 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 (See attached list of groups), "We want the federal government to consult the public concerning its position on the agreement and any adjustments that will be made to Canadian legislation."

To date, the federal government has not made any public statements about the agreement or its position. Initial offers by countries are due by July 14th. "The government has a duty to make its offer to the WTO public, and we expect the Liberals to release their offer soon after July 14th," said Conacher.

The federal government has set up a Task Force on the Future of the Canadian Financial Services Sector, which will release its discussion paper this Friday, consult with the public and recommend legislative changes to the government. However, the Task Force is not scheduled to report to the government until September 1998, nine months after the WTO agreement has been finalized. "The federal government's Task Force schedule is irrelevant to the WTO negotiations," said Duff Conacher, "We need a separate, open, public consultation process to ensure that the federal government addresses financial consumer and small business concerns before finalizing its position on the WTO agreement."

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