Pierre Pettigrew, the federal minister of international trade will be meeting provincial ministers at the Ritz Carlton hotel this Friday. During the meeting the ministers are expected to discuss international trade agreements, including the Free Trade Area of the Americas [FTAA].
Many student groups are concerned that this meeting will secure a greater Canadian investment in the FTAA and other free trade agreements. Students from Concordia are expected to protest outside the Ritz while the meeting takes place indoors.
Last Halloween, students form across the province joined forces and participated in the Stop the Free Trade Area of the Americas Hemispheric Day of Strike and Action. Over 5,000 protesters marched in the streets of downtown in opposition of the FTAA.
Friday’s protest is not expected to be nearly as large, but the protesters hope to send a strong message to the ministers meeting indoors.
The FTAA would regroups all 34 countries of the Americas with the exception of Cuba. Many student groups have raised concerns about the effects that the FTAA has on Canadian universities. They fear that the implementation of the FTAA would create a private university system in Canada, and as a result, a less accessible education system.
They point to the fact that in 1989, tuition in Quebec universities was roughly $689, while today that figure stands at over $2,000. This rise in the cost of tuition does not correspond to the rise of inflation.
Envoys from all 34 countries will meet in November with the hope of finalizing negotiations. By next February all of the counties are supposed to have submitted specific offers to reduce trade barriers in sectors such as agriculture, goods and services, investments and government contracts.
The protest is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m in front of the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
A press conference will be given by Pettigrew and the provincial ministers at 2:30 p.m.