The Toronto Star’s Unbalanced Reportage On Free Trade

CETA against Canadians

*edit, February 18, 2014 – I couldn’t do this post all in one go. Depending on how long it takes me to finish a post, that can either be a non issue or it can cause me to lose my flow. I really haven’t been working on this long, but I’ve been very busy at work and very tired. The post, when I review it now, prior to publishing it, looks incomplete. But I have to move on, so I’ll publish it.

Canada reaches free-trade agreement in principle with EU | Toronto Star.

An excerpt from the above linked-to Canadian Press article follows:

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Canada has reached a framework agreement with the European Union on establishing a comprehensive free trade zone encompassing virtually every sector of economic activity, with an official ceremony expected Friday.

After a day of leaks that a deal in principle had been reached, the prime minister’s office all but confirmed the occasion Wednesday evening by announcing Stephen Harper would travel to Brussels on Thursday to meet European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso “with the goal of concluding the CETA negotiations.”…

For the Harper government, a completed CETA that is generally supported by Canadians would be a major achievement and no doubt something the prime minister can trumpet in the next election campaign. The government has long made trade expansion around the world a key element of its agenda for jobs and prosperity, but as yet had little to show for all its grand ambitions.

But analysts noted that something could still go off the rails and that the ratification process, requiring approval of the provinces in their areas of jurisdiction and the 28 member European states, will likely take another two years.

That gives critics plenty of time to try and scuttle the deal. The Council of Canadians jumped the gun on the next step Wednesday issuing a letter to the premiers asking that they hold off assent and seek broad public input on the agreement.
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My online response (two comments) to the above linked-to article follows:

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This is horrible, but horrible is what you get with horrible, corporatocracy, governments. The people are cut out. The exploiters and tax evaders, who just love their law and order governments – and those are ‘their’ governments, because they’re not the people’s governments – play the game of ‘escape’, as William Greider calls it, using their political partners to gain more freedom all the time, at the expense of the people. They can break rules, make rules (by buying politicians, who in turn make everything corporations want to do ‘legal’) and ignore rules with impunity. Look at the banksters. Look at the killers of seas and gulfs and mountain tops and waterways. Want to legally risk waterways everywhere with pipelines etc? Just have your leader get rid of a law (NWPA here in Canada) that would have made that difficult. Voila! Free trade agreements, as we – and the favorable Star – all know now, are charters of rights for corporations, period.

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I’m reading John Ralston Saul’s “The Collapse Of Gloabalism – And The Reinvention Of The World” right now. Globalization, as we know it, has been shaped by special interests and elements of it forced on us – as an experiment, not in the scientific spirit, but by irresponsible exploiters and ideologues. “Globalization emerged in the 1970s as if from nowhere, full grown, enrobed in an aura of inclusivity… When a grand idea or ideology is fresh and the sailing is easy, even the most serious proponents make all-inclusive claims on its behalf. This grand view makes it easier for them to impose the specific changes they want. When things become more complicated, as they do, most of the same advocates retreat to more modest claims, while still insisting on the central nature of their truth and its inevitability. Many will angrily deny they ever claimed more.” The lies of users, however, never interested me. I want the liar, the exploiters to pay for their crimes. I don’t even need them to confess. They can all go work in Bangladesh as far as I’m concerned – until they are dealt with.
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One World Ready Or Not

From page 33 of “One World, Ready Or Not,” by William Greider, the following:

“Big money hides itself in the global economy. Respectable capital mingles alongside dirty money from illegal enterprise (drugs, gambling, illicit arms sales) because the offshore banking centers allow both to hide from the same things: national taxation and the surveillance of government regulators. Major governments, including the United States, are not likely to help the IMF get these financial entrepôts to open up their books since major governments actively encouraged the rise of offshore banking as a convenience for global companies and investors.

“Tax havens are merely a flagrant example of a much larger and exceedingly complicated political agenda – the politics of escape. Transnational commerce, either to defend against price competition or to maximize the potential returns of globalization, has aggressively campaigned over three or four decades to free itself from various social controls imposed by [home] governments. These political contests, commonly described as deregulation, continue, and the issues generate great controversy across virtually every sector of public policy, from environmental protection to wage-and-hour laws, from food-safety regulation to interest-rate controls and banking codes.”

My letter to Carol Goar, which she politely thanked me for:

——————————–o-
Carol Goar: August 10, 2007

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with your boosting of NAFTA. You must know that free trade, a misnomer, hasn’t been good for most people. (Congress’s own research arm predicted that NAFTA would hurt all three national signatories to the pact, which it did. But the study and it’s findings were not released to the public.) People here have signalled to politicians that they (the people) are so stupid that their leaders can push this sort of legalized exploitation on them just by referring to it as ‘free trade’. I agree that people are dumb. Most of it is voluntary. Some of it isn’t. It makes me angry. But it’s no excuse for people who choose to exploit. If your front door is open, that does not mean it’s okay for me to walk across your yard and into your home. In regard to free trade, the capitalist exploiters know that most folks will not ask, “What? There was no trade before now? It wasn’t free? You’re right, There’s no time to waste. We need free trade!” When exactly the opposite is the case.

Your colleague, Linda McQuaig, has some interesting thoughts about free trade, as you well know. Consider:

“A poll conducted for Business Week similarly found that 80 per cent of Americans believed that the environment should be a top priority in trade deals; 74 percent also wanted to make labour rights a priority, and a solid majority disapproved of signing trade deals that offered no protection for environmental and labour concerns. What this suggests is that a lot of Canadians and Americans don’t fully understand that the new trade deals compromise environmental and labour rights. This is no surprise, since government and business leaders keep implying that the deals are exclusively about trade. But when asked about their priorities, citizens in both countries are unequivocal: unbridled profit-making, at the expense of everything else, is unacceptable.” -pg 223 of ALL YOU CAN EAT – GREED, LUST AND THE NEW CAPITALISM (2001)

It’s not just government and business leaders who imply trade deals are only about trade, Is it Carol? Linda also notes how pundits who are widely known and respected, such as the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman, can greatly help to convince people that a certain position is right by himself endorsing it in his columns. Like you with your columns, Carol. Linda notes that by being regarded as neutral and not ideological – which is not exactly what I would have thought about Friedman – he adds force to his arguments. Frankly, I would have thought ‘neutral and not ideological’ applies ‘more’ to you than Friedman. Therefore, In my view and from all I’ve read about free trade deals, Your betrayal, as one who regularly speaks out about the plight of the poor, is great.

And it seems that everyone, except you, is aware that the Washington Consensus, also known as neoliberal capitalism, has been devastating for Latin America. Of course, you ‘are’ aware. While we’re on the subject of what you are and are not aware of, it took some clever navigation on your part to avoid mentioning the Security and Prosperity Partnership in your article on NAFTA and it’s benefits. But it’s hardly surprising. While you might want to boost free trade – which I’ll NEVER understand – NAFTA is already done, whereas the SPP isn’t, de jure, a done deal yet. And we mustn’t invite the readers to enquire as to what this SPP is about, Must we?

“As the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research has shown, economic growth has slowed dramatically in virtually every corner of the developing world in the past two decades – which also happens to be the period when the World Bank and the IMF started aggressively pushing their unfetterred-market agenda. If we compare the twenty-year period before 1980 – when Keynesian-style government interventionism was in vogue – to the twenty years of pro-market policies that have followed, we find that growth was higher almost everywhere in the earlier Keynesian period. (This pattern holds true, although to a less dramatic extent, throughout the industrialized world as well.) In Latin America, for instance, GDP per capita – the standard measure of economic growth used by mainstream economists – grew by 75 per cent in the earlier period and by only 6 per cent in the more recent period.” -pg 77 of ALL YOU CAN EAT

So what does George W. Bush do? He goes down there (with an unstated agenda to morally support tottering rightwing leaders) in the early spring of this year and tells South Americans that neoliberal capitalism hasn’t worked for them and so they should let American capitalists give them more of it, as Justin Akers Chacón recently noted in ISR. In fact, Justin provides us with the sobering fact that “These policies, known collectively as neoliberal capitalism, have been responsible for one of history’s greatest transfers of wealth from poor to rich nations (and from the working classes to the ruling classes) ever witnessed in human history. Since 1980, for instance, it has been calculated that over $4.6 trillion have flowed from poor to wealthy nations through these polices.” (International Socialist Review, “Casualties of neoliberalism,” July/ August 2007)

A final point Linda mentioned in her book has to do with people thinking, with a little help from the establishment, that before the recent free trade deals there wasn’t any free trade. There was, and it was ‘actual’ free trade, as she discusses in the chapter of ALL YOU CAN EAT titled Tearing Down The Fence. She also makes that point, on page 47, in an earlier chapter titled Remaking The World.

And every time I read about how these pacts arrived or are arriving, I find the same reference to how they’ve been kept from the public as much as possible. I remember experiencing this personally when the Multilateral Agreement On Investment was being cooked up. I was online for that and I immediately began passing on info about it as I discovered it. But, What does the public have to add to pacts and so forth that depend for their success on social deficits? The people must fail for the few, who reside in Richistan, to succeed.

“Neoliberalism in Mexico (with the passage of NAFTA) was designed to induce a painful shock treatment into the economy, with the rapid transition to open markets, the abolition of tariffs and subsidies, and the reduction of social spending. Nowhere in the 700-plus pages of NAFTA text was there a plan to address the land loss, deindustrialization, and impoverishment that would immediately result in those sectors of the economy made vulnerable by exposure to the world market,” writes Justin Akers Chacón.

Murray Dobbin adds this:

“Common to all of these deals and potential deals is the complete absence of any reference to social, environmental, or labour standards or human rights. In the developed countries, governments have responded to this criticism with what are now commonly referred to as “side deals.” These usually concern labour and the environment, the two areas where the protest has been the most effective, and a social charter. So far, under the FTA and NAFTA, the side deals have proven ineffective though supporters suggest the jury is still out.

“There is a fatal flaw in the notion of social charters being attached to liberalizing multinational agreements. Pressing for improved labour, social and environmental standards fundamentally contradicts the whole point of these deals, which is to lower cost and investment barriers to transnational corporations. Free trade and investment demand deregulatory requirements that make social protection ideologically and politically unacceptable. It would be difficult to make them effective precisely because, to the extent that they are effective, they undermine the purpose of the agreement and its corporate libertarian philosophy.” -pg 118 of THE MYTH OF THE GOOD CORPORATE CITIZEN, by Murray Dobbin

Murray isn’t drawing his own conclusion there. He then recounts how the U.S. Council for International Business, speaking for U.S. TNCs, wrote to senior U.S. officials and told them they would oppose “any and all measures to create or even imply binding obligations for goverments related to environment or labour.”

Has something changed here, Carol, that we don’t know about?

From Chomsky:

“The UD [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] became the focus of great attention in June 1993 at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna…

“The high-minded rhetoric at and about the Vienna conference was not besmirched by inquiry into the observance of the UD by its leading defenders. These matters were, however, raised in Vienna in a Public Hearing organized by NGOs. The contributions by activists, scholars, lawyers, and others from many countries reviewed “alarming evidence of massive human rights violations in every part of the world as a result of the policies of the international financial institutions,” the “Washington Consensus” among the leaders of the free world. This “neoliberal” consensus disguises what might be called “really existing free market doctrine”: market discipline is of great benefit to the weak and defenseless, though the rich and powerful must shelter under the wings of the nanny state. They must also be allowed to persist in “the sustained assault on [free trade] principle” that is deplored in a scholarly review of the post-1970 (“neoliberal”) period by GATT secretariat economist Patrick Low (now director of economic research for the World Trade Organization), who estimates the restrictive effects of Reaganite measures at about three times those of other leading industrial countries, as they “presided over the greatest swing toward protectionism since the 1930s,” shifting the US from “being the world’s champion of multilateral free trade to one of its leading challengers,” the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations commented in a review of the decade.” -pg 130 of ROGUE STATES – THE RULE OF FORCE IN WORLD AFFAIRS (2000), by Noam Chomsky

We need besmirching, Carol. But I guess we’ll only get that from rabble rousers like your colleague Linda McQuaig and, perhaps, from the odd “special to the Star” writer, like the one who wrote a different view from you the same day you tapped out “Americans rethinking free trade.” Dick Smyth, a former broadcaster, wrote “Our crass business ethos cannot survive,” in which he notes that:

“Free trade had the potential of improving the human condition. But instead of bettering wages and working conditions in Mexico and the U.S. south, it has exerted downward pressure on them in Canada.

“Unions are loathed. The first indication of their demise was when politicians dispensed with the once mandatory union “bug” on their campaign material. Unions today negotiate concessions rather than benefits.

“Pension and medical plans are increasingly rare. The five-day week and eight-hour day, wrested into existence by unions, are vanishing under the twin chimeras of “competitiveness” and “productivity.” Employers evade the spirit of the law while observing its letter by hiring people “on contract” or as part timers. Others are given meaningless “management” titles to thwart laws on overtime.” And he doesn’t mellow out for the rest of his article. I remember the man, sort of. I remember his voice. It’s distinctive. But I remember him, I think, from a time when I wasn’t politicized. Now I’ll remember his words, which I’ve enjoyed. (“Americans rethinking free trade,” Toronto Star, August 6, 2007 & “Our crass business ethos cannot survive,” Toronto Star, August 6, 2007)

Maude Barlow writes about two trips that she took to Mexico that stood out for her. After one visit, she cried all the way home from seeing conditions that she describes in her book and that would make any normal person extremely sad. I liked the one about dipping a pencil into the river in the maquiladora and finding it stripped of paint when removed. She also mentions the factory owners who expected to be shown a good time when they came to visit and would therefore be given Mexican women to rape. (I recall in the news learning about all the women in the maquiladora area simply disappearing and turning up raped and murdered. Maude here mentions photo journalist Charles Bowden’s work, presenting the horrific story of those disappearances, with over 500 women, most of them young, disappearing in 1997 alone. Bowden worked for Harper’s magazine. However, She mentions that in the middle of recalling her 1990 and 1991 trips to Mexico.)

I don’t recall hearing that we are in Mexico in part to free the women, but maybe that line works better for Afghanistan. Maude’s 1990 trip, made for the purpose of finding out what free trade had done for Mexicans, prior to NAFTA’s implementation, saw her make contact with an economist named Carlos Herédia, who she later brought to Canada “when CBC’s The National put the deal “on trial” and I was defence for the prosecution.”

“For the whole week, I kept my emotions in check. I did say in my closing remarks to the gathering back in Mexico City that I was leaving a piece of my heart behind and this was true. But it wasn’t until I got on the plane to return home that the full impact of what I had seen hit me. I was sitting with Tony [Clarke] who could see that I was devastated and was helping me to comprehend what it all meant. I had seen poverty before; what so upset me about this trip was that I had glimpsed a future the world was pro-actively and consciously creating. We were weaving a future out of extreme inequality and violence in order to service the growing consumer demands of the world’s elite, many of whom lived in my country. The children I saw on the streets of Mexico would never be counted in the measurements I knew our government officials and business economists would use to “prove” that free trade was working for Canada. The twisted, deformed infant victims of the toxic maquiladora factories I visited would never show up as a negative factor in Mexico’s Gross Domestic Product. I wept most of the way back to Canada.” -pages 126 & 127 of THE FIGHT OF MY LIFE (1998), by Maude Barlow

Carol, I don’t think your boosting of free trade is educational. At least not in a positive sense. Just from the quick review of free trade in this email, it’s clear that you are very deliberately protecting free trade’s image, at least in the eyes of those who haven’t had a good look at it and who believe it’s ‘free’ and it’s ‘trade’ and that it’s good, just as people like you indicate. You have a louder voice than most others and what you say has an impact on (helping to determine) the issues Canadians will want to talk about. So, If you can lambast David Miller for not being forthcoming with the public about his dilemma vis a vis Toronto’s finances and the options before Toronto’s councillors (“Mayor’s credibility gap on taxes,” Toronto Star, August 1, 2007), then perhaps you can re-think your failure to talk about the SPP when you’re talking about it. Somehow, I doubt you will.
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You get a sense of the hostility that elites and their media tools feel for those who criticize anti-people neoliberal policies, which (properly) makes those who design, implement and praise them look evil, when you come across phrases (in the top of post linked-to CP article) such as “The Council of Canadians jumped the gun on the next step Wednesday issuing a letter to the premiers asking that they hold off assent and seek broad public input on the agreement.” Maude, The Council Of Canadians, and others are doing reporting that is vital to Canadians and being attacked for it. Pro free trade propaganda is harmful to Canadians. Maude and her organization are to be praised, not dismissed and maybe there’s some hostility here toward her because the writer is ashamed that he or she isn’t doing a proper reporter’s job, in relation to reportage about CETA and free trade generally, while Maude is. As Maude has pointed out, there are more Canadians in her organization than there are, for example, Conservative Party members. But members of the COC aren’t connected gangsters. Maude is a General in the people’s army, fighting the good fight in a class war which we don’t want but which is forced on us by believers in inequality, namely black soldiers in an evil army, who need our attention/ their glory and must get it from us by abusing us.

Black army

You eventually get the reputation that you give yourself.

Here’s a link to Carol Goar’s Toronto Star article, reprinted on The Centre For Governance Innovation website: “Americans Rethinking Free Trade”

Paul Martin /  photo by Nick Procaylo

Paul Martin / photo by Nick Procaylo

See my earlier posts touching on Goar’s, and the Star’s, free trade propaganda:

“The 1% is PISSED. Their Fake Leftwing Assets Are Active!”

An excerpt from the above linked-to blog post follows:

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Following are my two online responses to the above linked-to article:
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Save It Carol
I stopped reading Carol Goar long ago after reading her pro free trade propaganda. (The disturbing reference to rightwinger Paul Martin got my attention.) I should quit reading Haroon Siddiqui as well, seeing how he wants us to believe that the system doesn’t need changing. (See his most recent propaganda piece.) We just need to make it work for us – by electing democrats, like Obama. Lol! Has the 1% been harping on it’s media to get busy and out-shout the 99%? / “But members of the investment community, who profit enormously from the war on inflation… rarely miss an opportunity to flog the deficit horse. Since developments in the market are difficult to decipher at the best of times, financial analysts are more or less free to give whatever spin they want – especially since no one questions them.” -pg 119 of “Shooting The Hippo,” by Linda McQuaig.

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Speaking Of Archives…
I’d love the Star to unearth the disappeared CBC expose of tax evader Paul Martin titled Anchors Away. Are you familiar with it, Carol? Nothing to say?
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“Spell STAR Backwards”

An excerpt from the above linked-to blog post follows:

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The Star carries articles by a few who do not support the direction that it’s top officials are taking it in. Just compare Carol Goar’s sorry reportage dealing with free trade and deficits with Linda McQuaig’s reportage on those same subjects. Thomas Walkom no doubt sees things quite a bit differently than anyone on the Star’s editorial board. Rick Salutin, who was unceremoniously dumped from the pro free trade, anti civil society Globe And Mail (where it’s easier to turn on progressives, since it doesn’t pretend to the same extent as the Star to be progressive) doesn’t see eye to eye with the Toronto Star’s big shots. Who knows about others within the organization? There are gatekeepers everywhere, for sure. But not everyone is a gatekeeper.
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In regard to my above blog post, Tony Burman’s propaganda piece about Iran set me off. I’m not a fan of the evil Iranian ruling class, but the hypocrisy of the West toward Iran, and generally, is astounding. The intentions are clear from what you learn, when you pay attention (by ‘actively’ seeking information rather than passively listening to CNN or CBC), to what the major media does ‘not’ tell you. Just as the major media did not tell people about serious options (offered by both the government’s own Office of Technology Assessment and the Labor movement) to the form that NAFTA took, which Noam Chomsky looks at on pages 35 & 36 of his book titled “Hopes And Prospects,” so too has the media ignored Iran’s requests for dialog over it’s nuclear industry and it’s expressed willingness to create a nuclear free zone in the region.

From Glenn Greenwald’s September 28, Guardian article titled “Brian Williams’ Iran Propaganda,” the following:

——— — –
Here is what NBC News anchor Brian Williams told his viewers about this event when leading off his broadcast last night, with a particularly mocking and cynical tone used for the bolded words:

This is all part of a new leadership effort by Iran – suddenly claiming they don’t want nuclear weapons! ; what they want is talks and transparency and good will. And while that would be enough to define a whole new era, skepticism is high and there’s a good reason for it.”

Yes, Iran’s claim that they don’t want nuclear weapons sure is “sudden” – if you pretend that virtually everything that they’ve said on that question for the past ten years does not exist…

Obviously, the fact that Iran claims it does not want nuclear weapons is not proof that it is not seeking them or will not seek them at some point in the future; all government statements should be subjected to skepticism…

But whether Iran is sincere is an entirely separate question from the one about which Williams radically misled his viewers last night. While Iran’s actual intentions regarding nuclear weapons may be debatable, the fact that they have repeatedly and over the course of many years emphatically disclaimed any interest in acquiring nuclear weapons is not debatable. It is indisputable fact that they have done exactly that. There is nothing new or “sudden” about this claim.

To the contrary, Iran has been trying to make Americans hear for years that they have no interest in nuclear weapons. Indeed, they have repeatedly made clear that they have not only banned such weapons but favor region-wide nuclear disarmament, including of Israel’s vast nuclear arsenal, which actually exists. It is Israel, not Iran, which has steadfastly refused to allow inspections of its nuclear arsenal (despite UN demands they do so) or to join the NPT or other conventions designed to monitor and regulate nuclear weapons.

But these facts have been excluded almost entirely from the dominant US media narrative for years. The fact that Iran, at its highest leadership levels, has repeatedly and unequivocally disavowed any interest in nuclear weapons is something that most Americans simply don’t know, because the country’s media stars have barely ever mentioned it…
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Trade Justice Network logo

From the website of the Trade Justice Network, the following. It is the introduction to their section on CETA:

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Overview

The Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is being negotiated as a “next-generation” free trade deal that goes beyond NAFTA and the WTO in shielding corporate activity from government controls. The draft agreement includes extensive chapters on services and investment, government procurement, intellectual property, and standards and regulations. It will also contain a controversial NAFTA-like investor-state dispute process that allows corporations from Europe to directly challenge and sometimes overturn Canadian laws that interfere with profits – even for public health or environmental reasons.

Too secret, not democratic enough

Like all free trade agreements, the Canada-E.U. talks are happening in secret with each side, making offers and requests of the other in the hopes of getting the best deal for their home companies. By their nature, trade agreements are based on corporate interests – without corporate input how would the Canadian government know what to ask for? The flip side of this is that free trade agreements end up protecting corporate interests and giving short shrift to other public priorities such as protecting the environment, ending global poverty and generally creating economies that work for people not just for profits.
Lip service to sustainable development

CETA contains a nice sounding sustainable development chapter but like NAFTA’s environment and labour side-agreements, this one has no teeth. Meanwhile, its services, investment and procurement chapters, would give European corporations new tools with which to challenge public policy and remove provincial or local development initiatives that prioritize good, green jobs and the transition to more sustainable, local economies.
Municipalities left in the dark

Unlike NAFTA, the Canada-E.U. free trade agreement would interfere with local and municipal policies for the first time and yet our mayors and municipal councillors are not part of the negotiations. Policies designed to maximize public spending by considering the social as well as economic benefits of local sourcing or local hiring, would be banned. Municipal services, including water and energy utilities, would be restricted in the same way while European P3 consortiums (public-private partnerships) would get new guarantees in municipal tendering to the possible detriment of local public services.
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