Monday, September 18, 2006

Should Canada stay cautious before a thirsty U.S.?

Bulk water should be on trade table, Cellucci says

As global supplies of fresh water become increasingly scarce, countries with substantial stores – Brazil, Russia, and Canada top the list – face increasing pressure from “thirsty nations” like the U.S. to include the resource in trade agreements.

The topic is broached with Canada every few years by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), but no headway has been made in the area. While Canadian provinces permit exports of bottled water, the ban persists on bulk exports from boundary waters shared by Canada and the U.S.
There are no negotiations currently underway to lift the ban, but the fact that Prime Minister Harper’s government is in the process of developing a new national water strategy for Canada has caused hopes and concerns from both sides of the border to be raised.

A Canadian citizens’ group, Council of Canadians, has stressed the dangers of allowing bulk water exports to be traded on the open market, voicing fears that allowing this valuable and limited resource to go to the highest bidder could result in water exports being directed to the richest, rather than the neediest recipients.

Conversely, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Celluci asserts that water should be considered a renewable resource and insists that the issue is one the two nations will have to face in the foreseeable future.

1. Should fresh water, an increasingly valuable and scarce global resource, be available to the highest bidder?

2. If fresh water becomes available on the open market, should there be special standards or restrictions created to ensure that it goes to a “legitimate” use? How would such a determination be made?

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