By The Canadian Press - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper says considerable progress has been made towards a…
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper says considerable progress has been made towards a Canada-European Union free trade deal, but important issues still need to be resolved.
Harper says Canada will sign a deal only if it is in the best interests of the Canadian economy.
He says an agreement would be important for Europeans because it would help them establish a beachhead as they embark on separate free trade talks with the United States.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is visiting Harper in Ottawa, agrees that a successful Canada-EU pact could have a positive influence on a future deal with the U.S.
Ayrault says the major obstacles to the Canada-EU deal are in the agricultural and information technology sectors.
Ayrault and Harper discussed the pact during the French premier’s four-city visit to Canada, which began in Ottawa.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 4:05 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Germany is pushing the European Union to demand that Canada get rid…
OTTAWA – Germany is pushing the European Union to demand that Canada get rid of its screening system for European investors, freshly leaked government documents show.
In a memo to European officials who are negotiating a free-trade agreement with Canada, Germany says Canada must stop applying the Investment Canada Act to European firms that want to buy into Canada, especially in the energy sector.
The deal with Canada must deliver “ambitious results with new market access and clear rules,” says the Oct. 25 memo obtained by The Canadian Press. “This includes the abolition of reservations in the Investment Canada Act and of ministerial discretion.
“The German and EU energy industry should also benefit from additional, non-discriminatory market access.”
The investment act is the set of rules and guidelines Ottawa is using right now to try and amend the corporate behaviour of a Chinese state-run enterprise seeking to take over Calgary-based Nexen Inc.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 5:50 AM - 0 Comments
One of the longest-lasting stories in Stephen Harper’s tenure as Prime Minister will end this month. Unless it doesn’t end. But everyone’s going to give it a college try.
While the current issue of Maclean’s is on newsstands, Ed Fast, Canada’s trade minister, will travel to Brussels to meet his approximate counterpart, European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. The subject is an ambitious trade deal Canada is trying to reach with the European Union. Bureaucrats and negotiators from both sides have been meeting regularly for 3½ years. They left all the hard decisions to the end. This is the end. Fast’s meeting with de Gucht will be the first negotiation among politicians instead of civil servants. It comes six weeks before the New Year, the date Stephen Harper named during the 2011 campaign as the deadline for a deal.
Everybody connected to the negotiations assures me there will be a deal. Every public sign I see makes me think there won’t.
At the end of October, De Gucht, a former Belgian foreign minister, sat down for a webcast interview with an EU journalist about the negotiations. His body language was comical. “I hope that we can finish these negotiations by the end of the year,” he said. “That’s the day after tomorrow, hmm?” Translation: that deadline is really freaking close.
So, he said, Fast would come to Brussels. “But we should have no illusions. There are still a number of difficult issues to tackle. So I’m not promising anything. But we will make a major effort to close the deal before the end of the year. That’s what we are going to do. But there are a number of issues I believe that you can only resolve at the political level. That’s why . . . we will have a ministerial [meeting] to, yeah, to close the deal, I mean to sort it out and do the necessary political arbitration.”
Pro tip: if an automobile salesman describes his product to you in similar halting terms, don’t buy the car.
Two weeks later, De Gucht was sounding far more chipper. “I expect to conclude a comprehensive agreement with Canada very soon,” he told a business audience in Mexico. “Even more crucially, it is possible that we will start talks for a deep free trade agreement with the United States, if our leaders agree on this in the new year.”
But now it was Harper’s turn to sound less than bullish. “There’s a lot of roadblocks out there in all these relationships, China, India, the negotiations with the European Union, the Americas strategy,” he told the Toronto Star. “Frankly, because of all the impediments, my judgment is that we have to go hard on all fronts and see what actually progresses.”
Why does it matter? Because the so-called Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe is the biggest and oldest trade file on the government docket. Jean Charest started pushing European contacts to take the idea seriously during his first term as Quebec premier, in 2006. Harper came on board in early 2007. Negotiations began in 2009, after a preliminary study suggested an agreement could be worth $12 billion a year to Canada. Back then, Stockwell Day was the trade minister and he said he’d like to see negotiations conclude by the end of 2010. They slipped, and slipped again, and slipped some more, and now it’s two years later.
Why is it so hard? A Canada-EU CETA would be much more ambitious in opening markets in services, investment and government procurement than the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. A broad range of domestic interests on both sides would rather keep those markets closed. And the opponents of CETA have been far more effective at mobilizing opposition than its proponents have been at mobilizing support.
The nationalist Council of Canadians lists more than 70 municipalities and municipal organizations that have debated local resolutions demanding that they be exempted from CETA’s procurement provisions. They want the right to prefer local contractors instead of letting European firms bid. Then there are CETA negotiators’ proposals to extend patent protection on Canadian pharmaceuticals to match European protections, which would tend to drive up the cost of prescription medication. Finally, farmers whose products are supply-managed don’t want to open the Canadian market to an avalanche of European dairy and other products.
I’ve talked to a succession of Harper trade ministers who didn’t buy any of those arguments. Harper devoted several days to pitching CETA on the campaign trail last year because he sees his support for trade as a key contrast with the NDP and other opposition parties.
But Harper has tried to play this file differently from the way Brian Mulroney played the Canada-U.S. free trade wars. He thought he could low-bridge CETA, keep the whole process low-key, avoid ratcheting up the tension. Now the deal’s opponents have outflanked him on every side. He can still storm ahead, reach a deal and pass it with nobody else’s approval.
But Harper has had a rough several weeks over far more obscure trade files than CETA. Something, or a bunch of somethings, has made this negotiation drag on twice as long as the government ﬁrst hoped. All those somethings remain. It’ll be an interesting end to a long year for this Prime Minister.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 12:21 PM - 0 Comments
[UPDATED with comment from Ed Fast's office, below - pw]
We’re all chuffed at news that Matthew Kronby has found new work at Bennett Jones. It’s a great law firm, and we’re sure Bennett Jones is right when they say his appointment “solidifies” its “position as a leader” in trade law. After all, Matthew Kronby was the government of Canada’s lead lawyer on the CETA trade deal with Europe and —
— Wait. What?
By John Geddes - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 1:45 PM - 0 Comments
It can’t be a good moment for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to have the U.S. welcoming Mexico into the free trade talks called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, given that the Canadian government has been pleading for a seat at that particular negotiating table.
News that Mexico, but not necessarily Canada, would be admitted to the TPP process during the G20 summit on Mexican soil at Los Cabos this week was broken last week by a specialized Washington online trade newsletter. Asked about that report last week, International Trade Minister Ed Fast’s press secretary, Rudy Husny, declined to “comment on speculation.”
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 6:51 PM - 0 Comments
A group called the Quebec Network on Continental Integration has posted the latest documents from the negotiations toward a Comprehensive Enhanced Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union. This led to a Presse Canadienne story tonight (in French) pointing out what was already pretty obvious, but still intriguing: that if a deal goes ahead, it will require provincial governments and municipalities, which are provincial creatures, to open bidding for government contracts to European firms.
So if you’re the Corporation of the Town of Hypothetical and you want to but out a contract for stationery supplies, or rapid transit, or whatever, you must permit European firms to compete on an equal footing with local contractors of long standing. The ones that employ your electors. The ones that may have donated to your campaign. Continue…
By Kathleen Harris - Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is already being hailed as the landmark deal of a generation
After nearly three years of measured, cordial talks, negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic are privately hunkering down to deal with the finer points of a high-stakes international trade game.
Most details remain under wraps after the recent completion of the ninth formal round of negotiations, but the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is already being hailed as the landmark deal of a generation. For Canada, it represents the biggest, most significant bilateral initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, and in the words of International Trade Minister Ed Fast, it is, “by far, Canada’s most ambitious trade agreement.”
“It offers huge opportunities,” Fast says. “It’s an expansive agreement that is not only restricted to goods. It will include services, it will include procurement, it will include investment provisions. We expect it will also include provisions on the environment and on labour. This may become the gold standard agreement if we do this right.” Fast insists the Canadian government won’t be boxed in by any set deadline, but officials are quietly eyeing a mid-2012 completion date.