From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Sunday, August 28, 2011

No Wonder Harper Wants Us Kept In The Dark On CETA

While our government continues to refuse to let the Canadian public in on the details of the current negotiations toward finalizing the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU, they have no such qualms when it comes to Business and it's lobbyists. In late July they sent a representative to a luncheon held by the  European Union Chamber of Commerce in Toronto to brief them on the status of the talks.

Thanks to this luncheon we now have a better picture of what is in play and it isn't a pretty one. For instance it appears that they have reached an agreement on local procurement meaning local content provisions in government purchases and programs such as Ontario's green energy initiative will be barred. No surprise here as this is an issue the EU is very hawkish on, having already referred the issue to the WTO

Exports from the EU into Canada in wind power and photovoltaic power generation equipment are significant, ranging from 300 to 600 million € in 2007-2009. These figures could be higher should the local content requirements be removed from the legislation in question. The EU is also increasingly concerned by such measures taken by other trading partners.

The EU is also very keen on gaining favourble access to the urban transit systems and power generating equipment sectors as well.

Pharmaceuticals are another area of keen interest by Europe, wanting increased intellectual property (IP) protection for patents and pharmaceutical exclusivity periods,hence the Harper governments desire to pass updated copyright laws currently before Parliament. This will cost governments and employers that provide prescription drug coverage to their employees dearly.

Canada has also taken the position that provisions in CETA regarding the services and investment sectors including financial services  need to move beyond those in NAFTA 

Our government is also interested in garnering an agreement on labour mobility making it easier for professionals to gain temporary entry. Given the extent with which the Harper government has expanded temporary workers programs,we can guess where that one is headed.

There does appear to be some areas that they are having difficulty coming to terms on, for the EU it's Canada's  proposal for a negative-list trade approach in which all sectors and services will be automatically included unless explicitly excluded in the agreement. The EU appears more comfortable with the  traditional positive-list system in which only those sectors and services actually cited in the agreement would be included.

They are also having some difficulty coming to terms on rules surrounding the of origin of goods, especially those in the auto sector. Canada wants an agreement that reflect the reality of North American wide sourcing. For the EU, their  focus is on agriculture and fish plus wine and spirits. 

“We hope to get through the most difficult and sensitive issues by year end,” says the official. “There will be last-minute issues to be resolved.  But we expect to mop them up by early 2012.

“Both sides want to get this agreement done.”

The next round is slated to be held in Ottawa sometime in October.


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