Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and Europe faces delays

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      Even though Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a triumphant declaration last October of an "agreement in principle" for a free-trade deal between Canada and the European Union, it likely won't be completed until 2015 at the earliest.

      That's because of difficulties encountered in negotiating Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement chapters dealing with investors' rights, the exchange of services, and rules around the origins of products.

      I learned this during general overview on the CETA from foreign-trade sources in the French government during a journalists' study trip in France this week.

      I asked one of them if the dispute-settlement mechanism in the CETA would resemble chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

      This deal between Canada, the United States, and Mexico enables corporations to file complaints against governments. These disputes are adjudicated by panels appointed by the signatories.

      I was told that this was "a good question", but there's still no answer.

      However, the intention is for an "investor-state dispute settlement" to be in the final agreement.

      Negotiators have also not agreed on how to balance the rights of investors and the right of Canada and the European Economic Commission to create regulations.

      The issue is further complicated by Canada's decentralized federation.

      Under the public-procurement rules, a province must agree to open up a sector to allow a European country to bid on contracts in that area.

      For example, B.C. may allow foreign companies to bid on mass-transit systems, whereas the government of Quebec might refuse to allow this.

      Not all provinces will offer the same lists, according to the officials, but the "MUSH sector"—municipalities, universities, schools, and hospitals—"should" be in the final agreement.

      However, they noted that the investor-state provisions would only come into force if there's an actual investment. I was assured that this won't apply when there's a bid under any public-procurement process because at that point, no "investment" has been made.

      I then asked if the federal government or a local entity would be liable if there was a violation of the CETA. I was assured that the federal government, and not the municipality, would be responsible for any penalties.

      Under World Trade Organization rules, only nations can launch actions against other nations' rules around trade. This stands in sharp contrast to the ability of companies to file actions under NAFTA.

      The whole area of what services would be covered under the CETA also remains up in the air.

      Meanwhile, the issue of national origin of goods is complicated because products often include components from around the world.

      Conversely, there's a high level of agreement over "geographical indications", such as rules around use of the name "Champagne", which is an area of France.

      And technical work continues between the two sides over trade in agrifoods, textiles, and cars.

      Patent protection for pharmaceutical companies was largely cleared up last year, though there remain outstanding issues around extending rights for European companies that have new drugs in the research-and-regulatory pipelines for more than 10 years.

      In 2012, two-way merchandise trade between Europe and Canada reached $89.23 billion, according to the Canadian government.

      There was $8.16 billion in trade between Canada and France in 2012. French officials pointed out that when measured in Euros, the figure fell 3.1 percent in 2013.

      French companies employ 80,000 people in Canada, whereas Canadian companies only employ 10,000 people in France, according to the officials.

      Harper is scheduled to be in France on June 6 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of D Day, in which Allied forces successfully launch a ground invasion against Nazi-occupied France.

      Later in the year, France's Socialist president, François Hollande, is expected to make his first official visit to Canada since defeating Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.

      The trip for Canadian journalists was financed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and focuses on urban mobility and public-transportation systems and infrastructure.

      It also included a discussion on the state of negotiations with the European Economic Commission, whose 28 states generate nearly $17 trillion in economic activity.

      More than 500 million people live in those 28 countries.




      Mar 19, 2014 at 9:54am

      The Tea Party style far right wing Neo-Con Corporate Welfare Government is again selling Canada and Canadians short under the word "Free Trade".

      So Canada sorry Alberta Hog & Cattle big Corporate Farms can sell a bit more meat to the EU for that we give up easy access to cheap Generic Drugs to line greedy EU Name Brand Drug companies amongst other things.

      The Bankrupt and Protectionist EU needs Canada more than we need them.

      Under EU Law Canadians can NOT be considered for Employment there until the entire EU has been searched for an eligible employee.

      Also most Canadian Business Degrees are not recognized for example by the UK for Employment Visa's, this is protectionist.

      However this CETA is not as bad as the China Free Trade Agreement signed in Russia which gives China (if ratified by the Neo-Cons MP's) the right to by pass Canadian Laws in Canada and full access to all our natural resources, an incredibly STUPID one sided against Canada & Canadians Trade Agreement.

      The CETA is a bit less bent over and take it in the ASS but make no mistake it is SOLELY for the benefit of Big Corporate business not in the interests of most Canadians unless you own big Hog & Cattle operations or Big Oil & Gas fields.

      The NAFTA like provisions which will no doubt be given is also STUPID allowing Corporations to file suit in Arbitration Panels not actual Courts of Law against Canadians for any Environmental protections, again Corporate Welfare.

      These Trade Agreements are so one sided that a better name would be Stupid Canada Agreement on Trade, SCAT.