Skip to content

Alberta should tie CETA to Fuel Quality Directive, says former chief negotiator

The Alberta government should withhold its support for a Canada-European Union free trade deal and suspend its services, investment and procurement offers pending resolution of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) debate in the EU, says former provincial trade negotiator Helmut Mach in the Edmonton Journal.

Proposed fuel quality standards in the FQD would “create an artificial barrier to trade, and, more importantly, establish a precedent to discriminate against oilsands production,” says Mach in an op-ed this week. Of the responses proposed, including a WTO challenge, pulling out of the International Energy Program (IEP) or tying the FQD to the ongoing CETA negotiations, the former Alberta trade rep prefers the latter.

“The EU should be advised that the matter of the fuel standards should be dealt with in the CETA negotiations,” he says. “To ensure this receives the attention needed, Alberta’s current contributions to the CETA negotiations – its offers of treatment of EU service, investment, and giving access to Alberta government procurement to EU firms – should be suspended, pending resolution of the fuel-standards issue.”

Mach says there are three advantages to this approach. First, it creates leverage to have the matter discussed. Second, it would produce a tangible economic incentive for the EU to consider when choosing where to go on the FQD (i.e. whether to assign a default value for tar sands higher than that for conventional oil). Finally, it puts matters into the hands of the Alberta government and not the feds as a WTO or IEP strategy might.

If the EU still doesn’t see the light and proceeds with a punishing tar sands value, Mach suggests using the rules in the International Trade and Investment Agreements Implementation Act to effectively pull out of CETA.

“This provincial legislation provides only that Alberta may implement such international agreements if the government deems them to be economic benefits to Alberta. In the absence of such a finding and recommendation, such international agreements may not be implemented in Alberta,” writes Mach, who also questions the economic value of CETA to the province:

“This provincial law needs to be brought to the attention of European negotiators – because in the absence of a meaningful solution to the fuel standards matter, it would be difficult to find the CETA as being of economic benefit to Alberta. The level of trade with the EU is relatively small, the prospects of significant expansion are severely limited, especially given the cur-rent economic turmoil in the EU with growth prospects virtually at nil for the next decade.”


If Alberta could conceivably withdraw its support from CETA, why not other provinces? Manitoba could make its support conditional on the survival of the Wheat Board. Ontario on the EU pulling out of a Japanese WTO challenge to the Green Energy Act.

The Winnipeg chapter of the Council of Canadians is asking the Manitoba government to keep the province out of the deal. They have a postcard petition campaign going aimed at Premier Selinger. We also have an active Action Alert asking all provinces and territories to stop the CETA negotiations, make their own offers public now, and make support for the trade deal conditional on informed public support.

Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson reported recently that CETA could be signed by February or March and that provincial governments are on side. Whether that’s true or not, it shouldn’t discourage us from pressing for a say provincially on CETA as the Winnipeg chapter is doing, or from continuing the support the Fuel Quality Directive by opposing Canadian government lobbying against the environmental measure.

More on both campaigns soon…