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Canadian, European business groups make final requests of CETA negotiators as EU official announces November political dialogue

North Atlantic CEOs must be worried that Canadian and European Union trade negotiators have forgotten who they work for. This week, business lobby groups (big ones) on both sides of the pond sent a joint letter to EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast reminding them what they want out of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. They includes BusinessEurope, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canada-Europe Roundtable for Business, the European Services Forum and the Canadian Services Coalition.

There is considerable inbreeding between these groups, which is partly why they agree on so many things, in this case on 10 points “on which Canadian and European business (sic) call for renewed ambition and resolve.”

These are (verbatim but with what I think are interesting bits bolded):

– The full and rapid dismantling of tariffs for all industrial goods as part of an ambitious CETA package on market access.

Access to raw materials and energy products under fair, non-discriminatory and market-based conditions.

Removal of market access barriers and national treatment discriminations in all services sectors, through the application of negative lists.

– Ambitious agriculture package including full access for key export sectors for both sides, resolution of the non-tariff barriers impacting these sectors, and a satisfactory path forward on the bio-tech issues that have caused trade impediments without scientific foundation. Also, we look forward to reaching of a mutually satisfactory agreement on fish and seafood.

– Full tariff liberalisation and call for the delivery of business-friendly Rules of Origin (ROOs) as part of the CETA. ROOs must be clear and easy-to-use by businesses, as complex rules consume business resources, generate unnecessary opportunity costs and hamper the efficiency of business operations.

– Access to government procurement that is non-discriminatory and removes technical barriers and local content and assembly requirements. It is essential that a wide range of government procurement opportunities, including public utilities, be committed at all public entity levels (EU, federal and national, Canadian provincial and territorial, EU Member State sub-national, as well as EU and Canadian municipal and other local) on a pan-European and pan-Canadian basis.

– Robust protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights in both markets to foster knowledge-based economic activity, including fair and equal treatment of life sciences companies. The CETA must also include robust enforcement of IP rights, including the targeting, seizing and destroying of counterfeit imports and exports, and defining counterfeiting per se as a criminal offense, including fair and reciprocal treatment of life sciences companies.

Copyright reform, including Canada’s ratification of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and Performance and Phonograms Treaty and to improve its protection of copyright industries, emphasising their importance to the economies of Europe and North America.

– Regulatory cooperation covering goods, services and investment that ensure that the introduction of new regulations in Canada and the EU be transparent (at all levels: EU, federal and national, Canadian provincial and territorial, EU Member State sub-national, as well as local) and delivered through a process that provides for advance comment on potential impacts on trade and investment. The two parties to the agreement should also commit to ensure regulatory cooperation and transparency in international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO). While we recognise differences in regulatory approaches between the two sides, it is imperative that the CETA negotiators achieve mutual recognition of regulatory standards, licensing and certification procedures where possible, particularly where conformity assessment bodies and certification are concerned.

– The agreement must also ensure improved labour mobility, including mutual recognition of professional certification, as well as the use of permits and streamlined procedures to admit people under temporary entry conditions, in particular for intra corporate transfers’ longer-term assignments.

The big business letter to Canadian and EU trade ministers went online the same day as De Gucht’s interview with Vieuws, an online news source on EU policy development, in which the Commissioner suggested that the CETA negotiations may drag out into the new year because of “a number of issues you can only resolve at the political level.” (See video above.) He mentions a meeting in Europe with Ed Fast on or around November 20 where the two politicians will be “trying to close the deal but we should have no illusions.” De Gucht continues, “There are a number of difficult issues to tackle… But we will make a major effort to close the deal before the end of the year.”

They’ll be doing that now with BusinessEurope and their lil’budies at CERT and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce breathing down their necks, pushing on access to resources, stronger patent protections, and an end to “buy local” policies anywhere, forever. There is also the added pressure now of a proposed EU-US CETA negotiation, which could begin as early as March 2013. The thought of the Americans beating Canada to the (let’s be honest) backwash in the punch bowl has Canadian trade watchers and even some politicians losing their lunch, er, breakfast.

“If we fail to take advantage of this opportunity, the US are next in line to negotiate with the EU, and they are going to eat our breakfast over in Europe if they have an agreement,” Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Innovation Brad Duguid tells Embassy Magazine. Embassy has an excellent special issue on CETA in this week’s edition. Their article about the impact of the US negotiations is free but most of the other pieces, including op-eds from opposition parties and CETA critics Jim Stanford and Michael Geist, are subscription only.

The Trade Justice Network, Canadian Autoworkers union, United Steelworkers and Canadian Union of Postal Workers all took out ads in this week’s Embassy Magazine, criticizing this biggest of Harper’s corporate rights pacts. The letter cited above is a timely reminder of who these deals are for.