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Harper seeks Canada-EU deal by 2011

The Canwest News Service reports this morning that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper, brushing off concerns that Europeans’ distaste for Canadian sealing practices might ‘contaminate’ transatlantic relations, announced Wednesday ‘historic’ negotiations that could lead to a lucrative Canada-Europe trade agreement by 2011.”
“The negotiations with the EU, Canada’s second-largest trade and investment partner, will include ‘trade in goods, technical trade barriers, trade facilitation, customs procedures and rules of origin, trade in services, investment, central and sub-central government procurement, food safety and animal and plant health measures, regulatory co-operation, intellectual property, competition policy, dispute settlement and sustainable development,’ according to a Canadian government news release.”

The Globe and Mail adds, “If successful, it would be the first time that the EU has entered into such an agreement with a developed country, and it is viewed as a model for a potential free-trade deal between the EU and the United States.”

The Globe and Mail also reports, “Quebec showed its determination to play its own major role in the talks, naming former Parti Québécois premier Pierre-Marc Johnson as the province’s ‘chief negotiator’.”

“(Mr. Johnson has) been asked to advance Mr. Charest’s vision of Canadian federalism, in which provinces act as partners with Ottawa in major decisions, rather than spectators.”

“Mr. Charest promised there would be no implementation of a treaty unless the provinces were on board. ‘It is the first time that our role is formally recognized to ensure successful negotiations,’ he said. ‘It can’t be just presence, it has to be influence.'”

“As chairman of the Council of the Federation, Mr. Charest obtained support from all the provinces – except Newfoundland and Labrador – for a trade deal with the EU. That provincial split was further strained when the European Parliament voted 550-49 earlier this week to ban seal products.”

“Newfoundland politicians have suggested that Ottawa will be abandoning the province if it does not demand the EU drop the ban. Mr. Harper said yesterday that his government is vigorously defending the sealing industry both domestically and internationally, but also said he would not allow Europe’s ban on seal products to ‘contaminate’ a potential trade deal.”

“Trade Minister Stockwell Day…said that the government will appeal the (EU) decision to the World Trade Organization.”

Canwest also reports this morning that, “Harper reaffirmed the government’s plan to sign the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and announced the signing of a separate agreement to harmonize civil aviation safety regimes on Wednesday at the Canada-EU Summit in Prague.”

“When the deal is ratified, Phase 1 will permit unrestricted direct services between Canada and the EU, without any limitations on the number of flights operated or the prices to be offered. The federal government has also taken steps to implement Phase 2 of the agreement to enable European investors to own up to 49 per cent of a Canadian carrier’s voting equity, an increase from the current 25 per cent… (With Phase 3) European and Canadian carriers will be expected to grant full rights to operate within markets, including between points in the territory of the other party, which is known as cabotage.”

“Louis Ehrlichman, research director at the Toronto-based International Association of Machinists, which represents Air Canada employees, said it’s more likely further consolidation of the industry will flow from deregulation…”

“Harry Gow, founding president of the Transport 2000, a consumer-advocacy organization specializing in air travel, is doubtful Canada’s ‘fragile’ airline industry will thrive.”