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NEWS: 19 cabinet ministers promote CETA today as deal falters

On Monday, National Post columnist John Ivison wrote, “Conservatives have noted that opposition to the (Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) is rallying around leftist civil society and labour groups like the Council of Canadians and the CAW, who are stirring up discontent at municipal level by suggesting that under the deal, all local procurement will have to be offered up for tender internationally. …The Tories intend to rectify the situation later this week, when ministers will fan out across the country to sell the deal to Canadians, claiming it will benefit every region. Government sources say they will be spelling out those benefits and attempting to dispel the ‘falsehoods’ raised by their opponents.”

Then on Thursday, the Toronto Star reported, “On Friday, cabinet ministers will be speaking across the country to boost the benefits of the trade deal to ‘workers and businesses in every region of the country’, according to a news release. (Foreign minister John) Baird and (trade minister Ed) Fast will speak in Ottawa while other ministers will fan out to the other provinces to give their sales pitch.” To see Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew’s action alert to counter today’s offensive by Baird, Fast and seventeen other cabinet ministers, go to weblink.

Trouble brewing for CETA

1. Municipal opposition
Trew has highlighted, “Nearly 60 cities, towns and school boards have called for more information on the negotiations and a say in the outcome. At least 33 have asked to be excluded from CETA altogether to protect their democratic rights to set social policy and spending priorities without fear of corporate challenges.” The Council of Canadians will continue to encourage more municipal resolutions with cities calling for an exclusion from CETA, http://canadians.org/action/2011/CETA-resolution.html.

2. Provincial opposition
National Post columnist John Ivision has also noted, “From the government’s point of view, a deal in 2012 is crucial, particularly given the prospect of new provincial governments in Quebec City and Victoria who may be less sympathetic to the trade agenda.” It should be remembered that in 2005, when a Canada-EU free trade deal was last attempted, the lack of a unified position among the federal government and the provinces led to the Europeans walking away from the talks.

3. European opposition
The Toronto Star notes, “(The) passage of the deal requires not just the approval of the European Parliament but the individual EU member nations…”

-European Parliament: More than 100 Members of the European Parliament have signed a statement that says CETA should not move forward unless Canada withdraws its challenge at the World Trade Organization of the European Union ban on Canadian seal products. MEPs have also raised concerns about the environmental damage caused by the tar sands, the willingness of municipalities to open up their procurement contracts, the impact of intellectual property rules on the price of generic drugs, Canada’s continued export of asbestos, among other issues. 369 MEPs voting against CETA would derail the ratification of the deal. As noted above, more than 100 have already said that CETA should not move forward unless the WTO challenge against the seal hunt is dropped. That means we need another 269 MEPs need to oppose CETA.

-European countries: “Canada’s desire for a sweeping free trade pact with the European Union is unlikely to happen unless Ottawa drops its visa requirements for three European countries, the EU ambassador warns. And three of those countries — Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania — are unlikely to endorse the trade pact unless Canada lifts its visa requirement on their citizens, said Matthias Brinkmann, the EU’s ambassador in Canada. …Canada slapped the visa requirement on the Czech Republic in particular in 2009 to stem an influx of Roma refugees. Ottawa is hoping sweeping immigration reforms proposed earlier this year will discourage claimants and allow the visa restrictions to be lifted, eliminating the stumbling block on its free trade agenda.”

4. Tricky issues
“Negotiations on the trade deal are continuing though the trickiest issues have been left to the final stages (says the EU ambassador to Canada). That includes talks on agriculture, which EU officials conceded are ‘always the hardest to deal with’. The Europeans said they are not interested in pressing Canada to abandon its supply management over things like dairy products. But they want greater access to the Canadian market by boosting a quota that hasn’t changed in years. And the quid pro quo would be greater access for beef and pork producers to the European market. …However some EU officials said the trade-offs could come in other areas as well, such as intellectual property or public procurement.”

It had been expected that CETA would be signed in August, but now, based on recent comments by the European Union president Pia Olsen Dyhr, it could be delayed to October or even later in 2012. Once signed, the ratification process could take another year or more, putting our deadline to stop the deal sometime in mid-2014 or even early-2015.