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NEWS: Canada-EU free trade deal faces delays

Embassy magazine reports, “Canadian and European negotiators meet in Ottawa this week as they continue to sift through outstanding issues in the Canada-European Union trade talks. Observers say the two sides still have difficult issues to pick through, such as intellectual property rights, government procurement, and agriculture—some of which they say would require some political decisions at the end of the talks. The two sides are set to have face-to-face meetings this week and then again from Oct. 15-26 in Brussels, the government confirmed.”

“The aim is still to conclude negotiations this year. Yet some analysts say they think there is a chance the talks could trickle into 2013. …Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, said there is a lot of pressure on the Harper government to conclude the talks quickly. He said he would rather see issues not get settled this year than have the government settle them in the interests of the EU position—a move he said would undermine Canadian drug policies and municipalities.”

“Jason Langrish, executive director of the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business, said while there could be a little bit of delay into 2013, it would be important to finish the deal before the spring election in British Columbia. He noted a deal would need to be legally scrubbed and translated, and would also need to pass through the EU Parliament. Elections for the EU Parliament are also scheduled for 2014. ‘If these negotiations drag too long into 2013, they’re never going to get the deal on the docket for this sitting European parliament,’ he said.”

During the last federal election, it had been reported that talks would be concluded by the end of 2011. It was then expected that CETA would be signed by August 2012, but speculation then moved to an October 2012 signing date. Given the late-October round of talks, and the need for discussions on the “difficult issues” at the political level, it appears November would be the earliest signing date. The official signing is supposed to occur at a special Canada-EU summit to take place somewhere in Canada that has not yet been announced.

Once signed, the ratification process could take another year or more, putting our deadline to stop the deal sometime in 2014 or even early-2015. It may be instructive to note that the European Union-South Korea Free Trade Agreement – which was negotiated over a much shorter 27-month period – was signed in October 2009 and has yet to be ratified three years later (though it came provisionally into force some two years after the agreement was signed).

The European Parliament elections that Langrish is worried about take place June 5-8, 2014, so it is quite possible that even if CETA is signed late this year or early next, it might not be ratified by the current European Parliament and may face additional delays in that body.

The full article – which contains more specific, detailed information about the state of negotiations – is at http://www.embassymag.ca/page/view/eutalks-09-19-2012.