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NEWS: Canada-EU talks begin in Ottawa this week

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “As 200 officials from Europe and Canada gather in an Ottawa meeting room Monday to begin the most comprehensive trade talks in Canadian history, there is great fear on both sides that the whole thing could become bogged down over the price of butter.”

NEGOTIATIONS IN OTTAWA FOR THE CANADA-EU COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC AND TRADE AGREEMENT
“Negotiators will hold the first of five planned rounds of intensive talks this week to negotiate the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, a major transatlantic treaty between Canada and the 27-nation bloc that would extend far beyond free trade and investment into the integration of manufacturing standards, government contracting, food standards and possibly labour mobility.”

A DEAL WITHIN TWO YEARS, A MAJOR PUSH AT THE G8 IN HUNTSVILLE
“Officials hope to have all bargaining positions on the table by the end of this year and the CETA deal fully negotiated within two years, with a major push at next year’s G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario.”

“European officials said in briefings that even with a successfully negotiated deal, CETA could take years longer to get ratified, because of objections by EU member countries to Canada’s climate-change policies, seal-hunting practices and visa restrictions.”

PROVINCIAL SUPPLY MANAGEMENT A STUMBLING BLOCK
“The toughest sticking-point in negotiations this week, both sides say, will likely be the dairy farmers of central Canada (Ontario and Quebec), who are threatening to derail the entire deal over the relatively small matter of agricultural subsidies and the sale of butter and cheese across the Atlantic. Europe insists that its dairy industries have full access to Canadian markets without any unfair competition from within Canada. Danish, Irish and French butter can be bought in supermarkets all over Europe, and officials see no reason why that can’t be the case in Canada, too.”

“And for the most part, Canada’s farmers share that desire… But dairy farmers in central Canada, who represent a small share of agriculture, are pushing hard for protection of the government-subsidy program known as supply management. European farmers generally not receive subsidies for the production of food, and provincial supply-management programs, which mainly apply only to dairy, would be seen as an unfair competitive advantage.”

“While officials in Canada’s Conservative government have stressed that they are ‘keeping supply management off the table’ and protecting it from trade, European officials say that this position could prove to be a deal-breaker.”

THE PROVINCES ARE AGREED ON PROCUREMENT
“In 2005, talks aimed at a more limited deal broke down over provinces refusing to open up their municipal and provincial government procurement contracts (for garbage collection or data processing, for example) to equal bidding from any European companies that provide those services.”

“This time around, after Quebec Premier Jean Charest pushed hard to get the French government to put a deal on the table and rallied his fellow premiers around the talks, the provinces claim to be united around the deal and appear to support open-access procurement contracts unanimously.”

OTHER AGRICULTURAL STUMBLING BLOCKS
“Europeans are insistent that Canadian agricultural exports meet its standards for hygiene and purity (they currently fall short), and that Canada agree to abandon the use of European-region ‘geographical indicator’ trademark names such as Parma ham and Feta cheese, limiting their usage to products from their European regions of origin. Producers from England’s Cheddar district are lobbying to have the name limited to English exports – – possibly creating a situation where a Canadian cheese maker selling Cheddar from supply-managed milk could face a double-whammy competitive hit.”

For Council of Canadians analysis on the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement please go to http://canadians.org/trade/issues/EU/index.html.

The Globe and Mail article is at http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/eu-trade-talks-stuck-on-butter/article1328568/?service=mobile.