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NEWS: Canada warns EU on tar sands in second letter

Reuters reports this hour that, “The Canadian government has stepped up lobbying in Europe for its highly-polluting tar sands industry, repeating its threats of trade conflict, a leaked letter shows. The letter dated March 18 to Europe’s commissioners for climate, trade and energy follows Canada’s denial it threatened to scrap a free trade deal unless the European Union alters planned environmental laws. ‘Given the desire for freer trade between us, it is important that our individual efforts to address climate change do not lead to the creation of unnecessary barriers,’ Canadian trade official Mark Richardson said in a document sent with the letter. ‘The Government of Canada believes this approach raises the prospect of unjustified discrimination and is not supported by the science.'”

“Though couched in the gentle words of diplomacy, the letter from Canada’s ambassador to the European Union, Ross Hornby, has left EU officials in little doubt they are being threatened with action at the World Trade Organization and possibly over the trade talks. Further warnings came in another note sent with the letter. ‘Singling out oil sands crude creates an artificial and potentially discriminatory regulatory distinction,’ said the note from Mark Corey of Canada’s natural resources department.”

“The dispute centres around EU plans to make fuel suppliers reduce the carbon footprint of fuels by 6 percent over the next decade. The EU is now fine-tuning a ranking of fuels to help suppliers identify the most carbon-intensive imports. Canada could challenge that ranking by launching a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization, where it has already disputed other EU initiatives. Canada says the standards would instantly constrict a possible future market for its oil sands — oil that is trapped in sediment and forms the world’s second-largest proven crude reserves after those of Saudi Arabia.”

“Canada’s Trade Minister Peter Van Loan has denied any link between the tar sands dispute and trade talks.”

The Council of Canadians argues that a seventh round of Canada-European Union free trade negotiations, set for April 11-15 in Ottawa, should be put on hold until a new federal government has been elected. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “Common sense tells us you shouldn’t be allowed to make major policy decisions during an election that would bind future governments. But this is exactly what would happen if the Canada-EU free trade talks are allowed to proceed as planned. The deal on the table involves a number of controversial social and economic policy changes that should be made by Parliament, after a long, thought out debate. It would be another contempt of Parliament for the Harper government to let trade negotiators from the EU decide Canadian public policy behind closed doors, and under cover of an election.”

On Thursday, Conservative leader Stephen Harper promised to “move ahead full-throttle” on the Canada-EU trade talks.

The Reuters article is at http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/exclusive-canada-warns-eu-of-trade-conflict-over-oil-sands.