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NEWS: CETA said to be in ‘fine-tuning’ stage

As blogged by Atlantic organizer Angela Giles, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Halifax yesterday, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13048.

This morning, Selena Ross of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald reports, “The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement will probably be concluded by the end of the year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday during his visit to the Halifax Shipyard. But a final deal is rumoured to be closer to completion and may be brought to Parliament within the next month or two. …Once the agreement is announced, it will go before Parliament for further debate. …Ottawa has been briefing the (Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Standing Committee on Municipal Finance and Intergovernmental Arrangements) regularly, (Lunenberg mayor) Don Downe said, and the trade talks are now in the ‘fine-tuning’ stage.”

Municipal contracts/ procurement
“According to those familiar with the talks, one Canadian market to which the European negotiators hope they’ll gain admission is municipal contracts, including those for transportation and construction projects, waste management systems, and smaller goods and services tenders. The market includes spending by hospitals, airports, school boards and universities, according to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.”

Procurement thresholds
“Under the CETA agreement, monetary thresholds would determine which contracts could be kept local-only, said Don Downe, the mayor of the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg. Though the details of those discussions are still secret, it looks like two thresholds will be set for different types of Canadian procurement processes, Downe said. For capital spending contracts, any project falling below roughly $8 million to $9 million wouldn’t be subject to CETA restrictions. For goods and services, which comprise most government spending aside from infrastructure, the limit would be somewhere around $300,000 or $400,000. Those thresholds are similar to the ones that the World Trade Organization already has in place for sub-central government entities, trade minister Ed Fast pointed out in an Aug. 23 letter to the FCM president.”

“Canadian beef, pork and seafood exporters could enjoy a boom in profits if EU tariffs are lifted. …Aside from seafood exporters, MP Gerald Keddy (South Shore-St. Margarets) said he expects the Port of Halifax to be the province’s other main beneficiary of CETA, as it is a major gateway between Canada and Europe. For the municipalities, he said, opening up bigger contracts won’t be as huge a change as some are predicting. ‘It doesn’t really matter who builds it,’ Keddy said. ‘It does matter who runs it.'”

More on the timing of the deal
In late-December, Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson wrote, “Government sources predict that a signed Canada-European Union Trade Agreement will be in place by February or March.” Postmedia News adds, “(In a CTV interview broadcast on December 26, Prime Minister Stephen Harper) said trade talks with Europe are going well and his cabinet will be making decisions on the issue in the ‘very near future’.”

Ibbitson also noted, “Some of the terms of that agreement will be contentious. EU businesses will have greater access to Canadian government-procurement contracts, for example. And dairy quotas for European imports will probably be raised, in exchange for increased quotas for Canadian pork exports.” Significantly, he wrote, “Provincial governments are reportedly onside.” Ibbitson does suggest there is opposition in Europe though when he writes, “Negotiators also insist that the deal will clear all 27 European parliaments without difficulty. We’ll see.”

The full Halifax Chronicle-Herald article can be read at http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/51920-canada-eu-trade-deal-near, while a related article in the same newspaper can be found at http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/51932-prof-potential-trade-deal-revolutionary.

To read the Council of Canadians campaign web-page on CETA, please go to http://canadians.org/ceta.