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NEWS: The European Parliament’s concerns about CETA

Inside the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Inside the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Postmedia News reports, “The (736-member, directly-elected) European Parliament took shots Wednesday at Canada over the oilsands industry’s environmental record, ongoing asbestos exports and the sealing industry while endorsing progress made in Canada-Europe free trade talks. The statement, adopted by a show of hands at a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, is intended as a political statement directed at both Canada and the European Commission, the European Union’s administrative arm that is handling negotiations.”

The Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement – if signed by January 2012 as Stephen Harper promises – would eventually come to the European Parliament for further debate and a vote on approval/ rejection. The European Parliament has asserted its right to vote on international trade agreements. They have reminded “the Council of Europe and the European Commission that since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliament must approve international agreements…” That includes CETA.

The issues raised in the Postmedia News report and a Canadian Press article, as well as in the European Parliament’s media release include:

1. SEAL HUNT: In May 2009, the European Parliament voted 550-49 to impose a ban on the importation of seal products. Canada is currently challenging that ban at the World Trade Organization. “The Canadian government will not withdraw a challenge at the WTO despite a call from the European Union to abandon the fight over a ban on seal products, an official said Wednesday. A spokesman for Trade Minister Ed Fast …Adam Taylor made the comments after the European Parliament issued a resolution Wednesday suggesting the challenge be abandoned before the parliament votes on ratifying a trade agreement with Canada.” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6509

2. TAR SANDS: MEPs raised concerns about “the environmental impact of extracting oil from tarsands, due to its high CO2 emissions and its local impact on biodiversity.” Also, “Some MEPS are currently pressuring the European Commission to produce a long-promised directive that labels energy from the oilsands industry as more polluting than oil and gas from conventional production systems. The Canadian government has aggressively fought against the directive, and one media report — denied by Ottawa — suggested that the dispute could threaten free trade negotiations.” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6570 and http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3514

3. PROCUREMENT: “MEPS also expressed concern about the willingness of provincial governments to honour an expected commitment in the trade deal to open up provincial and municipal procurement contracts to European bidders. They urged provincial and territorial governments to ‘synchronize policies and procedures’, and called for ‘explicit commitments’ from those governments.” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=7566

4. GENERIC DRUGS: “MEPs also expressed preference for an agreement on intellectual property protection that provides strict protection for ‘trademarks, patents and geographical indications’ while not hampering production of cheaper generic drugs.” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6309

5. ASBESTOS: “Another (concern) was serious harm to the health of workers mining asbestos, the processing and use of which is already banned in the EU.” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=7675

In our media release yesterday, we welcomed the parliamentary resolution. We specified that the resolution suggests conditions that must be met in the CETA negotiations. Notable among them are: that the intellectual property chapter “should not negatively affect the production of generic medicines and must respect the TRIPs exceptions for public health;” that CETA not be passed by parliament while Canada is challenging the EU’s seal product ban at the WTO, and; that the EU must “drop its challenges against the Ontario Greens Energy Act’s local content requirement.” The resolution also states “that the CETA negotiations should not affect the EU’s right to legislate in the fuel quality directive nor inhibit the ability of the Canadian authorities to introduce future environmental standards on the extraction of oil sands.” And it “warns that the stricter (GMOs) regulations enacted in the EU could be challenged by private companies under the proposed CETA dispute-settlement mechanism.”

Our media release can be read in full at http://canadians.org/media/trade/2011/08-Jun-11.html. An Epoch Times article noting our concerns is at http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/canada/eu-canada-free-trade-deal-cause-for-concern-57433.html.

OTHER NOTABLE ISSUES:

1. FINANCIAL SERVICES: Earlier this week, the Financial Post reported, “Xavier Rolet, the chief executive of the London Stock Exchange Group, says Canada’s free trade negotiations with Europe ‘could suffer’ as a result of the Canadian bank-led counter-proposal to his friendly deal to merge with Toronto Stock exchange owner TMX Group Inc. ‘Brussels does not see some of the recent rhetoric very favourably when you’re negotiating a free trade agreement,’ Mr. Rolet said late Monday during a stopover in Toronto to promote his deal. ‘It does look on the other side [of the Atlantic] a bit odd, if I may say,’ he added, noting there is ‘a significant financial services component’ to the long-running free trade talks with the European Union…” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=8025

2. PROCUREMENT: While noted above, it should be additionally pointed out that, “An EU document released (in early February) cited recent research saying that (in Europe) 87 per cent of contracts for government-purchased goods and services, from fire trucks to syringes to educational services, went to domestic companies. …Simon Evenett, director of the Swiss Institute for International Economics, said the EU’s poor results suggest that ‘Canadian exporters, especially those that don’t have subsidiaries in Europe, won’t gain much from any negotiated opening up of the EU procurement market.’” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6236.

3. GDP: While Peter Van Loan has argued that CETA will add $12 billion to Canada’s GDP, a Library of Parliament study says, “The Canada-EU joint study was completed before the global financial and economic crisis and does not reflect the impact of the crisis, nor of the debt crises facing several EU member states” and advises “caution” in relation to this projection, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6128.

4. JOB LOSS: An analysis by CAW economist Jim Stanford shows that CETA could mean the loss of up to 152,000 jobs in Canada, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5110.

5. DRUG COSTS: Related to the news above, a study by the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association warns that the patent changes being sought by the European Union through CETA could potentially add more than two billion dollars to Canadian medication costs annually, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6309 and http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5985.

5. WATER PRIVATIZATION: The impact assessment also warns that CETA will open the door for European water utilities, such as giant transnationals Suez and Veolia of France, to privatize Canadian public water services and raise rates. Such companies would be able to challenge local water conservation and source protection rules, as well as bottled water bans, as unfair barriers to trade, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5864.

6. CARS: In February, the Globe and Mail reported, “A high-powered group of auto executives (Magna International Inc. chief executive Don Walker, Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. president David Mondragon, Canadian Auto Workers president Ken Lewenza, and senior officials from the other four auto makers that manufacture vehicles in Canada) is pushing Ottawa to halt free-trade talks with South Korea and the European Union… If negotiations lead to a deal and Canada gives up the 6.1-per-cent tariff it imposes on vehicles imported from outside the North American free-trade agreement, South Korean and European manufacturers would gain an advantage on the two Japanese companies. Honda and Toyota assemble vehicles here, while the South Korean and European companies do not.” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6493

7. VISA RESTRICTIONS: In 2009, the Harper government imposed new visa requirements for Czech citizens entering Canada because refugee claims from that country had risen in recent years. In December 2010, the Czech Republic responded to the Harper imposed visa restrictions by linking the visa issue to CETA. By January 2011 the Czech parliament was blocking a Canada-EU air transportation agreement over the visa row. By early-March, the European Parliament had adopted a declaration criticizing the Harper government’s visa restrictions on those from the Czech Republic entering Canada and said if the situation was not resolved soon the EU would initiate retaliatory measures. http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=7181

8. PROFESSIONAL SERVICES: Postmedia reported in December 2010, “While there are numerous areas of dispute, the delay (in offers) was caused primarily by political concerns in debt-plagued and increasingly protectionist Europe. It was thought that the deal, by liberalizing trade in professional services, could exacerbate tensions over immigration, according to sources close to the talks. …Trade Minister Van Loan acknowledged there is a disagreement over the liberalization of professional services in areas such as investment banking, engineering, law and accounting.” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5828

9. NEGATIVE LIST: “Canada…is pushing for a so-called ‘negative list’ that will declare that all services will be covered except those specifically excluded. Europe wants a more restrictive positive list that includes only those areas that are covered.” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6096

10. CULTURE: Postmedia has reported, “Brussels is also frustrated by what it considers Canada’s overly-broad definition of cultural industries that must be exempted from any deal. In particular, the Europeans want Canada to allow foreign ownership of newspaper and book publishing and distribution. Quebec Premier Jean Charest recently met (in Paris) with President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss Quebec’s unshakable opposition to any liberalization in the culture domain.” http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5828