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NEWS: Fifth round of CETA talks begin amid media reports of its demise

Canada and the European Union begin the fifth round of talks on the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in Ottawa today. But the Globe and Mail’s London-based columnist Doug Saunders writes that the $1.3 billion no-bid contract to Bombardier to build Montreal subway cars “may have destroyed the trade deal.”

The Canadian Press reported earlier this month that, “The downside (of this no-bid contract) is that (Quebec premier Jean) Charest, who likes to portray himself as an ardent supporter of free trade between Canada and the European Union, is being accused of squeezing out a European competitor.” The Vancouver Sun reported that Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has written Charest “expressing his annoyance” that a Spanish firm was excluded from the bidding process. And CW Media reported that, “Armand De Mestral, who teaches international trade law at McGill University… said the province’s move threatens Canadian efforts to strike a free-trade deal with the European Union. …He said the EU has always argued that access to provincial service markets and to provincial contracts is essential to any free-trade agreement.” De Mestral says of Charest’s decision, “It’s totally contradictory to everything that the negotiation is about. It couldn’t be any more flagrantly in violation of the whole purpose of the agreement.”

Saunders also wrote this weekend about the Harper government’s failed UN Security Council bid and how European countries may not have backed the Canadian government during the votes for this seat for various reasons, including:

1- “A week earlier, members of the European Union – who’ve spent the past year in free-trade talks with Ottawa, surely a matter of core Conservative principle – watched as Quebec-based Bombardier (with a token French partner) was given a $1.3-billion no-bid contract to build Montreal subway cars, despite more competitive-looking offers (never considered) from Chinese and Spanish companies. That contract may have destroyed the trade deal; it certainly caused many of the 27 EU member states to go to New York with a certain idea of Canada.” More on this at http://www.canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4869.

2- “UN members, including influential ones such as Britain and France and the United States, did ask themselves what Canada was actually doing… On the Middle East, Mr. Harper’s ministers cut themselves out of the game. They didn’t help the interests of Israel; instead, for short-term political gain, they gave almost lone backing to the partisan views and extreme actions of the coalition government that happened to hold power there at the moment – a coalition containing the most fringe religious fundamentalist parties and opposed by a large majority of Israelis. To satisfy one faction, Canada lost any future role in helping the country or its region.”

3- “On aid, our stated principles were solid but our shift of funds out of the eight poorest African states – right in the midst of the Security Council bid – infuriated not just Africa’s 47 states but also Europeans, who are struggling with their own African development goals.”

4- “The same happened in climate change…” The European Union has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and are demanding that Canada make comparable commitments. Under Harper, Canada’s carbon emissions will actually continue to rise over this period.

5- “…and financial reform (where we were, remember, the spoilers at the G20 summit)…” Germany, France, and the United Kingdom reportedly all supported some form of a tax on banks that “could be used to bail out the financial system in the event of another crisis.” The Harper government strongly opposed this at the G20 summit in Toronto this past June.

Saunders’ column can be read at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/canada-said-things-but-just-wasnt-there/article1759478/.