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NEWS: Harper to promote CETA in Brussels on Wednesday

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be in Brussels this coming Wednesday to attend a Canada-European Union summit promoting the comprehensive economic and trade agreement now being negotiated between Canada and the EU.

The Toronto Star reports that, “Topping the agenda for the Europeans is winning a slice of the billions of dollars in contracts that all levels of government, along with crown corporations, issue each year.”

The newspaper adds, “That could mean big changes in how the TTC buys subway cars, Queen’s Park fosters renewable energy and even how Toronto buys equipment to upgrade the water system. Indeed, the EU’s initial ‘market access’ request cites by name Toronto transit, Metrolinx, the regional transit body, and Toronto water and emergency services as among the agencies whose contracts they want to ensure are open to European bidders.”

Paul Wells wrote in Maclean’s magazine last year that the deal would affect, “municipal procurement which would allow German and French manufacturers to bid on subway contracts in Toronto and Vancouver on the same basis as local manufacturers.”

The Toronto Star also notes, “Queen’s Park officials remain guarded around areas such as transit, infrastructure and renewable energy, one area in particular where Europeans are warning against any provincial protectionism.”

The Globe and Mail reports specifically that, “the Europeans oppose Ontario’s green energy procurement policies because they give preference to local companies.”

A Globe and Mail report last month noted that the Europeans “have also expressed concern about provincial liquor-sales monopolies in Ontario and Quebec.”

Yesterday, Trade Minister Peter Van Loan singled out Ontario and urged a Toronto business audience to press the McGuinty government to support the deal. A spokesperson for Ontario Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello said the federal minister’s “pressure tactics” were not appreciated.

Some of this tension was noted in a past campaign blog – ‘European Union says Ontario the biggest obstacle to CETA’ – at www.canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3181.

In a Canadian Press report, Van Loan said the trade deal would include financial services, investment, labour mobility, and agricultural subsidies. Previously he has also noted services, intellectual property, regulatory rules, and government procurement at the national and subnational levels.

Excluded from the deal, according to Van Loan, are supply management boards, health, environmental rules, education, and social services.

That said, the Europeans are clearly interested in Canada’s supply management system in dairy and poultry, the Wheat Board, the ability of provincial and municipal governments to favour local suppliers in their procurements, and Ontario’s green technology initiative.

The Europeans also want Canadian agricultural exports to meet its standards for hygiene and purity, and for Canada to abandon the use of European-region ‘geographic indicator’ trademark names such as Feta cheese.

Canada wants access to European agriculture, in particular ending barriers to genetically modified foods.

On April 22, the National Post reported that, “Greek lawmaker Kriton Arsenis (has) asked EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to link trade cooperation with Canada to its climate strategy and its use of oil sands.”

And, “Seventeen members of the European Parliament (have written) to European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard urging her to maintain barriers to oil sands in draft EU standards to promote greener fuels.”

“Canada has already warned the EU that its draft (fuel quality) standards are too unwieldy, will harm the market for its oil sands (and could be seen as a trade barrier)… The EU appears to be yielding to Canadian demands it remove possible barriers to oil sands to avoid further damage to trade ties.”

While Mr. Harper is in Europe next week, it is also expected that the question of the tar sands will be debated in the European Parliament.

Two more rounds of negotiations are planned for July and October, and the final agreement is intended to be in place by the end of 2011.

Two weeks ago, the Council of Canadians released the draft of the Canada-European Union free trade agreement. For more on that – as well as fact sheets, analysis, and more resources – please go to www.canadians.org/trade/issues/EU/index.html.