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NEWS: Harper’s trade minister to talk with Quebec’s new minister of international relations on CETA

Photo by Le Soleil, Steve Deschênes.

Photo by Le Soleil, Steve Deschênes.

The Canadian Press reports, “Trade Minister Ed Fast intends to meet with his counterpart in Quebec soon amid reports questioning whether the province’s new Parti Quebecois government remains onside in free-trade talks with Europe. Some news reports have suggested Premier Pauline Marois may not be as much of a cheerleader on a deal with the European Union as her predecessor, although there has been no announcement rejecting the talks. (Fast) said he intends to take up the issue with his counterpart, likely Jean-Francois Lisee, the minister of international relations.”

While the PQ is “in favour of free trade”, the Globe and Mail has reported, “What makes free trade with Canada worthwhile for the Europeans is access to government procurement contracts at the provincial and municipal levels – tenders for subway systems, power plants and so on. But (Quebec premier Pauline) Marois has said a PQ government wants to favour Quebec companies in public tendering, and since that strikes at the heart of the deal, it could be a big obstacle.”

In a recent column, National Post columnist John Ivision wrote, “(Marois may) try to block the Canada-European Union free trade deal… Ms. Marois is intent on creating a new department of foreign affairs and international trade to carry out its own negotiations on trade deals. …Ms. Marois’ Parti Québecois has paid lip-service to being positive about more trade, but open markets seem to have no place in a government that advocates food sovereignty, blocking foreign takeovers of Quebec companies (such as U.S. hardware chain Lowe Companies’ bid for Rona Inc.), a 50% tax on oil development and a moratorium on shale gas development. Quebec negotiators in Ottawa say they have not received fresh directions from the new government… Ms. Marois has the potential to turn a landmark, comprehensive deal into a much less ambitious affair.”

It has been noted that, “A few positive environmental signs coming out of Quebec: 1) The new Quebec minister of natural resources, Martine Ouellet, just announced a complete moratorium on shale gas exploration and exploitation, 2) Premier confirms shut down of Gentilly-2 (nuclear power plant), 3) Daniel Breton (long time activist and environmental leader) has just been named the Minster of Environment.” Perhaps, we’ll see some positive movement against CETA in the coming days.