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NEWS: Interview with CETA negotiator Steve Verheul

CTV.ca recently interviewed Steve Verheul, Canada’s chief negotiator on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Here’s an excerpt of that interview:

Where are the negotiations at? We’ve been through five rounds of negotiations; we’ve got two more planned for early next year. We’re anticipating concluding the negotiations later in the year. We’ve certainly got a lot done, both on text and some of the controversial issues.

What is the scope? It’s going to cover all goods and services trade. It’s going to cover investment issues, labour and environmental issues – basically, all aspects of our economic relationship. There are some 22 areas of negotiations.

What business barriers is Canada seeking to knock down? There are certainly barriers at the border, including tariffs and customs procedures. There are barriers to trade that exist in the agricultural field. We’re also looking at removing restrictions on services, restrictions on procurement by government, restrictions on investment.

It seems you’re negotiating in a quiet way. Free trade with the U.S., NAFTA, there were huge controversies. It almost seems old hat now. What is your perception of why there is so little interest in this? There’s not a fear of being dominated to the same extent, or the fears about sovereignty, which came up during the NAFTA discussion. Europe is just not seen as that same kind of a threat, by those concerned about that.

How will free trade facilitate investment? They have some sectors where ownership is limited to 50 per cent of the company by someone outside the European Union. They have restrictions on the board of directors – a certain number may have to originate from the European Union. Those types of measures tend to inhibit investment. We’re offering to liberalize some of the restrictions we have on investment. We have restrictions on the amount of foreign ownership in natural resources and utilities.

What else would we have to give up in return? One of the bigger EU interests relates to government procurement on the Canadian side and in particular government procurement as it relates to provincial and municipal governments. We’ve never really negotiated those areas with a trading partner in a free-trade agreement. The EU has indicated that’s probably their number one objective.

You say procurement is number one from the EU side. What is their number two objective? They put a lot of emphasis on intellectual property. They have concerns about our copyright protection, our enforcement of intellectual property rights, concerns about protection for patents and designs.

Do they see us as being lax on our IP regime? Could you suggest some examples? They have expressed concern from the beginning about some aspects of our intellectual property regime, particularly our copyright law which the government has tried to change a number of times; there’s a bill in the House right now. Our copyright laws haven’t been updated for some time. The EU is concerned primarily with rights of authors and performers, particularly in connection with new technology that allows you to reproduce performances.

This is mostly in connection with the arts? Or is it technical creation as well? Technical creation as well. They do have some concern about patents, with respect to the pharmaceutical industry, for example.

The full interview is at http://www.ctv.ca/generic/generated/static/business/article1853041.html.

For Council of Canadians commentary on CETA, please go to http://canadians.org/CETA.