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NEWS: Newfoundland and Labrador now participating in CETA talks

The St. John’s Telegram reports, “The provincial government says it wants to expand Newfoundland and Labrador’s role in trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union. Susan Sullivan, the provincial minister of innovation, trade and rural development, said the government has been monitoring the 18 months of negotiations to ‘get a sense of the willingness of the federal government to fairly represent the interests of Newfoundland and Labrador’… Sullivan says now that ‘to continue to meaningfully shape the outcomes we now have to participate as more than observers.’”

Sullivan says, “I also communicated to (trade minister Peter Van Loan) that while we are still in the early stages of negotiating, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador will not support the final agreement unless it best serves the interests of the people of this province.”

As we have reported in previous campaign blogs, Newfoundland and Labrador had not participating in the talks, they have been present only as observers. In February 2009, then-Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said that the federal government would be abandoning his province if Prime Minister Harper did not demand that the European Union drop its ban against the import of seal products. Williams also said, “At this point, we are not willing to sign on to support the negotiation of a new and comprehensive economic agreement with the European Union.” Harper replied that he would defend the sealing industry, but that he would not allow the ban to “contaminate” a potential CETA deal.

The European Parliament voted by a 550-49 margin to impose the seal ban in May 2009.
Canada is expected to make a second attempt later this week – on March 25 – to be heard by a World Trade Organization dispute settlement body. The government will argue that the EU ban on trade in seal products breaks global trade rules. A WTO panel is expected to be set up to hear the complaint, a process likely to take at least a year.

Postmedia reported in early February that, “Sealing and oilsands, two issues that have darkened Canada’s image in some sectors of European society, could affect ratification of the proposed Canada-European Union free trade agreement, suggests a report from the House of Commons parliamentary committee on trade. …The European Parliament, which holds sessions in Brussels, Belgium and Strasbourg, France, gained veto powers over trade deals in the Lisbon Treaty that took effect in 2009.”

Last month, Council of Canadians Atlantic organizer Angela Giles and Wayne Lucas, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees – Newfoundland and Labrador, wrote in the St. John’s Telegram that the provincial government should be more critical of CETA, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6311.