Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew
The Globe and Mail reports, “The European Union’s ambassador to Canada said agricultural items are the last holdout to a trade deal between Brussels and Ottawa and drew a public line in the sand over how much market access the EU could offer Canadian beef producers.”
“Ambassador Matthias Brinkmann engaged in a bit of public negotiating Thursday in comments to reporters in Ottawa, saying the European Union could admit a bit more than 40,000 tonnes of Canadian beef per year but couldn’t go much further without upsetting EU farmers. …A spokesman for the Canadian government refused to comment on Mr. Brinkmann’s 40,000 tonnes offer, saying they would not bargain through the press. …(But) officials say the amount allowed would need to significantly exceed 40,000 tons a year. Ireland, a major beef producer, is balking at big concessions for Canada. One possible solution, sources say, would see both sides agree to a phased-in quota for Canada that would enable shipments to grow over time.”
“Stuart Trew with the Council of Canadians said the media focus on the agricultural horse-trading in the EU-Canada deal – including admitting more European cheese – obscures far bigger changes afoot in negotiations. ‘The beef-cheese trade off is the least important part of this deal for the growing number of groups who are opposing it,’ Mr. Trew said. He said Canadians should be far more concerned with the potential for longer drug patents that could drive up medicine bills as well as new restrictions on municipalities to prefer local contractors over foreign ones. ‘We’re worried about the impact on drug costs, the reduced ability of cities to use buy local policies, and the ability of European companies to challenge environmental policies they don’t like. Canadians need a chance to see and make changes to this deal before it is finalized by both sides.'”
The article adds, “The Harper government is pushing hard to secure a trade deal with the European Union before the Commons adjourns in June (likely June 21 at the latest), an achievement the Conservatives sorely need to demonstrate they can ink ambitious accords that reduce Canada’s reliance on the United States.” There has been some speculation in the media that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may announce that the CETA talks have been completed at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland this coming June 17-18.