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NEWS: Van Loan says CETA could be signed within 18 months

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “Canada is optimistic that it can sign a free trade agreement with the European Union before the end-2011 target, International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan said Thursday.”

“The two sides have concluded three rounds of negotiations, with a fourth planned for (July 12-16 in Brussels) and a fifth (round on October 18-22 in Ottawa) …(Van Loan) said he doesn’t foresee negotiations extending beyond the fifth round. …(Van Loan added the) fourth and fifth rounds of negotiations will wrestle with the ‘really difficult issues.'”
“This will be followed by a ‘stock-taking exercise’, and then a political and drafting phase that had been expected to take a year, Van Loan said.”

“(Van Loan also) said the two sides have set aside ‘sticky’ matters for discussion later…”

The Wall Street Journal article does not elaborate on what the ‘sticky’ matters are. But we could guess that those matters might include European opposition to Canadian agricultural marketing boards and their concerns with the domestic procurement aspects of Ontario’s Green Energy Act. It could also include their opposition to Canada’s desire to see their laws on genetically-modified organisms weakened to allow our GMO exports into their markets. It may even include growing uneasiness within the European Parliament of Canada’s promotion of the tar sands and the Harper government’s weak emission reduction targets and obstructionism at international climate talks.

As noted at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3470, Council chapters are working in their communities to have municipal resolutions passed expressing concerns about CETA. Those concerns could then be raised in various forums including at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual meeting on May 28-31 in Toronto.

We have also begun planning for a major intervention at the European Parliament in Brussels the week of the fourth round of talks on July 12-16. This could include a deputation to the EP’s international trade committee on July 13, one-on-one meetings with as many Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) as possible, media outreach, and working with allies such as the European Federation of Public Services Unions (EPSU).

We also want to organize a major rally with national leaders and European speakers during the fifth and final round of talks in Ottawa on October 18-22, which take place on the eve of our 25th annual general meeting on October 22-24 in the capital.

And during this period and throughout 2011, we will continue to call for the draft negotiating text to be released, for greater transparency on the demands and offers being made, as well as demanding public input during the stock-taking exercise and the political and drafting phase, for parliamentary debate, and for the ten demands in this declaration to be met, http://canadians.org/trade/documents/CETA/TJN/Declaration-04-18-10.pdf.