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NEWS: Where are the provinces on CETA?

Much has been made about the need for provincial approval of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and their involvement for that reason in these negotiations. The Vancouver Sun reports that, “Canada’s ability to boost its economy with an ‘ambitious’ free-trade agreement with Europe is being stymied due to disagreements on the extent to which governments should open up procurement contracts to foreign bidders, says a business lobby group. A divergent approach between foot-dragging Ontario and Quebec against the more aggressive West is expected to be a source of conflict behind closed doors in Brussels next week as about 100 federal and provincial negotiators cross swords with their European Union counterparts.”

WESTERN PROVINCES: “The four western Canadian provinces are ready to open the door to major European Union corporations seeking government contracts for goods and services, said Jason Langrish, executive director of the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business. …The four western provinces are ready to open the door to EU bidding for not only provincial government contracts but also for Crown corporations, utilities and goods and services contracts in the so-called MASH sector – municipalities, academic institutions, school boards and health. …’The western provinces have brought a higher degree of ambition into negotiations than their counterparts. This reflects the composition and openness of the western economies, and the degree to which they are committed to growth abroad,’ Langrish told Postmedia News in an email.”

QUEBEC: “Several studies have predicted a sharp increase in trade if the deal, first championed by Quebec Premier Jean Charest, is sufficiently far-reaching. Hugo D’Amours, Charest’s spokesman, said in a statement ‘we want to have an agreement as large and open as possible. The negotiations are well advanced and at this point we are not surprised that there is some issues… We are confident that the negotiations will be successful and that we will all reach an agreement.'”

ONTARIO: “Ontario Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello was unavailable to comment. ‘I can tell you that Ontario is an active participant at the talks and determined to protect the interests of Ontarians in all sectors of our economy,’ said spokesman Tim Weber.”

ONTARIO AND QUEBEC: “But Ontario and Quebec are dragging their heels on the crucial procurement issue, according to Langrish. Ontario is reluctant to make an aggressive offer involving municipalities, while Quebec’s concerns include giving European countries the right to compete for Hydro-Quebec contracts. …Ontario and Quebec ‘have yet to show the same level of ambition, even though they will be by far the largest beneficiaries of the agreement’ (says Langrish). …’Quebec and Ontario have older, more established economies with entrenched interests that are politically active and are resisting some of the reforms put forth in the CETA,’ (Langrish) told Postmedia. ‘In an Ontario election year, and with Charest with his challenges in Quebec, it can make it more difficult to move forward. Also, the Canadian manufacturing sector is based in Central Canada and has taken a big hit over the years. So some components, notably on the union side, are opposing the CETA.'”

It should be noted that European Union countries have been very critical of the Charest government’s untendered contract with Bombardier for subway cars, see http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4869. The European Union has also previously identified Ontario as the biggest obstacle to CETA, see http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3181.

ATLANTIC: Although this article does not mention the Atlantic provinces, there has been tension related to CETA and Newfoundland given the seal hunt controversy, see http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4390.

The article also notes, “Various limits and thresholds are expected to be established by both sides. Europe, for instance has said it can’t agree to open contracts for transatlantic bidding below $8.5 million for construction projects, $300,000-$400,000 for government goods and services, and $600,000-$700,000 for Crown corporations, utilities and other government entities.”

The Postmedia article is at http://www.vancouversun.com/business/concerns+holding+trade+talks+roundtable+says/4110474/story.html.