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NEWS: WTO panel to hear EU challenge against Ontario’s Green Energy Act, March 27-28

Business News Americas reports, “The World Trade Organization is inviting the public to listen in on dispute panel hearings March 27-28 concerning Japanese and European Union complaints against alleged discriminatory sourcing requirements in the Canadian province of Ontario’s green energy program The hearings will take place at the organization’s Geneva headquarters, and the public is invited to view the proceedings through real-time closed-circuit television broadcasts in a separate room. …A single panel has been established to rule on the two claims. …The chairman of the panel informed WTO members March 5 that the panel expects to issue its ruling to the parties sometime in September.”

The WTO notes in a media release, “This public session is expected to start at 10:00 am on 27 March 2012… The public session of the Panel meeting with the parties may continue at 3:00 pm on 28 March 2012 if the Panel so decides. The Panel will also meet in a session to hear the third parties on Wednesday, 28 March 2012, at 10:00 am. The Panel will start this session by opening a portion of it to public viewing, where third parties wishing to make their oral statements in a public session will be invited to do so. The number of places in the viewing room reserved for the public will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis upon receipt of the completed registration form. Applications will be accepted until 5:00 pm, Geneva time, on 19 March 2012.”

The WTO release highlights, “Please note that any form of recording or filming is prohibited and that mobile phones should be switched off during the public viewing.”

The Council of Canadians
The Toronto Star has reported, “Calling it a ‘test case globally,’ Council of Canadians chair Maude Barlow said the challenge threatens policies designed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. ‘Why should the Ontario taxpayer be paying high rates for clean energy if it is going to the profit margins of big corporations from Japan or Europe?’ she asked. …‘This challenge could constrain governments from introducing laws, practices and standards that reflect community values of Canadians on environmental sustainability, fair trade, local jobs and justice, and local economic development.’”

That article also notes, “Barlow says the Green Energy Act is already under threat by the EU negotiations, pointing out the European Commission targeted the Ontario program in a leaked memo earlier this year, citing it as a bad example for the other provinces.” In March 2010, the Globe and Mail reported, “Canadian and European officials say (CETA’s) biggest obstacle is the province of Ontario. …Europeans say that a particularly contentious point is Ontario’s new Green Energy Act. …The EU negotiators said in a position paper they tabled in the negotiations this year that the Ontario legislation is a perfect example of the sort of protectionist legislation that would prevent European access to markets and make CETA unworkable.” Global Tax News recently reported, “The legal challenge (through the WTO) is politically challenging for both parties as the two nations are currently concluding a Free Trade Agreement. The EU decided to bring the dispute on the basis that negotiations had failed to bring about a resolution.”

Barlow has stated, “The Ontario and Canadian governments should vigorously oppose this challenge against the Green Energy Act at the WTO and halt the negotiations on the Canada-EU CETA until it is clear that such programs are protected.”