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Ratification of CETA not likely until late 2015, early 2016

The Council of Canadians has been campaigning against the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) since it was first proposed in October 2008. There is news today that a “handful of thorny issues” may mean that we still have two more years to derail its ratification.

The Toronto Star reports, “Six months after Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to Brussels to announce Canada’s largest-ever free-trade pact with Europe, Canada and the European Union are still negotiating key aspects of the deal, with implementation possibly as much as two years away. …Canadian officials estimated (in October 2013) that finalizing the deal, fixing all the legal language, translating the agreement and obtaining approval in Europe and Canada would take until the spring of 2015. But negotiators have yet to resolve a handful of thorny trade issues and the EU now doesn’t expect the pact to be put in place until late 2015 or early 2016.”

“On the table are proposed rules related to import quotas for beef and pork, provision of services by business, investment rules and guidelines for determining, for instance, whether Canadian-exported cars with a mix of Canadian and United States parts are eligible for tariff reductions under CETA. …Another factor that is raising questions about how the final approval of CETA will go is the recently initiated talks between the EU and the United States on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).These negotiations appear to have sparked increased concern in Europe over a controversial feature of current trade negotiations — investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms. These measures allow corporations to go before an independent tribunal and sue governments that allegedly discriminate against foreign companies. CETA contains an ISDS clause and any EU-United States agreement is expected to have one as well. But, reflecting complaints by NGOs that corporations are abusing these measures, the European Commission called a temporary halt in ISDS discussions with Washington to hold a public consultation on the measures.”

“Jason Langrish, executive director of the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business, which has supported CETA, (says) Canada now must deal with an EU in flux. A new European Parliament is being elected next month by voters in 28 member states and a European Commission president will be chosen to replace [European Commission President Jose Manuel] Barroso in the fall. In the wake of the political and social turmoil caused by the deep recession in Europe, parties on the far right and far left of the political spectrum may play a greater role after the election, raising questions about what policies are likely to be supported by the next set of EU authorities.”

Both the European Parliament and “all 28 member states of the EU must also ratify the pact”.

If ratified, CETA could unfairly restrict how local governments spend money and ban ‘buy local’ policies, add hundreds of millions of dollars to the price of drugs, create pressure to increase privatization of local water systems, transit and energy, and much more. The secret negotiating process, as well as the overall corporate agenda behind these next generation deals, are an affront to democracy on both sides of the Atlantic.

We have met regularly with Members of the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg about CETA and will be analyzing the results of the May 22-25 elections to the European Parliament to further determine our opportunities to convince these MEPs to not ratify CETA.

It may also be the case given the expected late 2015, early 2016 timeline that the House of Commons may not vote on CETA until after the October 19, 2015 federal election.

For information on the Council of Canadians campaign against CETA, please click here.