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‘Trade’ deals elusive for Harper

The Canadian Press reports on the substantive difficulties the Harper government is experiencing in concluding key ‘trade’ agreements and suggests this might have implications for the Conservatives in the October 19, 2015 federal election. The Council of Canadians has blogged on all of these issues as you will note below.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership [seeks] to create a trading block among 12 countries on both sides of the Pacific representing 40 per cent of the world’s economic output and 26 per cent of global trade. …[From July 3 to 12], hundreds of negotiators from 11 Asia-Pacific countries descend on Ottawa as part of the TPP talks… But Ottawa is barely acknowledging the event is even happening; so much so that the Council of Canadians issued a release Friday wondering why the government is ‘setting (a) new global standard’ for secrecy.'”

“There may be good reason for the underwhelming embrace of TPP. With more than 20 negotiating rounds to date, it’s beginning to appear that the countries vying to create one of the world’s biggest trading blocks are just going through the motions.”

And while “U.S. President Barack Obama has set his sights on the Asia-Pacific summit in November for arriving at an agreement-in-principle, although Australia’s trade minister said recently the first half of 2015 is more realistic. Even that deadline may be too optimistic, say analysts, given that Obama has not secured fast-track authority to negotiate a deal from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, or even the Senate. The prospects that the mid-term elections in November will return a more friendly Congress appear slim, they note. Fast-track authority gives the White House the green light to negotiate an agreement and send it to Congress for an up or down vote but, without it, any deal struck with the U.S. can be picked apart later by special interests in Congress.”

Our media release can be read at Canada setting new global standard for TPP secrecy. You may also want to read Obama’s SOTU may signal further delays in TTIP, TPP negotiations.

Canada-European Union CETA

“The situation is not much more clear with Canada’s agreement-in principle reached with Europe last October. Officials say CETA is taking longer than anticipated to render into legal text, but observers believe the deal has run into substantive roadblocks. …One key issue, sources say, involves the controversial investor-state clause that allows private firms to sue governments if they feel they have been unfairly thwarted in their operations. Several European countries, including Germany, are said to be balking at signing because they fear they will have to offer the same arrangement to U.S. companies, which are notoriously more litigious than those in Canada. As well, the Europeans are concerned U.S. firms would be able to piggy-back on CETA to sue in Europe through their Canadian subsidiaries. Further complicating matters, committee chairs from 16 European parliaments sent a letter last week to European trade commission Karel de Gucht asking him to consider CETA, and the Europe-U.S. trade deal if it comes to fruition, ‘mixed agreements’ that require ratification from all 28 member national parliaments.”

For more on this, read Germany opposed to investor-state in TTIP, what about in CETA? and Investor-state in CETA hits “shared competence” rule.

Canada-China FIPA

“Also perplexing is why Canada has not ratified the foreign investment protection agreement with China, called FIPA, when the two sides signed the treaty almost two years ago. …Reports of a cabinet rift over the agreement have surfaced, although a senior government official told The Canadian Press that concerns about labour mobility issues were alleviated somewhat last week by Ottawa’s overhaul of the temporary foreign workers’ program.”

For further thoughts on this, see Why has Harper not ratified the Canada-China FIPA? You may also want to read Hupacasath challenge of FIPA to be heard tomorrow.

Consequences for the October 2015 election?

The article highlights, “Trade agreements aren’t usually big vote-getters for governments, but the consequences for the Harper government of failure on CETA — or having to announce further concessions to the hard-bargaining Europeans — could be a serious issue entering an election year. The federal government has made free trade deals a central plank of its economic agenda, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper all but declared ‘mission accomplished’ for CETA at a ceremony in Brussels last October.”

For more on this, see Could TPP & CETA be election issues?

To read the full Canadian Press article, go to TransPacific Partnership deal elusive as talks set for Ottawa.