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UPDATE: ‘Consultation’ on the Canada-EU free trade deal

Earlier this week, I participated on a ‘consultation’ conference call arranged by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on the Canada-European Union trade talks.

On the call was Canada’s chief negotiator for the Canada-EU talks Steve Verheul.

During the one-hour conference call, the chief negotiator said:

– “the first round of negotiations (the week of October 19 in Ottawa) exceeded expectations”

– “this agenda is broader and more ambitious than NAFTA”

– “it involves market access, good and services, procurement at all levels, investment, labour mobility, non-tariff barriers, regulatory hurdles”

– “it’s an ambitious timeline, the second round will be in January in Brussels, then rounds in April in Ottawa, in July in Brussels, and then one more”

– “there is a consolidated working draft text”

– “there will be offers and requests at the next round in Brussels”

– “we are breaking new ground”

– “there are no plans to release the draft text”

– “there are no plans for a parliamentary process either”

– “there has been no discussion and no draft text on water, but that may come up with the requests”

– “water is sensitive for us and we would approach that with caution”

– “no big push is expected at the G8/G20, there may be exchanges but no push”

– “there’s lots of detail work to do, we don’t need political involvement at this point”

– “we will see how far the provinces and territories are prepared to go”

– “if we have a successful negotiation and we can have access, then Canadians could produce hormone free meat for the European market”

– “the whole area of procurement is of keen interest to the EU”

– “they want to get at sub-national procurement”

– “the EU has expressed concern about Ontario’s Green Energy Act, they’re not happy with it”

– “we have no interest in forcing Ontario to change its legislation or requirements, but the EU will put pressure on them”

– “we will find out how far we can go”

– “we have talked about past approaches, they’ve taken different approaches, we have said we have an interest in broader provisions, as well as investor-state”

– “they are prepared to discuss this, and are not rejecting it, but we won’t get to this until the third or fourth round”

– “municipalities haven’t been directly involved in the talks on procurement, but provinces and territories are consulting with municipalities on their own”

– “municipalities fall under their jurisdiction”

– “the FCM has been following this, but not directly engaged”

– “when we get to the finer details they may be further involved”

– “I wouldn’t hazard a guess at the size of Canada’s procurement market, it would be a reasonably high figure”

– “we’ve seen no suggestion that this will be the precursor to an EU-NAFTA arrangement”

– “I can’t speak to EU intentions, but it positions them well for that if we can address differences in standards and regulations in this”

– “not on the horizon though”

– “no target date (for the signing of the deal), but hope to finish in two years”

– “we’ll have another call after the next round of talks”

For Council of Canadians analysis on the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, please go to http://canadians.org/trade/issues/EU/index.html.

You will find many resources there including our new fact sheet, ‘Open For Business: Privatization, not higher standards, the main goal of Canada-EU free trade talks’.