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UPDATE: Where might France stand on CETA?

Postmedia News reported in late-December on a “three-month delay in the presentation of formal offers by each side” in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) talks. The article adds that, “An EU official said…France (is among the countries) dragging their heels.”

Why would France be “dragging their heels”?

1- The Postmedia News article says, “(The European Union) is frustrated by what it considers Canada’s overly-broad definition of cultural industries that must be exempted from any deal. In particular, the Europeans want Canada to allow foreign ownership of newspaper and book publishing and distribution. Quebec Premier Jean Charest recently met (in Paris) with President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss Quebec’s unshakable opposition to any liberalization in the culture domain.” That’s at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5828.

2 – While France is ‘home’ to Veolia and Suez, there has also been a significant trend toward the remunicipalization of private water services back into public hands. In France, more than 40 municipalities and urban communities have taken their water services back from private, for-profit operators over the last ten years and are delivering improved, less-costly services. On January 1, 2010, Paris remunicipalized its water system after 25 years of private control. On the first anniversary of this, they announced that by spring water rates in Paris could drop by 5-10 percent. Including water in CETA would go against this positive trend and only benefit the large transnationals that profit from the sale of water and sanitation services. More on this at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5987.

3- In February 2009, the Globe and Mail reported that, despite the Harper government’s opposition to ‘protectionism’, “President Nicolas Sarkozy last week agreed to give Renault SA and PSA Peugeot Citroën, France’s two biggest auto makers, €3-billion ($4.76-billion) each in preferential loans on the condition they don’t close French car plants or fire their workers. The offer came shortly after he urged Peugeot Citroën to close factories in Slovakia and the Czech Republic to spare jobs at home, infuriating the leaders of the two small, struggling countries.” This cuts to the heart of the proposed CETA rules and disciplines on government procurement and open trade. More on that at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=169.

4 – Last April, the Canadian Press reported that, “Canada…wants access to European agriculture, in particular ending barriers to genetically modified foods.” Then in August, Reuters reported that, “The Canadian government has voiced concerns about a European Union proposal to allow member states to decide whether to ban genetically modified crops.” That’s at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6077. There is clearly a high level of opposition to GMOs within France and numerous French Members of the European Parliament opposed to GMOs, including Green MEP Jose Bove.

5 – In 1999, Canada challenged France’s import ban on asbestos and asbestos-containing products at the World Trade Organization. The WTO panel and its appellate body rejected Canada’s challenge. The WTO website states, “The European Communities justified its prohibition on the ground of human health protection…” This is a continuing tension. Kathleen Ruff recently wrote in a Toronto Star op-ed that, “Quebec Minister of Economic Development Clément Gignac is giving (a financing) request serious consideration, telling (Asbestos mine president Bernard) Coulombe that if he can find a private company to invest $15 million, the Quebec government may give the mine a loan guarantee to cover the remaining $58 million, enabling the mine to open by early 2011.” An MEP we met with in July was interested in connecting the European Parliament’s approval of CETA to the asbestos export issue. More on that at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4462 and http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4198.

Other areas of differences include, Canadian opposition to a global tax on banks and France’s support for it, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3216; France’s concerns about the Harper government’s position on Israel and the Middle East which emerged during the time of Harper’s bid for a UN Security Council seat, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5001; and perhaps on Canadian reluctance to agree to ‘geographical indications’ – names that are restricted to products from specific regions like wine from Bordeaux – in CETA.