Trudeau seeks free trade with Mercosur bloc, online comment deadline May 29

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Argentina's President Mauricio Macri talk trade, November 2016.

Like the Harper government before it, the Trudeau government is now seeking a free trade agreement with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the four countries that make up the Mercosur trading bloc.

The Canadian Press reports, "The previous Conservative government also sought a trade deal with the South American bloc, holding rounds of talks in 2012."

And CBC adds, "Technical delegations met in Argentina, the country currently serving as chair of the group, earlier this month to help assemble the framework for formal negotiations. A South American media report said delegates exchanged information on their respective goods and services markets, non-tariff barriers, animal and plant sanitary regulations, investments, government procurement, labour issues and environmental regulations."

An online public consultation announced yesterday will conclude on May 29.

On its website, Global Affairs notes, "The focus of consultations is to determine how Canada should best proceed regarding a possible FTA with MERCOSUR. This would include how to best improve market access, legal certainty and transparency for Canadian business, but also to understand any other related issues and concerns that are relevant when considering a possible FTA."

The department says it is particularly looking for feedback in these areas: rules of origin, trade in services, restrictive regulatory measures, technical barriers to trade, non-tariff barriers, restrictions on foreign ownership, state-owned enterprises, intellectual property, and "preferred approach to trade remedies".

Trade with Argentina
In November 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Buenos Aires to talk trade with Argentina's President Mauricio Macri.

The Canadian Press reported at that time, "Trudeau said he and Macri would work together at the World Trade Organization to promote a 'progressive and inclusive' trade agenda. Trudeau told reporters the two countries would collaborate on mining operations, renewable energy and nuclear science for energy production, and that Canada would help resettle 3,000 Syrian refugees in Argentina by providing advice on private sponsorship, security screening and integration. Macri also said he expected Canadian companies to be interested in investing in his country's infrastructure program, which he compared to the multi-billion, multi-year program the Liberals are undertaking."

Lessons from the European Union debate
In March 2016, The Financial Times reported, "Almost half of the countries in the EU have risen up in open revolt against the European Commission’s plans to revive a long-stalled trade deal with Latin America’s Mercosur bloc. Countries opposing the exchange of offers argue that the EU has not conducted a full impact assessment to evaluate the cumulative effect of upcoming trade deals with other big agricultural powerhouses such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They also argue that there is a danger of increased environmental damage - with EU farms at risk of being replaced by large Latin American ranches that can increase productivity by clearing forests."

Martin Häusling, a member of the EU parliamentary committee on Latin America for the German Green Party, has stated that talk of a EU-Mercosur free trade agreement has been "extremely polarizing" and that he fears a massive influx of genetically modified soya beans into the European market would result from a deal.

Farther back, in June 2010, UPI reported in the context of EU-Mercosur free trade talks, "An EU parliamentary initiative passed in May calls for a ban on all cyanide in European mining market by the end of 2011 and calls on the European Commission to eliminate any direct or indirect support to mining projects that entail the use of cyanide. Mercosur delegates argued current mining processes in South America made that unattainable and the new rules would potentially block South American exports to Europe. Jorge Mayoral, Argentina's minister of mines and host of the meeting, called the EU initiative 'an attack on the normal development of the mining industry" in the South American region'."

Your comments on a Canada-Mercosur free trade deal can be sent to consultations@international.gc.ca