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Canada-EU free trade not done deal, Harper should not pop champagne cork yet

With much fanfare, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada announced that trade negotiators have concluded negotiations on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), even organizing a signing ceremony with the provinces on September 26 to “finalize” the deal.

However, the Council of Canadians warns that the Conservative government should not pop the champagne cork quite yet.

“Harper has to hold his horses. This is very early in a complicated and long process,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “This hasn’t even gone to the European Council for signature. The whole process could take years and there are many opportunities along the way for the deal to implode, as has happened before.”

In fact, the member states still await the final document. Negotiators will reach a “technical finalization” of the agreement by September 25. But afterwards, there is a legal scrubbing by lawyers on both sides, and translations into Canada’s official languages and the 24 languages of the European Parliament. Then, the agreement goes to the European Council for approval by the 751-member European parliament. After that, it will likely also need to be approved by the parliaments, and in some cases regional governments, of all the 28 EU member states.

In terms of factors that could end the deal, the investor-state dispute settlement process has raised the ire of both France and Germany. Germany, as reported in Reuters, has even suggested it might pull out of the deal because of it. Nicole Bricq, France’s External Commerce Minister, has expressed similar reservations. Like Chapter 11 of NAFTA, the investor-state dispute settlement process allows companies to sue countries for lost profits under the deal.

“While we support trade with Europe, this deal is a no-go. Companies will be given carte blanche to sue countries for laws they don’t like. This is an erosion of our environmental, health and safety rules. It will burden our health system with lengthy patents and put our drug costs through the roof,” says Barlow.

Garry Neil, the Council of Canadians’ executive director adds, “We will be working with German and French parliamentarians as well as the European parliament to derail this deal until the corporate lawsuit provisions are taken out.”

The Council of Canadians is available for comment on this issue.


CETA "Trojan Horse" stands at the gates of Parliament Hill