As International Trade Minister Ed Fast returns from negotiations in Europe that failed to secure a deal on the Canada – EU Trade Agreement, newly leaked documents to the CAQ and posted by LaPresse provide a detailed look at the remaining outstanding issues with details on the Canadian and European positions. The documents (1, 2, 3, 4) make it clear that the EU recognizes the deal is unbalanced as there are far more demands for Canadian changes than European ones. The EU retains the hope that Canada will cave on the EU demands since “the EU market to which it gains preferential access is much larger than its own.”
This ranks as perhaps the most important CETA leak to date, since it clearly identifies the key remaining issues, the European demands, and the massive changes that would be required for Canada to comply with the treaty. Some of the changes demanded by Europe include patent reform that could add billions to Canadian health care costs, the removal of foreign ownership restrictions on telecommunications and book publishing, the opening of public procurement for the energy and public transport sectors, eliminating Investment Canada Act review for European investments, new restrictions on the sale of a myriad of products such as feta and parmesan cheese, changes to agricultural protections (ie. supply management), and the adoption of European standards on passenger cars. This would require dramatic changes across the Canadian economy, all for what even the Europeans acknowledge are limited gains for Canada.
Given what is at stake, there needs to be an open debate and consultation before an agreement is reached (which is no longer a certainty) and Canada should be considering whether a scaled down version of CETA – one that focuses primarily on a reduction of tariffs for trade in goods – is a better model. A closer look at the some of the remaining issues is posted below.