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    Will Anyone Blink First? Canada - EU Trade Agreement Appears to Hit a Stalemate

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    Friday February 22, 2013

    Canadian and European officials traded public barbs yesterday over the inability to finalize the Canada - EU Trade Agreement. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said unless Canada makes some additional steps, there will be no deal. Canadian officials responded that Europe has yet to meet Canada's core concerns.  The comments come after a ministerial meeting this month was unable to yield an agreement. De Gucht and Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast met in Brussels in November 2012, but those talks failed to solve the outstanding issues. The two ministers met again in Ottawa two weeks ago with a similar result.

    While officials continue to put a brave face on the talks, the latest comments suggest mounting frustration at the unwillingness of either side to cave on key issues in order to strike a deal. The major remaining issues have been the same for months: agriculture, patent protection for pharmaceutical companies, investor access and protection, public procurement, automotive issues, and cultural protections.  Indeed, these issues were identified years ago as the major areas of disagreement (copyright was initially on this list but the defeat of ACTA removed it as an issue). 


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    European Commission Provides Update on Canada - EU Trade Agreement Agricultural Provisions

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    Monday January 28, 2013
    The European Commission has posted a public update on the status of the agricultural provisions in the proposed Canada - EU Trade Agreement. The EC says the goal is to conclude the agreement at a Ministerial meeting in Ottawa on February 7th, though reports suggest that may be overly optimistic.  The state of the agricultural provisions is described as follows:
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    European Reports Indicate Ongoing Battle over CETA IP Provisions

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    Tuesday January 22, 2013
    The European Commission hosted an information session for non-governmental groups on Europe's current trade negotiations. The Canada - EU Trade Agreement was the first discussed. Both Ends, a Dutch NGO, reports that European officials indicated that they are still unhappy with the Canadian position on copyright and patents. While the disagreement of patents for pharmaceuticals is well known, Canadian officials had indicated that the copyright provisions were completed.
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    The CETA Leak: Major Outstanding Issues Remain in an Unbalanced Deal

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    Monday November 26, 2012
    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.




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