Last November, Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells wrote a piece on the Canada – EU Trade Agreement in which he expressed doubt about the ability to conclude the deal (“Everybody connected to the negotiations assures me there will be a deal. Every public sign I see makes me think there won’t.”). I was skeptical about the prospect of years of negotiations falling apart and expected the political level meetings in November to wrap things up. They didn’t. Last month, International Trade Minister Ed Fast and his European counterpart Karel de Gucht tried again. Still no deal.
While Fast wants everyone to believe that momentum is building toward an agreement, it clearly is not. Over the last year, Canada’s lead lawyer on the negotiations resigned, Canada’s lead agricultural negotiator was re-assigned, and the EU’s lead negotiator has added the EU – Vietnam agreement to his responsibilities with rumours that he will head the EU – Japan trade talks. Fast says he won’t negotiate the agreement in the media and then proceeds to do exactly that by staking out positions on agriculture and investment. The same business groups that have been lobbying for the deal issue a public letter on the agreement that does little other than promise “future support.”
All of this adds up to missed deadline after missed deadline. In 2010, officials said the deal would be completed in 2011. In early 2011, they said it would be completed by the end of the year. By late 2011, the deadline had moved to 2012. Yet it is now 2013 and Fast admitted this week that there may not be an agreement this year.