Just when it looked like smooth sailing ahead for CETA (a proposed free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union) trouble struck as Germany reportedly rejected the terms of this multi-billion dollar deal.
Canadian trade minister Ed Fast has probably occupied himself by tugging at his collar, repeating, “Oh boy, oh geez…” to himself as sweat drips from his forehead, but he has not addressed the report directly. However, a spokesperson of his, Shannon Gutoskie, did assure us that Canada and the European Union were making “excellent progress,” and then quickly scurried away.
So what happened? This trade agreement has the potential to grow the already existing $126 billion two-way-trade of goods and services between Canada and the EU by almost 23%.
Well, Germany got cold feet because the treaty’s investor protection provisions are not as strict as they would like: “Germany’s bilateral investment treaties contain investor-protection clauses that are far more stringent than those in the Canada-EU agreement,” said Gutoskie.
This bump has caused the freight train of confidence that is CETA to slow its momentum, and has afforded us an opportunity to examine this momentous trade deal through the lens of a good ol’ pros and cons list!
Firstly, CETA plans to make major strides on agricultural tariffs and market access. This could save Canada’s declining livestock industry, and open Europe to Canada’s growing cheese industry. It’s a beautiful thing, cheese’s ability to form bonds and build bridges. Martin Luther King Jr could have said to “judge not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their cheese drawer.” CETA will also benefit Canada’s manufacturing sector, which will make Canada a much more attractive destination for investors and manufacturers who seek to benefit from and gain access to the European market.
These terms, as well as several others, are what have been keeping this trade agreement abuzz and out of any real negative light. But, as with anything involving politicians and the word agreement, there lies a dark underbelly.
The EU is asking for patent protection for brand-name pharmaceuticals, a move that could raise drug prices in Canada, and could cost Canadians up to $900 million a year. CETA could also undermine public control over water and other key municipal services. EU companies want access to contracts in Canadian government services, as well as Canadian government procurement contracts. This means stiff European competition for the local industries that supply these goods and services to the government, from transit vehicles and uniforms, to engineers and accountants, and could run them out of business.
Though the projections for Canada’s growth outlined in the deal seem to outweigh the detrimental repercussions, it is apparent that Canadians have been left in the dark with regards to some of these issues. In a poll conducted last November, 80 per cent of Canadians agreed “that the federal government should have to hold public hearings across Canada on the Canada-Europe trade deal before it can sign and ratify the deal.”
Ed Fast and the other Canadian representatives have been carefully negotiating this deal with the Europeans, making sure that Canada benefits in every way possible, though there is still no word on whether we will be able to export our politicians themselves.