Two weeks after Germany hinted at rejecting core provisions of the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA), trade advocates probably thought that the ground they were breaking was shifting uneasily. Yesterday, it fell out from under them.
The full text of CETA was posted online by Tagesschau, a news program produced by the German TV network ARD (a consortium of public broadcasters). Now, it may just be my experience with the CBC, but unless someone high-up okayed this to leak, it’s a bold move from a public broadcaster. I mean, imagine Rick Mercer leaking a trade agreement. It’s like the punchline to a joke. Given Germany’s recent hesitation with CETA, opening up a buffet for citizens’ group to feast at can only improve their standing, especially if they feel the public will demand the same changes Germany desires.
Now that everyone can see the document, advocacy groups are going to come out of the woodwork to make sure every government gets a piece of their mind. Instead of 28 vocal and unruly partners, this agreement now has thousands.
The 521 page document will take a while to sift through, but the early highlights stand out. Canada appears to have caved on lengthened patent protections on drugs, which means it’ll take longer for generic drugs to get to the market, and could cost Canadians up to $1.65 billion annually. Looks like we’ll need to do without the knock-off Viagra of the future for even longer. The government insists that they (so, er, taxpayers) will foot the cost for this. Interestingly enough, the bill’s copyright passages reflect Canadian law, and plenty of provisions we were unhappy with contain the word “may” (which appears 624 times in the document), implying that we’ll be able to do our own thing on a number of counts.
The NDP made an excellent point in their response to the leak. With over 1,000 pages of annexes not included in the leak, the implementation of the bill could still look entirely different, and they look forward to the government “providing Parliament with a verified, official text” for review. It’s a hopeful stab given that Trade Minister Ed Fast said that Canada does not
negotiate with comment on “leaks of purported negotiating texts,” and that the only official bill parliament will ever see will likely be the completed one.
Talks will reconvene in September. Given the number of angry constituency emails that these politicians will receive in the next few weeks, perhaps we’ll see an update before then.
Below is the leaked bill for your viewing pleasure.