Domestic scandals followed Stephen Harper all the way to Europe, with reporters asking Duffy and Trudeau questions at every opportunity, but the prime minister comes back with little to distract Canadians with. Tuesday marked the end of a two-day meeting of G8 leaders in Northern Ireland, which in turn concluded the PM’s eight-day Europe tour. It was a disappointing summit, but particularly so for Canada.
Here is, in brief, what went down:
No trade agreement
As predicted by Paul Wells here at Maclean’s, Harper did not bag the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union that Ottawa says could boost two-way trade by 20 per cent. Reports about what went wrong are many and varied. Likely hang-ups include disagreements on beef exports, government regulation of the financial services sector and the protection of France’s “cultural industries”—which is a pretty bizarre term that almost certainly encompasses beef producers. Canada has blamed the EU for delaying a deal—and the EU has promptly pointed the finger back at Canada.
Meanwhile, the EU has kicked off trade negotiations with the U.S. on Monday, something that might further delay CETA, as our counterparts are likely to get distracted by that much larger prize. Also, as Wells noted, “Any concession they grant us is one they must consider granting, approximately, to a market nearly 10 times as large.”
On CETA British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “It’s now down to the last few yards and I’m sure it will be done.” But that was the same prime minister who was raving about the economic benefits of the U.S. deal this morning with no mention of Canada’s.
Global rules on corporate tax
G8 countries pledged to step up collaboration on stemming corporate tax evasion. That would include automatic cross-national information sharing on which multinationals have paid taxes where and the establishment of central registries of companies indicating “beneficial ownership” information in order to fight the use of shell companies to avoid taxation. Canada, the British press reported on Monday, was lukewarm about the latter idea.
The summit postponed to late August or early September a Syrian peace conference originally scheduled to take place in June or July. Russia quashed hopes that the summit would produce a strong, unified stance against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, by saying over the weekend it would not endorse the removal of the Syrian dictator. This, in turn, prompted a rather blunt resmark from Harper, who called the meeting, a “G-7 plus one”—with the odd one out being Moscow.
Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to a final communiqué calling for an agreement on a new “transitional governing body with full executive powers,” which was more than most people expected seen how negotiations has kicked off.