Canada-EU free trade


Not so much. “Sarkozy and Harper will sign something vague that commits to nothing.” What killed the momentum? The no-fixed-date federal election, is what. And that’s problematic, because the whole point of the strategy Jean Charest had been pursuing doggedly since early 2007 was that the best friend Canada could ever, ever have for these negotiations was a European presidency in the hands of Nicolas Sarkozy. That was only going to happen for the six months at the end of 2008 or, as we like to call them now, “the two months at the end of 2008.”

So Charest’s legacy agenda as a free trader on a scale even Mulroney could not have attained has been scuttled. In entirely unrelated news, Harper’s office thinks Charest was mean to them during the election.


Canada-EU free trade

  1. Ah! So that’s why you good folks in the MSM buried this for the 37 days of the election (except for my good friend David Olive)…
    It’s really just a non-event!
    Thanks for elucidating Mr. Wells – you crystal ball is clearly brighter than mine!

  2. As I began to point out in response to one of your earlier comments, Paranoid Inattentive Rabbit, I wrote a column about this topic 15 months ago. There have been regular communiqués about this topic from the PMO and Charest’s office, as well as the EU Presidency under Merkel, for more than a year. There are business groups in Canada and Europe dedicated more or less full-time to promoting a trade deal between the two, with websites, public members’ lists, and long, long letters easy to find. There was a two-day conference in Ottawa with hundreds of participants in May. If this was a secret initiative, they did a really, really bad job of keeping it a secret.

  3. Seems kinda convenient to blame it all on Harper and non-fixed election dates. Negotiations started in January, 2007, and it was Charest who was hoping for deal during Sarkozy tenure as EU president. I know the optics would be good, but why would Charest expect Sarkozy to come up with trade deal? Sarkozy doesn’t have that much influence within EU from what I have read and there is friction amongst the EU leaders because they have wildly different agendas.

    As well, if you read article past first few paragraphs, it talks about Peter Mandelson, who was considered the driving force behind the deal within EU and how he quit job for UK cabinet post. It says his department is against free trade deal.

    But lets ignore all that and blame Harper.

  4. Wells
    ” If this was a secret initiative, they did a really, really bad job of keeping it a secret.”

    Sigh. Coyne mentioning EU-Canada FTA on his blog was the first I’ve heard of it, and I’m a big news junkie.

    I became curious, but extensive Googling after Coyne’s mention of EU-FTA yielded nothing in the way of documents, meetings, or reports. Nothing.

    Indeed, the media chose to sit on this story. Why didn’t anyone following the campaign ask Harper about this? Why didn’t YOU? Why didn’t Mansbridge when he interviewed Harper? Someone felt the pressing need to ask Harper what kind of vegetable he’d be, but not what kind of agreement he’d negotiate with Europe.

  5. Too bad.

  6. Mr. Wells – while I regularly sit respectfully & attentively at the feet of the bespectacled master – I have to say – it must have been lost in the casualness of your throw away style!
    Maybe I should start scurrying around in the dust looking for such lost gems?
    Or – I suppose I could wait for Mahatmi Taber to carry the message in “anonymous sources” tablets from the CTV / Tabler mountain?

  7. WW,

    So, what’s your point? I don’t get it. If this had been covered by the MSM more in line with your liking, how would the outcome of the election been affected? Pro or con towards the CPC?

    The anti-free trade parties, NDP and Greens, to my knowledge didn’t raise this issue themselves through press releases, or did they? What’s your point, exactly?

  8. I did read your article, Paul, after you posted it again. But I, too, have had no end of trouble finding out about this. For example, I haven’t seen the results of the vote the EU took on some aspect of foreign trading policies I believe last Tuesday or Wednesday.

    I am still uncertain of whether President Bush has invited Sarkozy and Barroso to the States this weekend “since they are in the neighbourhood” along with Harper? Without Harper? (or Flaherty or Charest or somebody). Their Canadian hosts are surely “in the neighbourhood” also, are they not?

    In other words, did we do all the ground work for the U.S. to come in at the last second and ink their own deal, or is it just another case of the optics looking bad, but really nothing to worry about.

    Perhaps it would be a great thing for somebody to give us an online course in how to discover our own news, so we don’t have to wait for the media to spoon-feed it to us.

  9. “So, what’s your point? I don’t get it. If this had been covered by the MSM more in line with your liking, how would the outcome of the election been affected? Pro or con towards the CPC?”

    Con towards the CPC, for two reasons:

    Anti-FTA angle:
    We’re bleeding jobs to Mexico thanks to the last FTA, so Harper negotiating a new one just as factories close in Ontario would be a blow.

    Pro-FTA “Green” angle:
    Carbon trading and the environment inevitably become part of an FTA discussion with Europe, seeing as they have carbon caps based on the Kyoto baseline. Why would they have an FTA with a Kyoto ignoring country like us? So you could attack Harper from that angle too.

  10. Wasn’t an election imminent this fall? Sure, Harper was the one who called it, but were the Libs going to keep on supporting the gov’t? In the end, we were bound to have an election anyway.

  11. You simply can’t do a free trade deal in less than 5 years between two countries, let alone between one country and the EU. To think you could do it in a matter of a 2 years shows a profound misunderstanding of how trade deals are negotiated. With the EU is currently in, negotiating anything with them will look exactly like the WTO Doha round. Foundations laid in 2007 will not pay off until 2015 at best.

  12. You simply can’t do a free trade deal in less than 5 years between two countries, let alone between one country and the EU. To think you could do it in a matter of a 2 years shows a profound misunderstanding of how trade deals are negotiated. With the state the EU is currently in, negotiating anything with them will look exactly like the WTO Doha round. Foundations laid in 2007 will not pay off until 2015 at best.

  13. Call me naive, but I find these statements breathtaking:

    “The upper echelons of the Harper government say that there was no need to prepare because ‘assurances’ were given by the office of Jean Charest ten days before the election. ‘Jean Charest told us that there would be no attack during the campaign and that the Quebec government would remain discreet.

    Charest’s office even asked which files they wanted the Premier of Quebec to promote, to help us. It sent the list, but they never followed it. They said one thing in private and have done the opposite in public. It felt betrayed,’ says a source familiar with the atmosphere in the office of Stephen Harper and who agreed to speak under cover of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.”

    “Van den Hoven assumes that the federal government did not want to raise this issue in an election campaign. The European Commission requires as a sine qua non for opening negotiations that all Canadian provinces open their markets… In other words, the giants of European transportation or industry can compete on the public markets of New Brunswick and Manitoba, just like Bombardier already does on the French or German. ‘The federal government probably wanted to calm the situation,’ said Van den Hoven.” (No sh*t!)

    Both statements may be factual, but I am astonished to see them in print only now, post-election. Does the Quebec press see and report news differently from the English, and why? Am I alone in my naivete? I’m too old to learn the French language and using Google Translate every time I want news seems, I dunno, weird.

    Besides, this statement pretty much says it all:

    “And what could be the effects of the financial crisis, not counting a possible recession? ‘Nobody knows anything,’ said Van den Hoven. Some still fear a return to protectionism.”

    Out crisis-in-progress as played out in future news stories (credit John Robb of Global Guerrillas):

    “The Zombie Nation-State” Financially fragile nation-states, depleted by numerous and massive bail-outs, now dominate the global landscape. What happened?

    “The American Consumer RIP” Massive debt and diminishing incomes have killed the American consumer. We explain why the death of the American consumer will remake the global economy.

    “The Incredible Shrinking DoD” How the US Department of Defense, which once controlled a budget as big as the rest of the world combined, will soon be less

    than half of its previous size.

    “Why Did China Fail?” The collapse and subsequent split up of China caught the entire world by surprise. In this article, we explore the connection between the end of American consumerism and political failure in China.

  14. Pete,

    I don’t follow your logic. I have seen anti-Nafta (Green) supporters point to the EU model as a basis for renegotiating NAFTA. Recognizing that their (EU)union was post Canada/US FTA, and they had the benefit of the pioneering efforts of Canada and the US, a EU type parliament and common currency for North America is not in the cards.

    However, if you were one to point to the EU as a “model” union, would it not be better for Canada to engage further with the EU and less with the US/Mexico(NAFTA)? Included in that argument would be the Green point you raise: “Why would they have an FTA with a Kyoto ignoring country like us?” A Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement would be beneficial to reduce the impact/importance of NAFTA, no?

    As per your suggestion that “We’re bleeding jobs to Mexico thanks to the last FTA”, I would suggest that the emergence of China as a provider of cheap labour has exceeded everyone’s expectations, including Mexico’s. Blaming this on NAFTA seems to be coming from an un-updated playbook from the late 80’s, early 90’s.

  15. Btw, just as a reminder, it has been the rallying cry for quite some time by environmentalists and fear mongerers (hello Elizabeth May)that NAFTA compromises Canada’s sovereignty on the environment etc. – forcing us to harmonize downwards to the lowest common denominator.

    So, for example, according to them, Canada would be unable to take unilateral actions on the environment such as, I don’t know, this:

    The federal government is expected to add bisphenol A, the widely used ingredient in polycarbonate plastic, to the country’s list of toxic substances as soon as Saturday, becoming the first country in the world to take such aggressive action against the controversial chemical.

    The decision, made by scientists at Health Canada and Environment Canada, follows a draft proposal unveiled in April to declare hazardous the chemical, used in everything from tin cans to carbonless paper cash register receipts and plastic bottles.

    G&M today Ottawa set to move on bisphenol A

  16. In many respects, free trade with the EU should involve deeper ties that allow the free flow of workers as what happens in Europe itself. A German can work in the UK, but Britain still has an arms length relationship as far as currency is concerned.
    A closer bond with Europe could develop that would remove a major source of our consternation lying to our south. It would also allow easire access to our services and products.
    The US can’t begin to talk about such partnership with Europe as they have too many differences, not the least of which is their health care delivery models and the US’ military.
    Europe is less of a threat than it is a benefit to Canada and in this way we should move ahead quickly. Give the Bloc credit on this one.

  17. You’ll be happy to know that Our Leader has just told the world that Canada and Europe have been “Major Allies” on the environment.

    I know I feel better already.

  18. Sisyphus – El Jefe may be hoisted on his own petard on that one…seemingly one of the things Manderson was pushing for when he was Blair / Brown’s point man with the EU was to push a principle that anyone new that wanted to trade with the EU had to have equivalent environmental standards. When Manderson gets thrown a file – it usually gets successfully completed – although I confess I can’t find where the EU may have voted on that principle…
    As to the point I was making – and have been making for the last 4 weeks – [the important and relevant timeframe Mr. Wells – not back more than a year ago when they were “talking about talks”] is that – today is the day they Officially start negotiations- and it did get released – in Europe – but apparently not here. Whichever way you cut it – there are strong feelings for and against these kind of agreements – and potentially huge impact on the economy, jobs, and as Pete said above – you could have attacked Harper on several fronts…but the one I would have liked to have seen him attacked on is – the presumption of El Jefe that the average Canadian is a mushroom who need not be told anything about what he intends to do – “THREE FRICKING DAYS AFTER THE ELECTION” – that has such immense potential – positive as well as negative…

    I stand by my original position – that the MSM rolled over and played dead on this file – and along with the sleazeballs at CTV – helped re-elect Harper!
    So when I read the likes of some here tut tutting about Duffy – I ask them to look in their own mirrors as well!

  19. Yeah, anyone negotiating anything should let the Canadian public know what they are going to say ahead of time so we can have a referendum on it first.

    How do we know that Harper will not trade Newfoundland and Danny Williams to France for St Pierre and Miquelon?!!!

  20. Don’t give him any ideas Dot – he’s probably already traded away our birthright for drilling rights in the North Sea…

  21. St. Pierre is a great place. They don’t deserve that.

  22. Yeah, in hindsight trading our North Sea rights for the Larsen ice shelf was probably a bad deal, but it will probably grow back, you know – global cooling and what not.

    Besides, it was a bit of a drag hauling the drilling rigs around the UK to get to the North Sea oil reservoirs- the Scottish hadn’t noticed, but those Norwegians can be real sticklers for boundaries – probably payback for Hans Island.

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