Contributing Lawyers

Canada

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross

Australia

Andrew Hudson



EU Request to Include Canadian Provinces May Be Obstacle to Canada-EU CETA Agreement

The European Union required that the Canadian provinces be at the negotiating tables where Canadian and EU officials negotiated the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. This was a good idea seeing that important aspects of the agreement (e.g., opening procurement markets, provincial standards, provincial environmental laws, provincial labour laws, many inter-provincial trade barriers, etc.) would be discussed.

However, and this a big HOWEVER, no one could have expected in 2008 that the provincial premiers of Canada's largest provinces (and therefore important market shares) would be in such trouble politically.

British Columbia: Premier Gordon Campbell has resigned due to the implementation of the HST and the BC Liberal Government is fighting for their political future. It is not a good time to make concessions to the EU (or the Canadian Government for that matter) if those concessions would disadvantage angry voters or voters who may become angry. The voters are watching and MLAs already are being subjected to recall initiatives (which also reinforces that it is not a good time to give the voters more reasons to remove the Liberal MLAs from office).

Ontario: Premier McGuinty is at a low point in his popularity and there is a mandatory election to occur on October 6, 2011. Premier McGuinty and the Liberals are at low point in their popularity due to their decision to implement the HST, ecotaxes, ehealth scandals, escalating hydro rates and a number of OPP investigations in government officers, etc. The governing Liberals are in trouble with voters. Like in B.C., it is not a good time to make concessions to the EU (or the Canadian Government for that matter) if those concessions would disadvantage angry voters or voters who may become angry. The voters are watching and they are heading into an election.

Quebec: Premier Charest, a big supporter of the Canada-EU CETA negotiations is under a black cloud as a result of various allegations of interference with the selection of judges and corruption. Quebec is also reported to be close to a financial crisis (something I have not been able to assess).

Alberta: Premier Stelmach's popularity is near single digits in recent polls. In August 2010, polling by the Tories put Premier Stelmach’s popularity at 13 per cent, but the party's popularity at 20 per cent. This means that it is not a good time for the Alberta Conservative Government to risk the livelihoods of those in the oil industry or farmers.

This leaves Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Maritimes for a future discussion. I am not leaving them out - the 4 provinces listed above give more than enough doubt as to whether sufficient concessions will be made where the EU requests.

I should note that the financial problems of Greece, Portugal, Ireland and elsewhere in the EU also make it difficult for concessions by the EU Members in sensitive areas.

The Canadian provinces and the EU Members have more that enough reasons to hold back and be more protectionist in their negotiations. We all know that if the political will for a deal is no longer there, for whatever valid, invalid or predictable reason, the Canada-EU CETA as a whole will be in jeopardy.

I have been asked whether I think there will be a deal by December 2011 - the answer is "no" - sorry - I call them as I see them.  do I think that a deal would be good for Canada - the answer is "depends on what is the deal" - sorry.

Leave a Reply

remember my information