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Free Trade Negotiations: Don’t Call It a Comeback

October 25, 2010
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You wouldn’t have known it, what with the lack of coverage, but last week, the fifth round of negotiations on the proposed Canada-EU free trade agreement kicked off in Ottawa. For something that could mean so much to so many Canadians, there hasn’t been a lot of mainstream discussion about this important proposal.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), was first outlined in May 2009. Now, as talks become more intensive, there are some pretty substantial questions facing negotiators that could have very real on the ground impacts for Canadians in their day to day lives. This is because, unlike a “traditional” free trade agreement, the CETA would go further by impacting non-tariff barriers to trade, such as domestic standards and regulations. This could mean a number of things, including a harmonization of intellectual property and telecommunications rules and regulations, prohibitions on the provinces from giving preference to Canadian firms for government contracts, and an end to “buy local” initiatives. And that’s just for starters.

But Jen, you might say, protectionism is bad, vive la free market! And my response to that would be sure, there are lots of good reasons why we as a nation should try to bolster our trade relations with the EU. However, an agreement that will be as far reaching as CETA is shaping up to be demands a public discourse. It matters whether or not your municipality is able to give preference to a local waste management provider versus one from Germany. It also matter whether or not farmers are allowed to recycle their seed from year to year, or whether Canada is able to put restrictions on foreign ownership on domestic cultural industry firms. Oh, and Ontario’s Green Energy Actalso potentially a no go if the Europeans get their druthers

The last time Canada was in free trade negotiations, we had a whole election about it, remember? This agreement is just as important.  So, a fan of free trade or not, get informed, read up, and let’s start talking about Canada’s economic future.

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