Monday, March 25, 2013

Final Push for a Canada-EU CETA and the Coming NAFTA-EU Free Trade Zone

By Dana Gabriel

Pressure is mounting on Canada to finish up a long-delayed trade deal with the EU. Despite outstanding issues that still must be settled, there is a final push to try and complete an agreement this summer. If both sides are able to secure a deal, it would lay the groundwork for the proposed U.S.-EU trade pact. There is the possibility that the U.S.-EU transatlantic trade talks could also include the other NAFTA partners and maybe even other countries. Mexico has already shown interest in joining and if Canada can’t put the final touches on their own agreement with the EU, they might also be part of the negotiations. This would facilitate plans for a coming NAFTA-EU free trade zone and the formation of a transatlantic economic union.

After almost four years, negotiations between Canada and the European Union (EU) on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are bogged down in the final stages. Both sides have missed numerous deadlines to wrap things up. There is uncertainty when or if CETA will even get done. Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently tried to boost trade talks. He acknowledged that considerable progress towards a free trade deal has already been achieved, but admitted that there are still important issues that need to be resolved before any agreement can be finalized. Harper also explained that it would be to Canada’s advantage to sign a deal with Europe before the U.S. does. He made the comments while meeting with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault who was in Ottawa for an official visit. As part of a joint statement, both leaders said they looked forward to a successful conclusion to CETA negotiations. Before his trip to Canada, Ayrault was sent a letter by civil society groups voicing opposition to CETA and the investor protection chapter that would grant corporations the power to challenge government policies that restrict their profits.