Friday, January 16, 2009

Canada, EU Want to Launch Freer Trade Negotiations

(Canwest News Service – Peter O'Neil)

Canada and the 27-member European Union hope to launch full-scale negotiations on an ambitious trade liberalization agreement in May, International Trade Minister Stockwell Day said Thursday.

Day said he's confident Canada will meet the EU's principal demand – that provincial governments, under political pressure due to rising unemployment in Canada, will agree to open up their lucrative procurement programs to European bidders. European firms are particularly keen to gain the right to bid on major commuter rail projects.

“We don't think it's going to be difficult to give them that assurance,” Day told Canwest News Service after his meeting in Prague with Czech Industry Minister Martin Riman. “Whether we're talking provincially or federally we understand in Canada that we prosper because we are a trading nation. We produce more than we can consume, and if we can't trade then we're in trouble. Provinces, regardless of the political stripe of their government, recognize this.”

Canadian and EU officials have been engaged since last autumn in a “scoping” exercise launched by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who held the EU presidency during the second half of 2008. They have been assessing the parameters of a deal which, according to a joint study, could generate a total of $32 billion in wealth for both parties by 2014. Read more here.