Will Harper’s free trade deal with the European Union survive Brexit?
With the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, the Council of Canadians is calling on the Trudeau government to support our call for the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) to conduct an independent analysis of a Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) minus Great Britain.
We believe it is prudent for the Canadian government to delay their signing of the deal (scheduled for October 27) and conduct a new study on this ‘free trade’ deal given both the turn of events yesterday with the Brexit vote and the reality that the Canada-EU feasibility study that provided the rationale for CETA talks is now almost a decade old.
The CBC notes, “Canada does far more business with the UK than other EU countries”, “CETA was based on tradeoffs and calculations that included British consumers and businesses — compromises that were sometimes painful and prolonged”, the UK represents about 10 per cent of the beef sector Canada was hoping to gain with the deal, and, after all, the UK is the second largest economy in the EU.
In terms of the beef sector, an iPolitics article quotes John Masswhol, director of government and international relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, who says each commodity group will have to “re-assess” the value of the deal now, adding “Maybe the value is the same, maybe it isn’t. It’s too early to draw conclusions.”
Unfortunately, the CBC reports, “Early Friday morning, [trade minister Chrystia Freeland] spoke to her European Union counterpart, Cecilia Malmstrom, and reiterated that Canada’s commitment to ratifying their ‘gold-plated’ trade deal remains firm.” We believe this is a hasty position for the government to take.
That said, the CBC suggests Freeland’s optimism could be “wishful thinking”.
Their analysis notes, “The summer agenda in Brussels is now in flux, depending on how quickly the British move to begin divorce proceedings with the European Union.” They also note, “With critical ratification votes ahead, the real problem may be losing the U.K. as Canada’s political ally in Brussels, one that was very helpful generating support for the deal in more reluctant European capitals.”
The Canadian Press highlights, “Canada’s envoy to Britain, High Commissioner Gordon Campbell, [said] prior to the referendum that a leave victory could scuttle CETA because the EU would become overwhelmed with negotiating Britain’s departure.” That article also quotes Fen Hampson, a foreign policy expert at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, who says, “I would say CETA is probably dead.” A Toronto Star article quotes Greg Tereposky, a partner at law firm Borden Ladner Gervais who specializes in international trade, who says, “My view on this, and it’s entirely speculation, but we will have CETA go into a holding pattern, at least for the foreseeable future.” And a Radio Canada article quotes Doug Porter, chief economist at the Bank of Montreal, who says, “It may have gone so far that this isn’t going to completely derail it, but the widespread view was the UK was Canada’s biggest supporter and driver for this deal with the European Union and now with them stepping away from the European Union, one does have to wonder about the fate of CETA.”
The United Kingdom was reportedly a key ally to Canada in its ongoing effort to get the EU to approve two antimicrobial solutions used to wash beef and pork carcasses. Those approvals have not yet been secured. And the UK was also an ally to Canada in promoting the export of genetically modified crops to Europe.
In terms of next steps, CBC adds, “Votes in the European Parliament in Brussels can be unpredictable. Freeland has been open about the need for Canada to keep lobbying to overcome resistance to ratifying in some countries. Her campaign — and she calls it that — may be made longer, or harder, with a Brexit.”
The Council of Canadians is prepared to continue to campaign against CETA and to promote trade relations with the UK and the European Union that are based on social and ecological justice.
To read about our campaign to stop CETA, please click here:
Further reading: The Brexit vote and CETA
Brent Patterson’s blog
Political Director of the Council of Canadians