On August 5, the Harper Government announced that negotiators working on Canada's Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union have finalized the long-awaited text of the free trade deal. The announcement comes after protracted negotiations and disagreements over a wide range of "technical issues" following an agreement in principle struck last October. The provinces are now being consulted in the details and the deal will also go to the EU’s 28 countries where its reported 1,500 pages will be translated into 24 different languages and reviewed by lawyers, a process leading up to eventual ratification, which is expected to take up to two years.
For the past several months, talks aimed at resolving outstanding issues including financial services, intellectual property rights and tariff quota management for cheese, beef and pork imports, appeared to have stalled. There was even some panic in business circles recently when press reports in Europe claimed that Germany was poised to reject CETA in its current form over objections to clauses in the deal outlining the legal protection offered to firms investing in the EU.
But now, with negotiations successfully hammered out and text of the agreement complete, the most significant trade deal since NAFTA is certain to be a key part of the Harper government's re-election strategy as it seeks to leverage claims that access to the EU’s $17-trillion economy will boost Canada's GDP by $12 billion and create 80,000 jobs across the country. Once implemented, 98 percent of EU and Canadian tariffs will be eliminated immediately. That includes 95 percent of EU tariffs on agriculture products such as grains and fruit. Other tariffs and restrictions will be phased out over seven years.
A statement released following the announcement said that Prime Minister Harper and International Trade Minister Fast "will lead a trade mission to the United Kingdom in early September to secure the jobs and first-mover competitive advantages the historic Canada-EU trade agreement creates.”
Planning is also underway for a signing ceremony at a Canada-EU summit to be hosted in Canada sometime in late September.