Earlier this month, Perin Beatty, the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and his European counterpart Emma Marcegaglia, president of the Business Europe trade association, sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso calling for both sides to quickly finalize the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
“Being conscious of the potentially lengthy delay a missed opportunity for conclusion within the Commission’s term would represent, we urgently call on the European Commission and the Government of Canada to conclude a high-quality CETA in the coming weeks,” the letter stated. The current commission’s five-year term ends October 31 this year.
“We encourage both parties on working towards a progressive narrowing of the final outstanding questions.”
The Harper Government and the European Commission have been trying to tie up the deal’s loose ends for the better part of a year now since both sides announced an agreement-in-principle last October.
Speaking to media on his trade mission to Ukraine last week, International Trade Minister Ed Fast however refused to commit to any deadline for concluding the deal. “I don’t set timetables. We are simply focused on making sure that all of the technical discussions result in a text that reflects the agreement that was reached in Brussels last October,” said Fast.
The trade minister indicated that while the “substantive issues” related to CETA have been resolved, there are some “remaining technical issues” that need to be worked out, but he chose not to elaborate. “I’m not going to get into details,” said Fast. “We have every confidence that we will be able to conclude those negotiations and I think that’s where I’ll leave it.”
The “thorny” issues still left to resolve have been reported to include financial services, investment protection, maritime services, intellectual property rights and tariff quota management for cheese, beef and pork imports. Another obstacle — that perhaps was unforeseen last year — appears to be an internal dispute within the EU concerning the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions of the deal and whether or not CETA is a ‘mixed’ agreement to which Member States must also give their consent.