Majority supports Canada-EU trade talks

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has the backing of a majority of Canadians as he launches the next phase of trade talks with the European Union, a new poll suggests.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has the backing of a majority of Canadians as he launches the next phase of trade talks with the European Union, a new poll suggests.

And federal officials say the vast majority of provinces are on board, too, despite the objections of at least one premier, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Danny Williams.

Harper will travel to the Czech Republic on Tuesday to participate in meetings with European leaders.

At the top of the agenda is the formal launch of negotiations toward what officials are calling an “economic partnership” akin to the North American Free Trade Agreement involving Canada, the United States and Mexico.

A Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey of Canadians, conducted near the end of April, suggests 70 per cent of respondents want their federal government to pursue more free trade agreements internationally.

That’s somewhat of a surprise given the state of the economy, says Harris-Decima senior vice-president Jeff Walker.

“Often in difficult economic times, people have a protectionist instinct and resist increased trade,” said Walker.

“But Canadians indicate that for the most part, the believe that Prime Minister Harper’s trade agenda is a step in the right direction.”

The poll, conducted among 1,000 Canadians between Apr. 23 and 26, indicated there is even stronger support for trade talks with the European Union specifically, with 75 per cent saying they thought it was a good idea.

The results are considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The talks with nations involved in the EU are the latest in a string of negotiations aimed at making it easier for goods and people to flow across borders, on the premise that markets that are more open generate more trade and more jobs.

The Conservative government has been pursuing agreements within the Western Hemisphere as well, recently inking a deal with Columbia that is currently before the House of Commons, and beginning talks with Caribbean countries as well as Panama.

The aim is to counteract the effects of the global recession by boosting trade in areas where countries have traditionally balked at opening up their borders to goods and services from other nations.

The talks won’t be easy. The EU has sought concessions from Canada that would open government procurement to contract bidding from European states.

There are also disputes over seafood export tariffs and the proposed European ban on products from Canada’s seal hunt.

The Newfoundland and Labrador premier issued a statement in March announcing he would not support the talks.

“At this point, we are not willing to sign on to support the negotiation of a new and comprehensive economic agreement with the European Union,” Williams said.

The European Union’s 27 member nations constitute the largest economy in the world, with half a billion people, and the EU is Canada’s second-largest trading partner behind the United States.

Canadian officials estimate a trade agreement could boost economic output by $12 billion annually. There is no deadline being imposed on reaching a deal, but those officials say they’d like to see results quickly.

Harper is expected to hold trilateral talks Wednesday with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.

The prime minister is also slated to pay Topolanek what’s being dubbed a “courtesy call,” where the two will likely speak about the influx of Roma refugees coming to Canada. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has raised concerns about the number of false refugee claimants coming from the Czech Republic.

Canada has not ruled out reimposing visa requirements for Czech nationals visiting Canada, although officials say they would prefer to settle the matter through diplomatic discussions.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe is one of three Rebels on the NHL Central Scouting players to watch list for the 2021 NHL Draft. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Rebels seek consistency ahead of matchup with Hitmen

The Red Deer Rebels had to deal with a pang of regret… Continue reading

Quinn Mason died from an opioid overdose at the age of 23 in June 2020. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta mother whose son died from overdose advocates for ‘change’

It’s been about nine months since her son died from an overdose,… Continue reading

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday that the province was ready to move forward with Phase 2A and B in the coming weeks. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Majority of Albertans to receive first shot before June 30: Shandro

Shandro says all Albertans should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine by June 30

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

Alberta’s Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer spoke on Thursday by webinar to Red Deer Chamber of Commerce members. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).
Alberta’s economic diversification is already underway, says Jobs Minister

From the geothermal to the TV industry, new jobs will be created, said Doug Schweitzer

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Philadelphia Flyers' Sean Couturier (14) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry (35) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Flyers rally from early deficit to stun Penguins 4-3

Flyers rally from early deficit to stun Penguins 4-3

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen reacts to a goal by Winnipeg Jets' Paul Stastny, left, during first-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Thursday, March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Pierre-Luc Dubois scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets edge Montreal Canadiens 4-3

Pierre-Luc Dubois scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets edge Montreal Canadiens 4-3

Toronto Raptors guard Terence Davis (0) shoots after grabbing a rebound against Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Boston. At right is Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Tatum scores 27, Celtics outlast depleted Raptors 132-125

Tatum scores 27, Celtics outlast depleted Raptors 132-125

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel answers a question during a news conference addressing hockey issues at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. The International Ice Hockey Federation has confirmed the postponement of the women's world hockey championship in Nova Scotia to May 6-16. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /Mark Humphrey
IIHF postpones women’s world hockey championship in Nova Scotia to May

IIHF postpones women’s world hockey championship in Nova Scotia to May

Quebec Premier François Legault chairs a virtual news conference Thursday, March 4, 2021 in Montreal. The premiers from the left are: John Horgan, B.C.; Jason Kenney, Alberta; Scott Moe, Saskatchewan; Legault, Quebec; Brian Pallister, Manitoba; Doug Ford, Ontario; and Blaine Higgs, New Brunswick. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Premiers reiterate demand for $28-billion increase in health transfers from Ottawa

Premiers reiterate demand for $28-billion increase in health transfers from Ottawa

The Edmonton Law Courts building is shown on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. An Alberta pastor accused of holding Sunday services that violated COVID-19 rules is appealing his bail conditions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Jailed Alberta pastor should be able to lead services until his trial: lawyer

Jailed Alberta pastor should be able to lead services until his trial: lawyer

Seniors arrive for their COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in Olympic Stadium in Montreal on March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Premiers blame Ottawa for delayed COVID-19 shots; Ontario pharmacies to offer jabs

Premiers blame Ottawa for delayed COVID-19 shots; Ontario pharmacies to offer jabs

Actors, clockwise from left, Luke Bilyk, Aislinn Paul, Alex Steeler, Melinda Shankar, Annie Clark, Jordan Todosey, Jahmil French and Munro Chambers from "Degrassi: The Next Generation," are shown at a screening event, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012, at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, N.J. Friends of French say he was a gifted 'true artist' who 'wanted to be great'THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo/StarPix, Dave Allocca
Friends of Jahmil French say he was a gifted ‘true artist’ who ‘wanted to be great’

Friends of Jahmil French say he was a gifted ‘true artist’ who ‘wanted to be great’

Most Read