OTTAWA — The federal government is seeking to overcome a potential stumbling block to a free trade deal with the European Union by moving EU objections to the oilsands off the table.
Trade Minister Peter Van Loan says the issue of oilsands fuel exports is being discussed outside the main talks, which Ottawa hopes to wrap up by year’s end.
Responding to a Reuters report out of Brussels that Canada has threatened to scrap the deal if the EU goes ahead with plans to bar oil imports that originate from the oilsands, Van Loan said the issue is being treated separately.
“Canada and the European Union are working to resolve this issue outside of the negotiations towards a free trade deal,” he said in an email response.
The minister acknowledged, however, that the issue is of concern to Canada.
Van Loan was not available for an interview, his spokesperson said in forwarding the email response.
The EU has proposed changes to a fuel quality directive aimed at reducing emissions from transport fuels by 10 per cent in the next decade, which could potentially lead to treating the oilsands differently from conventional oil.
In a preliminary weighting of the carbon footprint of fuels, Europe has judged petrol from conventional oil to have a value of 85.8g of carbon dioxide per megajoule of fuel, whereas oilsands oil would be measured at 107g.
Trade lawyer Steven Shrybman says Canada does not export oil to Europe, but the EU still sees it as an important issue because it wants any trade agreement it signs to comply with international environmental agreements.