EU leaders say trade deal with Canada is done

The European Union leadership presented a united front on their trade agreement with Canada on Friday in an attempt to dampen concerns that some European countries might still scuttle the deal.

OTTAWA — The European Union leadership presented a united front on their trade agreement with Canada on Friday in an attempt to dampen concerns that some European countries might still scuttle the deal.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy stood shoulder to shoulder with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Parliament Hill, saying that all 28 EU countries support the deal.

Barroso and Van Rompuy joined Harper to declare in writing that their five tough years of negotiations were done and to push for a speedy final ratification of the deal in Europe and among Canada’s 13 provinces and territories.

They did so in face of German opposition that resurfaced in the country’s parliament again on Thursday, after first rearing its head last month over the language of an investor-state dispute mechanism contained in a leaked text of the deal.

The Canadian government also released the full text of the agreement on Friday, following years of criticism that the negotiations were too secretive.

The Canadian Press has also learned there is persistent worry that two unhappy eastern European countries could still derail the deal.

Canada requires visas for travellers from Romania and Bulgaria and some diplomats fear one or both of those countries could block ratification of the agreement if the requirement is not lifted.

Barroso said that a joint declaration that he, Van Rompuy and Harper signed just minutes earlier had the full backing of every member of the EU.

“The declaration that we signed was fully backed by all of the member states of European Union, including Germany,” Barroso said.

“Until now, all the official communications we’ve received from Germany were absolutely in favour of this agreement. If would be very strange if it were to be otherwise because, if I may add, the country that is going to benefit the most from this agreement is, indeed, Germany.”

Harper appeared pleased by the show of support and played down the continuing opposition.

“Does that mean that in the normal process I don’t expect that somebody will say change this here or give me a bit more money there?” he said.

“I expect this kind of thing will happen, but in the end we have an agreement … we have all and those we represent committed to it and we will honour those commitments.”

Almost a year ago, Harper flew to Brussels with great fanfare for a signing ceremony on a deal in principle that would face another 10 months of hard negotiating on irritants that had seemed settled.

Last October, Barroso heaped praise on Harper as tough negotiator, in an attempt to give him political cover against opponents. On Friday, he called Canadians negotiators “extremely able and strong and determined” eliciting laughter from the Canadian delegation seated before him.

But that was not enough to mute concern from both supporters and detractors.

Liberal trade critic Chrystia Freeland said her party supports a free-trade deal with Europe, but she’s concerned by the discontent coming from some countries on the continent, especially in recent days.

“We have another photo-op without the goods being delivered,” she said.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair sided with the concerns coming out of Germany on the investor-state dispute resolution mechanism.

Like some in Germany, Mulcair said the provisions will deprive Canada of sovereignty when it comes to regulating some sectors.

“Foreign corporations will get to make determinations as to the rules regarding health,” he said.

The left-leaning Council of Canadians also denounced the deal. The group’s trade campaigner Scott Harris said Friday’s event showed that the two sides are “going through the motions” in the face of European opposition.

“This summit is nothing more than a face-saving effort for a lame-duck commission and a prime minister with his eyes on the 2015 federal election.”

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, one of the early backers of the Canada-EU trade talks, said a vocal minority in the European Parliament will oppose ratification but the majority will approve the deal.

Charest said opposition in Romania and Bulgaria over the visa won’t be enough to derail the final ratification.

Canada imposed the visa rule on the two countries and the Czech Republic to stop an influx of bogus refugee claimants among ethnic Roma applicants, although the Czech visa requirement ended last year.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has expressed concern over human smuggling and organized criminal gangs, but his office has nothing new to add on whether the visas to Romania and Bulgaria will be removed.

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

Just Posted

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Most Read