Trade compromise needed

OTTAWA — It’s an open question whether Canada needs a free trade deal with Europe, but it is more certain that the Harper government does.

OTTAWA — It’s an open question whether Canada needs a free trade deal with Europe, but it is more certain that the Harper government does.

With a cloud suddenly appearing over the Stephen Harper’s “historic achievement” because of German concerns over a clause that allow firms to sue governments, free trade advocates are advising the prime minister to compromise if he has to, but get the deal done.

The German objection — signalled in a news leak on Saturday that it would not sign the agreement with the current language on investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) — has since been modified by a government official saying Germany would examine “meticulously” the deal once it has been finalized.

In a response to a media question, the European Union’s trade official in Canada, Karsten Mecklenburg, said “negotiators have almost finished their work” and only then would EU member states be asked to approve the document.

Germany’s ambassador to Canada, Werner Wnendt, says investor protections are not a deal-breaker for his country, but they deserve close scrutiny.

“That (ISDS) is the concern of people in Germany and it’s something that needs to be taken seriously by the government,” he told CBC.

He also said Canada and European nations have functioning court systems, so “the question is do we need a separate conflict resolution mechanism.”

Officials in Trade Minister Ed Fast’s office did not respond to requests for an interview with the minister Monday and continued to insist “excellent progress is being made.”

A spokesman for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce also downplayed the news report.

“We have been assured by our German partners that they will not block the deal. They have had to manage their internal political issue, in the context of TTIP (talks with the U.S.),” said Emilie Potvin, vice-president of public affairs with the business group.

But trade experts who have followed the talks closely say Germany was almost certainly sending a message that Ottawa had better heed, or risk losing the agreement.

That would be bad for Canada’s economy, they say, even though Statistics Canada figures show exports to the EU have rebounded smartly from last autumn.

But given the importance Harper has put on the pact, failure would be politically damaging entering into an election cycle.

“Harper’s competitive advantage is that he is a superior manager of the economy, that he can do trade deals big and small. But if he can’t close on what he calls the biggest, most comprehensive free trade deal in history, it’s going to hurt a lot,” said Ian Lee, an economics professor at Carleton University.

Trade lawyer Lawrence Herman said Canada should go back to the drawing board on investment protection if it has to, and even be prepared to drop ISDS altogether to get the deal done.

“Its value may be overstated,” he said.

“None of the 200 pending arbitrations under the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes involve Canadian companies suing European governments.”

Just Posted

Smaller, more affordable, lots wanted in Red Deer’s Evergreen neighbourhood

Council approves first reading of requested lot-size changes

Political shifts, sales slump cast shadow over gun industry

When gunmakers and dealers gather this week in Las Vegas for the… Continue reading

Yellow vests in Canada bear no resemblance to protesters in France: ambassador

OTTAWA — Canada’s ambassador to France says this country’s yellow-vest protest movement… Continue reading

China demands U.S. withdraw request for Canada to extradite Huawei executive

BEIJING — China issued fresh demands Tuesday that the U.S. abandon its… Continue reading

Health Canada ready to unveil newly revamped Canada Food Guide

OTTAWA — Canadians will finally see Health Canada’s modern spin on healthy… Continue reading

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

B.C. animators land Oscar nominations

‘Animal Behaviour’ by Vancouver’s David Fine and Alison Snowden among several Canadians on the short list

Canadian talent abound on newly revamped Vancouver Whitecaps squad

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps may need to stock up on maple… Continue reading

China demands US drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng

Rugby Canada Hall of Fame a family affair for hard-nosed forward Hans de Goede

Hans de Goede, a hard-nosed lock forward who captained Canada at the… Continue reading

5 burning questions ahead of the Oscar nominations

NEW YORK — The Oscars still don’t have a host, but on… Continue reading

‘Bao,’ ‘Animal Behaviour,’ ‘Weekends’ among Canadian Oscar nominees

LOS ANGELES — Several Canadians have landed Oscar nominations. The category for… Continue reading

Hollywood announces 2019 Oscar nominations

Netflix has scored its first best picture nomination, something the streaming giant has dearly sought

Opinion: Faith in immigration must be preserved

Canada has a deserved reputation for extending its arms to newcomers, but… Continue reading

Most Read