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article imageOp-Ed: Canada signs Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement(CETA) with EU

By Ken Hanly     Oct 18, 2013 in Business
Ottawa - Canada and the European Union have signed a tentative deal, the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) which will open the markets of both countries and drop most import taxes including on food and autos.
As with NAFTA most of the press praise the CETA agreement to the skies and ignore key features that are negative. While there may be some benefit in lower prices for consumers in some instances, countries often relinquish control over their resources and even on their ability to pass health and environmental regulations. These so-called free trade agreements are designed to benefit global capitalist organization and provide a larger geographical framework with laws that benefit them. As the appended video shows, after the North American Free Trade Agreement lower income deciles of the Canadian population actually lost ground to upper income levels.
The CBC article announcing the agreement also observes: The agreement in principle also provides for working groups to look at non-tariff barriers — regulations on health and sanitation, for example — that interfere with trade. An attempt to impose stricter regulations than other signatory countries in the areas of health or sanitation could be regarded as a restraint on trade. As with all free trade deals there is considerable emphasis upon restricting trade through ensuring that intellectual property rights are protected or as with CETA, even extending them.
Canada would give even longer protection for patent monopolies on prescription drugs: Canada would partially extend patent protection for brand-name pharmaceutical drugs, which would delay the introduction of cheaper generic drugs by up to two years.
Some estimates say that this extension could cost provincial health plans and consumers more than a billion a year.
This is just a blip in the positive spin put on the deal by Harper who is out to become not just a friend to global capital but to the Canadian consumer as he promises to give Canadians more choice in cable television channels, limits on roaming fees for cell phones and better pricing vis a vis the US. He can now also promote these along with the CETA and provide a turnaround for the failing Conservative political brand. Harper crows: "This is a big deal. Indeed, this is the biggest deal our country has ever made. This is a historic win for Canada." The agreement was signed in Brussels today (Oct. 18) by Prime Minister Harper and European Commission president Jose Manual Barroso. The agreement is only in principle with ratification probably taking a couple of years.
Cheese manufacturers, especially in Quebec, are opposed to the deal. Although there still remain quotas on cheese imports, they are more than doubled: Canada will allow 29,000 tonnes of tariff-free cheese from the EU, up from 13,000 tonnes.
Canadian automakers will be able to export up to 100,000 autos to Europe each year about 12 times there present limit. Food processors will have full access to European markets. Grain exports will also be tariff free. On the dairy side there will be full access but poultry and eggs are still excluded. Even beef and pork producers have come on board with their quotas being vastly increased. Beef producers will be able to export 65,000 tonnes, up from 15,000 now. Pork producers will be able to export 75,000 tonnes, up from just 6,000 tonnes.
The Canadian government will lose considerable revenue from all the tariffs it collects from the import of European goods. The amount has not been released or estimated as yet The agreement comes five years after negotiations started and one year after it was supposed to be finished. Some parts of the deal that created issues in municipalities may have been solved but the devil is in the details and no final text is yet released: "To date, more than 80 Canadian municipalities have passed motions expressing concerns about the CETA negotiations, with more than 40 of those seeking a clear, permanent exemption from the deal. These motions have been passed by councils in Toronto, Hamilton, Victoria, Sackville, Red Deer and across Canada and take issue with procurement restrictions that would forbid local or national (“Buy Canadian”) preferences on purchases of goods, service contracts or construction projects over certain thresholds. " According to the CBC report: " Negotiators built in exclusions for public health care, public education, social services and culture. They also preserved the right of regional governments to prefer local service providers."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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