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Canada seeks to carve out agriculture, telecom in EU trade talks: documents

Toronto Star, Canada

Canada seeks to carve out agriculture, telecom in EU trade talks: documents

25 January 2012

OTTAWA—Leaked documents from the Canada-European Union free trade talks suggest Ottawa is seeking to carve out telecommunications and agriculture from any agreement.

But there is no exemption for water services, a sore point with critics of the negotiations which many expect will result in a signed, comprehensive deal later this year.

Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast has called a European trade, services and investment pact one of the Conservative government’s top priorities.

Documents released Wednesday by RQIC, a coalition of Quebec civil society groups, are the first public glimpse of the list of exemptions Ottawa and the provinces have proposed for protection under any new deal.

A spokesman for RQIC says the group is still analyzing more than 200 pages of exempted items, but the lack of a set-aside for municipal water systems sticks out like a sore thumb.

The list was presented to the European negotiators in October and represents the Canadian side’s initial position in the areas of services and investment.

On the protected list of sectors is agriculture, which suggests a Harper government that recently legislated an end to the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board wants to maintain its controversial supply management system in eggs, dairy and poultry.

As well, although the Conservatives have signalled intentions to loosen foreign investment rules in the Canadian telecommunications sector, Canada’s initial position seeks to keep the current restrictions in place.

The leaked lists cover only services and investment. Canadian negotiators presented their exemption lists for the sensitive area of government procurement in July, but they remain secret.