OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper is heading to Europe to conclude a free trade deal with the European Union on Friday.
Negotiations over the terms of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) have gone on for years. The trade deal is expected to generate some $28 billion in new trade annually.
Sources say the federal government hopes to announce it has concluded the agreement in principle Friday when Harper is in Brussels to meet with President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.
The federal government received the tacit agreement of all provinces on Wednesday, Huffington Post Canada has learned.
Quebec is concerned about its dairy farmers and the impact of the deal on Canada’s supply management system but they will be compensated, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.
The federal government is offering compensation for producers if there are any losses and plans a long phase-in for dairy access, HuffPost has learned.
The Conservatives also announced Wednesday that they are lifting travel visas for Czech citizens.
The change is designed to get the Czech Republic onside with the trade deal. It will likely take approximately two years to get the legal text finalized and the deal ratified. The European Parliament must study and vote on the deal. Some European Union member states may also get to have their say if the contents of CETA touch on areas they haven’t relinquished authority to the European Union.
The National Post was first to report Wednesday that Canada had broken through a major roadblock by agreeing to allow a doubling of cheese imports from the European Union.
Wally Smith, the president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, told Reuters the content of the deal was “unacceptable.”
"This deal would displace our local products with subsidized cheeses from EU and risk our small businesses being shut down or put out of business."
The federal government said the doubled European imports — which will amount to about 30,000 tonnes annually — would still only account for about four per cent of domestic cheese consumption.
“In these discussions, the system of supply management has been completely protected and Canada has gained unfettered access for Canadian dairy products into the largest, most lucrative market in the world,” Trade Minister Ed Fast’s office told the National Post.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said he was concerned the deal could mean a loss of jobs in Canada.
The provinces have been deeply involved in negotiations since many of the items discussed, intellectual property, trade, sub-national contracting, touch on areas of provincial jurisdictions. However, there is no legal requirement for them to hold legislative votes. Only the federal government needs to sign the deal.
The Conservative government plans a massive communications plan to sell the deal to Canadians. The government said CETA could create 80,000 jobs in Canada in Wednesday's speech from the throne.