NEWS

EU trade deal troubles denied by Canadian officials

07/28/2014 04:38 EDT | Updated 09/27/2014 05:59 EDT
Canadian officials are quietly preparing a ceremony to formally mark the successful conclusion of EU trade deal negotiations, but Germany could scuttle those plans.

Officials acknowledge the negotiations aren’t quite completed, but International Trade Minister Ed Fast’s office said Monday “excellent progress is being made.”

A German newspaper kicked off of a flurry of speculation over the weekend by quoting unnamed German officials saying Europe’s leading economy would refuse to sign the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada unless certain contentious provisions concerning investor-state dispute settlement regulations.

Still bumps ahead

The current draft of CETA includes provisions that, at least in Germany’s view, would allow activists and individuals to use the courts to block a country’s legislature from passing some laws and regulations.

A spokesperson for Germany’s economic ministry dismissed the weekend report, which relied on an unnamed German diplomat. Tobias Dünow is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying it “doesn’t reflect the position of the government or the ministry.”

On this side of the Atlantic, Canadian government officials also deny the trade deal is on the verge of collapse.

In an email to the CBC, Fast’s office said, “Canada’s work with our European Union partners to complete the legal text of our agreement in principle continues.”

Already signed once

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper flew to Brussels last October to attend a ceremony where the EU and Canada signed an “agreement in principle,” officials admitted at the time some “technical issues” remained to be negotiated.

As negotiations continue over those issues, Canadian trade sources say they expect some tough talk from certain corners before the last points are finalized.

Officials and others familiar with the talks are confident none of the remaining issues are significant enough to derail the progress already made.

A number of sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, say planning is already well underway to hold another signing ceremony when talks formally conclude.

This time Canada would play host and the intention is to have the premiers from each province on hand to show support for the deal. The ceremony would likely be held in September or October.

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