Canada-EU Trade Deal Text Leaked By German TV

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CANADA EU FREE TRADE TARIFFS
Prime Minister Stephen Harper with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. | CP

A German news show has published what it says is the text of the Canada-EU free trade deal.

More than 520 pages of the 1,500-page document were posted to the website of German TV network ARD’s news show Tagesschau on Wednesday.

According to some experts now poring through the document, it appears Canada caved on the issue of patent protection for drugs.

The EU had been pushing Canada to lengthen patent protections for drugs, a move that was estimated to cost Canadians $900 million to $1.65 billion annually. The Conservative government in Ottawa has promised to compensate provinces for added drug costs, but no word yet on whether individuals will be compensated as well.

Council for Canadians political director Brent Patterson called the document “highly problematic,” adding the language specifically in the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) chapter is “undemocratic.”

“It's the same provision that we've seen in NAFTA that has been so disastrous,” Patterson told HuffPost Canada.

“In terms of procurement, there is nothing that we can see about cities being excepted as so many had asked to have done.”

Patterson said several municipal governments including Toronto, Victoria, Hamilton and Red Deer asked to be exempted from CETA rules that banned “buy local” policies and other tools to support local jobs and development through public spending.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities declined to discuss the text.

“Municipal interests in CETA and in all future trade agreements must be protected. FCM will not comment at this time on the leaked document," said FCM President Brad Woodside.

Though Patterson thinks the documents should have been released earlier, he said the leak would allow groups like his own to start talking to Canadians and build opposition momentum – with possible support from the Liberals party and NDP.

“If the Germans are not satisfied with this, we can see a rocky road ahead,” Patterson said.

Several industry groups contacted by HuffPost Canada said they were not commenting on the leaked text. The Canadian Construction Association, the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association and the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec all declined to discuss the document.

Scott Sinclair with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives called the procurement provisions in the document “the most extensive set of commitments that Canada has ever made” – reaching down to the municipal level.

“It will interfere with, and potentially end, the use of procurement as an economic development policy tool and interfere with municipal governments, universities or hospitals who, for example, want to implement buy-local food purchasing policies,” he told HuffPost Canada.

It’s “overkill,” he added.

According to University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist, the leaked text addresses concerns many activists have about ISDS.

Critics argued that the trade deal would create an international body through which corporations would be able to sue governments if those companies felt a country’s laws violated its rights under the trade deal. They say these sorts of dispute mechanisms essentially usurp a country’s sovereignty.

The leaked deal includes a clause that allows Canada to review the dispute mechanism after three years. Geist described the clause as “weak.”

A spokesman for International Trade Minister Ed Fast refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents, but insisted that negotiators have already gone to great lengths to reassure the public that the deal is good for both sides.

"Canada does not comment on leaks of purported negotiating texts,'' Rudy Husny said in an email to the Canadian Press.

"We have released comprehensive materials which describe the various elements of the agreement and clearly show the significant benefits that will be generated in every region of Canada upon the agreement's entry into force.''

The translation and final legal review are ongoing, while planning for a Canada-EU Summit, to be hosted in Canada next month, has also begun, Husny added.

Final details of the much-anticipated CETA treaty are expected to be released in a summit between Canada and the European Union on Sept. 25. in Ottawa, formally ending five years of intense negotiations.

The government said last week that the agreement will result in a 20 per cent boost in bilateral trade. That would mean an increase of $12 billion in Canada's annual income, which officials say would create an estimated 80,000 jobs.

Once implemented, 98 per cent of the tariffs between the partners would drop to zero.

With files from Althia Raj, Patrick Bellerose, The Canadian Press, Zi-Ann Lum and Sunny Freeman

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