The government is launching an all-out blitz on the proposed Canada - European Union Trade Agreement today with no less than 18 events planned across the country featuring 16 cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries.
The speeches will emphasize the benefits of the proposed agreement to many areas of the economy, yet what is most noteworthy is what won't be discussed. Industry Minister Christian Paradis is speaking, but he won't be discussing copyright, patents, pharmaceuticals, or cultural policy as his speech will emphasize the pork industry. Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore won't be talking about culture either as his speech is slated to focus on fish and seafood. And Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is missing from the slate altogether.
The reason for the omissions are essential to understanding one of the primary sticking points with CETA. While the government says the deal is 75 per cent completed, negotiators have consistently indicated that they left the toughest issues to the end. Those include rules of origin, agriculture, immigration and visa issues, and intellectual property.
The CETA intellectual property chapter leaked in 2010, revealing that the EU is seeking a complete overhaul of Canada's IP laws. Initial demands on copyright included:
While some of these demands may have changed during the negotiations - the negotiations are still shrouded in secrecy - the agreement would clearly require reforms that go well beyond Bill C-11 (which the government says strikes the right balance). The agreement also includes major reforms to IP enforcement, trademarks, patents, and geographic indications.
In June 2011, a Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment funded by the European Commission was released. That report included the following analysis on the impact of the IP provisions on Canada:
The outcome of the negotiations for a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union could have significant impact on the cost of prescription drugs in Ontario. A key negotiating point, the extension of Canadian patent protections for pharmaceutical drugs to European standards, could cost Ontario taxpayers up to $1.2 billion annually ($551 million for the Ontario government and $672 million for the private sector), thus wiping out gains from recent drug reforms. The province should work with the federal government to ensure that a CETA does not undermine Ontario's interest in expanding the use of generic drugs.
Given these studies, it should come as no surprise that the government's CETA blitz conveniently omits discussing the enormous negative impact the IP provisions will have on the Canadian economy. They also help explain why the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommended last year that the government "ensure that domestic copyright policies are not part of any present or future trade negotiations."
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