Canadian European Differences Threaten to Delay CETA Again

By Drew Wilson

A fresh round of reports is suggesting that CETA (Comprehensive economic and trade Agreement) will not be completed next week. The report comes after last months report that suggests that CETA could be completed by the end of February.

When we saw the initial reports that the negotiations might be completed by February, one of the things we’ve noted was the fact that there were still some noted differences between Canada and Europe. We noted, “while negotiators are hoping to complete CETA next month, these differences on policy certainly opens the door for more delays in the process” knowing that differences between different parties at the international level can really throw a wrench into the system. At the time, these differences were taken more lightly.

Now these differences seem to be much more apparent. In a report on the Wall Street Journal, differences are really starting to weigh on negotiators. From the report:

As reported earlier Monday by Dow Jones Newswires, a definitive deal isn’t in the cards for this week. Instead Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast and his European counterpart “need to meet to narrow the gap” according to one person familiar with the matter.

Agriculture is probably the toughest nut to crack. Canada wants greater access for beef and pork exports, and the EU wants to ship more dairy products into Canada.

The stakes are high for Canada which hasn’t had a major free trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and Mexico in 1994. The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is banking on trade to boost jobs and economic growth. At the same time, it wants to reduce Canada’s reliance on the U.S., which currently takes up some three-quarters of Canadian exports.

So, these differences are no small things either. While reporters like us who are focused on technology and digital rights may be disappointed that the differences aren’t revolving around the rights of individual users, differences that we don’t cover might indirectly affect how things we are interested in. Even the Wall Street Journal report notes that these delays aren’t anything new for this particular agreement and we might see a continuation of this if these differences aren’t overcome.

One odd thing we found in the report is that there’s this suggestion that the original prediction was by the end of the week. However, the original prediction we are familiar with said that a finalization is coming within “weeks” as of the 26th of January. So, when we read the point about February, we read this as “by the end of February” because if weeks is pluralized, it would mean that the earliest time it would arrive would be by the second week of February, thus giving it a shadow of a doubt and saying by the end of the month. Ultimately, that really means that the original prediction might not yet be wrong, however, judging by these latest reports, it might be less likely that the prediction will come true at this stage.

Another point to be made at this point is that this is a huge win for digital rights advocates even though it probably barely feels like one at this point. IF CETA is delayed, that would mean more time before a major showdown occurs. While from an organizational perspective, it gives more time to form alliances like what Quebec Solidaire is doing, there is a much more important aspect involved. The delay means that the general population doesn’t need to take action in the immediate future. Activism fatigue can be a major problem and any major delays in CETA will give people a better chance to go about their normal lives for the time being and rest up from previous big issues like SOPA and ACTA. If CETA becomes a major issue six months down the road, the general population of users will be much more energized and able to handle another major fight against political forces that want to undermine their rights.

Of course, for activists, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to completely take their eyes off the ball. No one seems to know for sure whether this will occur next week or six months from now. At this point, no one really seems to know for sure when CETA will go down, but we do know that it’s very likely to be not a matte of “if”, but “when” CETA will become the next bout between corporations and every day citizens.

(Via Michael Geist)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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