Tag Archive: Canada

The Tentative Free Trade Agreement Between Canada And The European Union

The tentative free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, known as the  Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, (CETA), will go far beyond the North American Free Trade Agreement, (NAFTA).  It is designed to eliminate thousands of tariffs, encourage foreign investment and promote movement of labor. Once the agreement is implemented, 98 % of EU and Canadian tariffs will be eliminated immediately.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who described the agreement as a “historic win for Canada,” signed the tentative deal in Brussels on Oct. 18, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. The agreement provides Canada with preferential market access to the 28-member European Union, and its more than 500 million consumers and  $17 trillion in annual economic activity.

The deal would also allow Canadian automakers to export more cars and Canadian farmers to export more beef, pork and bison.Once in place, Canadian consumers could also see cheaper prices on items that include food, wines and high-end European cars.

The deal will have far reaching impacts, touching just about every sector of the Canadian economy as well as millions of workers and consumers. The final result could see Canadians paying less for thousands of products made in Europe, such as cars, which are currently subject to a 6% tariff. European companies will also be able to bid on large provincial and municipal government contracts.

While a number of export industries have given the deal high praise, some dairy farmers and cheese producers have expressed concerns. The deal would allow the EU to sell Canada 29,000 tons of cheese, an increase from the current 13,000 tons. Some Canadian farmers fear those provisions could threaten jobs and industries in Canada.

EU Arctic Aspirations Stonewalled Again

For the second time, the Arctic Council has deferred an EU application to become an observer on the multilateral Arctic forum. The Arctic Council was formally established through the Ottawa Declaration in 1996. The impetus behind the Council’s inception was the need for an intergovernmental  forum in which Arctic states could cooperate in matters mutually beneficial for the region.

The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, has argued that the EU “has a stake in what happened in the Arctic”, and “is an Arctic actor by virtue of its three Arctic states, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.” The EU has not shied away from speaking about its Arctic interests. In June 2012, the Commission proposed a three point Arctic policy, the most salient of which is the sustainable development of resources.

It is undeniable that the EU has a stake in the future of Arctic development. It is estimated over 90% of Europe’s oil production and 60% of its gas production comes from offshore operations occurring in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea. Moreover, an estimated 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30% of its undiscovered gas reserves are lying within the Arctic seabed. Additionally, proponents of EU accession have argued that climate change is a trans-boundary issue, and thus, will adversely impact European weather patterns and fish stocks.

There have been two primary arguments against the EU attaining permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. First, the Heritage Foundation has repeatedly asserted that the EU is a “supernational” organization and, therefore, does not meet the criteria to join the Arctic Council as an observer. Second, the Canadian government has opposed EU observer status since the EU submitted its first application in 2009.

Canadian opposition began in May 2009 when the European Parliament voted 550-49 to impose a seal trade ban throughout the European Union. A Canadian Inuit group challenged the ban, but the General Court of the EU dismissed the appeal. Additionally, similar challenges have been brought before the European Court of Justice, but they also resulted in dismissal. Consequently, this lack of success in the European courts inspired a Nunavut-based group to begin the “No Seal, No Deal” petition calling on the Canadian government to reject the EU’s application for full observer status.

This second argument may carry more weight with the Arctic Council than the former. Following the announcement of the EU’s deferral, Leona Aglukkaq, the new Canadian chair of the Arctic Council, pointed out that one of the criteria that observers must meet is to demonstrate respect for the traditional ways of life of the indigenous people of the North.

The EU’s interests in the Arctic are not disappearing any time soon. Recently, Italy joined EU member states: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as observers on the Arctic Council while Finland, Sweden, and Denmark all have permanent membership. Hopefully these EU Arctic actors will keep the EU’s best interest in mind until relations are able to thaw with Canada.

The Royal Baby Bill May Have Not-So-Royal Implications for the Canadian Constitution

British Prime Minister David Cameron set in motion a change to the 300 year-old rules governing heirs to the throne by proposing a bill (hereinafter the Royal Bill) to modify the Royal line of Succession. The modification would eliminate the preference for men over women as heirs to the throne. As the rule currently exists, a female heir may only take the throne if she does not have any brothers – older or younger. However, in October 2011 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, all 16 countries agreed to modify the centuries-old succession rules.

While all 16 Commonwealth countries have provided written agreements to modernize the rules, each country is still subject to its own legislative procedures. However, this has presented some legal issues for passage in the Canadian Commonwealth. Under Canadian jurisprudence, as quoted by CBC News, the 1701 Act of Settlement is “part of the laws of Canada” and the rules of succession are “by [necessity] incorporated into the Constitution of Canada.” The Canadian Constitution requires that an amendment regarding “the office of the Queen” can only be made when the House, the Senate, and the legislative assembly of each province agree.

This constitutional provision raises several interesting questions.  Does this bill concern the office of the Queen? Or is it just concerning the succession to the throne? One argument proposed by Saskatchewan, as reported by CBC News, claims the Canadian Constitution is only defining the monarch as the monarch of England – whoever that may be. Under this view, the only change that would require unanimous provincial support would be changing this definition. On the other hand, some argue that if the provinces allow the government to “overlook their constitutional right to weigh in on this matter” they may be fundamentally limiting their constitutional right to weigh in on future issues. Any attempt to amend the rules of succession without provincial support may prompt a judicial challenge to the limits of the young Canadian Constitution (patriated in 1982).

However, any delay in passage by one or more Commonwealth Countries will not delay the effective date of the bill.  Any change to the rules of succession will apply to any baby born after the October 11, 2011 agreement. Once passed, the effects of the Royal Bill will be imposed on the unborn child of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. As a result, if William and Kate have a little girl, their daughter cannot subsequently be bypassed in line as heir to throne if they later have a son.



Et Tu, European Union? The EU’s Plan to Cull the Seal Population

The sealing industry of Canada believes that the EU’s seal culling plan is an act of hypocrisy. The European Parliament (EP) has recently approved a plan to manage the troublesome seal population due to concern of the decrease in fish stocks.  In September of this year, the EP called upon the European Commission to investigate whether the reduction in fish stocks was due to their natural predators, like seals, and if so, to then create a management plan that would help regulate the predator populations. This plan includes working with those member States that affected by the lack of fish.

In Canada, sealing is a commercialized industry where the seals are used for food, fuel and clothing. The Canadian sealing industry argues that seal harvesting is an economic mainstay for their numerous rural communities, and that seals are a valuable natural resource. Rob Cahill of the Fur Institute of Canada argued that the EU plans to be wasteful with the seals that are killed because they will only be used for personal consumption rather than being turned into commercial products (i.e. clothing and fuel).

In 2009, the EP voted to ban commercial seal products, prompting Canada to challenge the EP’s decision in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the only global international organization that deals with rules of trade between nations. The EU initiated the ban due to concern about the welfare of the animals because of the doubts expressed regarding the inhumane and unnecessarily painful way that the seals were being killed. Since some Member States had already decided that they wanted to ban the import and use of sealskins or products, the EP and Council decided to ban the trade of seal products in the EU. This ban also applies to imported products.

Not everyone agrees with Canada though. Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada, argues that what the EU is proposing will actually kill fewer seals than those killed for commercial purposes. The purpose of the seal culling is to protect marine ecosystems; it would seem pointless to kill so many seals that it would have a negative impact on the marine ecosystem.

Regardless of what happens with the seals, there is something far greater at stake for Canada. If Canada does not drop its WTO challenge, at least 100 members of the EP have vowed that they will not vote in favor of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement that is to be signed by the EU and Canada this year. This is important because it would “liberalize trade in goods and services could bring a potential 20% boost to bilateral trade and GDP gains of up to $12 billion for Canada by 2014.

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