The then Minister of Trade, Stockwell Day, said in a statement on Monday that Canadian and European Union representatives are to meet this week in Brussels for a second round of free-trade negotiations.
The EU, with a population of 500 million, is currently second only to the United States as our largest trade and investment partner. Canadian exports to the EU were nearly $32.9-billion in the first nine months of 2009, while imports of goods and services from the EU were close to $39.7-billion. And, according to a joint economic study, broadening Canada-EU trade agreements could boost trade between us by as much as $38-billion.
Canada and the EU share common values of the most fundamental nature, and have enjoyed close historical and cultural ties. This is evidenced by the increasing frequency with which we vote together in international organizations—sometimes over 90 per cent of the time during sessions of the UN General Assembly—a clear demonstration of like-mindedness.
Canada and the EU already work closely together on many global challenges such as membership in NATO, energy and security and stability throughout the world. This co-operation encompasses a broad spectrum from research into alternative energy sources to providing police training in Afghanistan.
In other words Canada and the EU are a good “fit.”
In some respects, the Canada-EU trade agreement envisions even deeper economic integration than we have with the United States and Mexico through NAFTA. The new deal would allow for Canadian and European workers to work in each other’s regions and allow for EU and Canadian companies to bid on government procurements on both sides of the Atlantic.
There will no doubt be some concessions for us to make as, presumably, we would have some sort of “associate” status whereby we would be joining the EU as a North American moon to their European sun.
This is the sort of “big issue” we only seem to tackle when a Tory government is in power in Ottawa. Liberals just never get around to grand gestures except on the social policy side of things. Think free-trade with the United States, GST as a replacement of the terrible old Federal Sales (Manufacturing) Tax, rebuilding our military—these have all been Tory initiatives.
As I have stated before: Canada as a conduit between the world’s two greatest free-trade unions provides a seductive image.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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