Newspaper article The Canadian Press

EU-Canada Trade Talks Hit Snag on Wording of Human Rights Clause

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

EU-Canada Trade Talks Hit Snag on Wording of Human Rights Clause

Article excerpt

EU-Canada trade talks hit snag on rights

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OTTAWA - There's a new pothole on the long, bumpy road towards a Canada-Europe free trade deal: whether human rights and weapons of mass destruction should be addressed in a side agreement to the overall pact.

Diplomats from the European Union say that Canada is balking at the inclusion of language in a final text that would speak to the importance of affirming human rights and non-proliferation efforts.

The clauses would not appear in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement but in a separate so-called Strategic Partnership Agreement.

The EU's new ambassador to Canada, Marie-Anne Coninsx, said Tuesday the two pacts are linked and there won't be a deal on one without the other.

However, the spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that's not the case.

"We have been very clear, the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) is completely separate from the CETA," spokesman Rick Roth said in an emailed statement.

"There is no legal impediment to concluding the CETA while SPA negotiations are ongoing."

The long-stalled free trade talks have been a work in progress since 2009, while negotiations on the partnership agreement started in 2011.

Coninsx said she knows Canada and the EU agree completely on the importance of human rights, but if it's not included in the agreement, that could affect the bloc's future treaty negotiations.

"If we would say 'OK' with all agreements in the world, but not Canada, we send out a wrong signal with other countries," she said.

Manfred Auster, head of the EU's political section, said the EU insists that all major agreements it negotiates contain language that promotes human rights and fights the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"We think Canada is fighting against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction globally. We are completely sure that Canada, like ourselves, is promoting human rights," Auster said.

But he said leaving it out of the current negotiations would set "a kind of negative precedent" in the EU's future treaty talks. …

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