Editorial Exchange: Trade Deals Elude

By Press, Winnipeg Free | The Canadian Press, February 22, 2013 | Go to article overview

Editorial Exchange: Trade Deals Elude


Press, Winnipeg Free, The Canadian Press


Editorial Exchange: Trade deals elude

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Feb. 22:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government have been trying for four years to negotiate a free trade deal with the European Union. Reduction of trade barriers might benefit consumers and producers on both sides, but the prospects for an early agreement have faded lately.

Trade deals typically take longer than the parties expect, and the greater the volume of trade involved, the longer the negotiation. The leading current example is the Doha Round of trade negotiations among the 155 members of the World Trade Organization. Launched in 2001, the Doha Round talks are still theoretically in progress for the purpose of improving market access for developing countries, but none of the participating governments expects a conclusion in the foreseeable future. Failure of that process sparked attempts at smaller-scale agreements such as the proposed Canada-Europe deal.

Inquiring reporters in Ottawa lately have been told there may be a deal soon but something has to be worked out about access to Europe for Canadian beef, pork and wheat and something about patent protection in Canada for pharmaceutical drugs, as well as something about mutual access to government procurement. These questions might be resolved in a jiffy if there was an important reason for doing so, but there are plenty of reasons for delay and few for haste. The people and agencies with a privilege to protect -- such as provinces and municipalities that want to favour local suppliers -- know exactly who they are and what they stand to lose. The potential beneficiaries of freer trade are more diffuse and less keenly motivated.

The Barack Obama administration in Washington and the EU have announced they, too, will negotiate a free trade deal. This could create additional pressure on Ottawa and Brussels to conclude their deal quickly, while the attention of the parties is focused on the Canada-Europe project, but it could also have the reverse effect. …

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