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CETA negotiation at risk? Canadian opposition is growing due to European demands for patent reforms

Sept 27th, 2012 - The negotiations over the Canada - European Union trade agreement may be approaching the final stretch as both sides say they plan to wrap up the CETA talks by the end of the year. The parties have apparently reached agreement on roughly 75 per cent of the text, but the last quarter will require significant political compromise.

According to Michael Geist, an expert from the University of Ottawa, Canadian negotiators recently advised that there remains a sharp divide over issues such as investment rules, financial services, and taxation. Given the ongoing European financial crisis, these issues are particularly sensitive and will raise questions about how much risk the government is willing to accept in order to strike a deal.
The Canadian opposition to the chapter will come from European demands for patent reforms that could result in billions in additional health care costs due to higher pharmaceutical prices. The pharmaceutical demands are one of Europe's top priorities, but Canada has thus far refused to counter the EU proposals, creating a stalemate that has dragged on for years.
Steve Verheul, the lead Canadian negotiator, said in August that the pharmaceutical demands are unlikely to be discussed during the negotiations in October. Instead, the issue will be bounced back to cabinet, with the government ultimately making the decision on whether it is prepared to cave to EU demands with the trade agreement hanging in the balance. The large pharmaceutical companies insist that the reforms will increase research and development investment in Canada, yet according to Michael Geist past experience suggests that is unlikely to happen.

Dr. Michael Geist is a law professor at the University of Ottawa where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. Dr. Geist is an internationally syndicated columnist on technology law issues with his regular column appearing in the Toronto Star and the Ottawa Citizen. He is available for interviews on September 27th and 28th. You can reach him by phone: 613-562-5800, x 3319 or Email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information read also his Blog http://michaelgeist.ca or tweets @mgeist.

 

The Euro Crisis and the missing news about the positive changes

September 19th, 2012 - " Bad news easily topples good news - The Eurozone crisis comes in handy as politicians and businesses across the country love to use the Euro as a scapegoat when they need to justify dismal economic performances. Good news seems to travel much slower. Thus it was not surprising that in the last ten days when fundamental policy changes in the Eurozone were announced, the Canadian discussion kept relatively quiet and did not delve into the - complicated - details of the proposed changes. Instead, it was reported again and again that George Soros proposed an exit of Germany of the Eurozone in order to rescue the Euro. Old men sometimes need to recycle old ideas, but is this already a good enough justification to recycle this kind of stuff instead of investing time and focus to elaborate on policy change announcements?

Four encouraging messages came out of Europe over the last ten days or so. First, on September 6th the Governing Council of the European Central Bank presented its 'Outright Monetary Transactions' (OMT) program that promises unlimited purchases of bonds. Already the announcement of OMT started to change the sentiments of financial market actors and contributed to significant reductions of risk premiums of suffering economies in the south of the Eurozone. Second, on September 12th the German Constitutional Court approved the ratification of the ESM treaty, and beat expectations by only attaching minor conditions. Third, also on September 13th the president of the European Commission made a strong case in favor of the proposed banking union as well as in favor of deepening the project of European integration and thus handing more sovereignty from the level of the member states to the EU level. Fourth, on September 13th Dutch voters beat polls and prepared the ground for a decisively pro-European party coalition, and more so, cut the seats of the deeply anti-European party of former coalition partner Geert Wilders to half.

Does this mean the building blocks of the European Commission are falling into place? Not really - however, unlike in the last two years the European Commission seems to have accepted the severity of the challenges and decided eventually to tackle the problems by moving to new initiatives. More so, it is willing to take up the fight against narrow-minded national interests and to move towards a truly European solution.

Hopefully the Canadian news media pays attention to those positive news."

Dr. Kurt Huebner is Jean Monnet Chair at the University of British Columbia and expert on European integration issues.
He is available for comments on September 19th and 20th. Kurt Huebner is part of a cross-Canada network of experts working on European policy issues, the Strategic Knowledge Cluster Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue.

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