22 October 2009
Steve Verheul, Canada’s chief trade negotiator is making a concerted effort to reach out to Canadian companies. According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Verheul is establishing a group of approximately 30 companies from various sectors and regions across Canada that have a stake in successful Canada-EU trade negotiations. Apparently, candidates should have a serious interest in this next generation ‘free trade’ agreement and, ideally, bring to the table industry-specific knowledge about Europe. This announcement follows news reports early this week that Canada’s dairy sector, concentrated in political battle grounds of Ontario and Quebec, is threatening to scuttle the negotiations. EU members want access to Canada’s tightly controlled supply managed sector including dairy, poultry and eggs. Stockwell Day, Canada’s Trade Minister was quick to react saying Canada’s supply managed industries are “not up for negotiations.” This puts Verheul in an awkward position at the very beginning of negotiations. How can Canada demand increased EU market access for beef and pork products when Canada has already concluded that reciprocal market access is non-negotiable? Only time will tell if Verheul can muster enough political will across Canada, mitigate the self-interest of 27 EU members, and all the while protecting Canada’s special interests.