Edited by Milos Barutciski and Jesse Goldman
The Canadian government has initiated preliminary consultations with businesses and other stakeholders with regard to areas of potential interest to be pursued in free trade negotiations with the European Union (EU). This negotiation is potentially the most significant development in Canada's international trade relations since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into force in 1994. All indications thus far suggest that the proposed economic agreement would have a broader scope than either Canada's or the EU' s existing free trade agreements (FTAs), including NAFTA, thus opening a broader range of business opportunities.
On December 20, 2008, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) issued a notice soliciting submissions from interested parties to help identify their objectives, concerns and defensive interests in connection with a proposed new economic agreement with the EU. Companies that present their concerns and priorities to DFAIT at an early stage will be better placed to advance their interests in Canada's opening position in the negotiations and in subsequent stages of the process.
This initiative follows the statement made jointly by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on October 17, 2008, when France held the rotating presidency of the EU, announcing that Canada and the EU intend to prepare formal mandates to launch negotiations on an ambitious economic partnership as early as possible in 2009. This announcement was closely followed by the announcement on December 9, 2008, of a multi-phased "Open Skies" agreement intended to greatly liberalize the market for air transport services and investment between Canada and the EU.
With a population of almost 500 million and a GDP greater than 12 trillion, the EU represents an extremely attractive market for Canadian businesses. A new economic agreement between Canada and the EU would off er an immense opportunity for Canadian businesses to diversify into new markets for the supply of goods and services, including sophisticated value-added products and technology.
The EU is Canada's second largest trading partner, with bilateral trade in goods and services accounting for approximately C$110 billion in 2007. Prior to the present initiative, Canada's many overtures to the EU to initiate broad-based trade negotiations have failed to elicit engagement from the EU. The fact...