Category Archives: Canada

(CNBC) Canada and US reach trade deal to replace NAFTA

(CNBC)

  • The United States and Canada have agreed to a deal replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to a senior U.S. administration official.
  • The new deal has been deemed the USMCA — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — the official says.
  • Canada, America’s second largest trading partner, was left out when the U.S. and Mexico reached a preliminary deal in late August to revamp NAFTA.
US and Canada strike deal to replace NAFTA

US and Canada strike deal to replace NAFTA  

The United States and Canada agreed to a deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement shortly before a midnight deadline.

The 24-year-old NAFTA, which President Donald Trump railed against as a disaster, will be replaced by the USMCA — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Trump tweeted his approval Monday morning for what he called a “wonderful” trilateral agreement.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Congratulations to Mexico and Canada!

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Late last night, our deadline, we reached a wonderful new Trade Deal with Canada, to be added into the deal already reached with Mexico. The new name will be The United States Mexico Canada Agreement, or USMCA. It is a great deal for all three countries, solves the many……

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….deficiencies and mistakes in NAFTA, greatly opens markets to our Farmers and Manufacturers, reduces Trade Barriers to the U.S. and will bring all three Great Nations together in competition with the rest of the world. The USMCA is a historic transaction!

In a joint statement, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the agreement “will strengthen the middle class, and create good, well-paying jobs and new opportunities for the nearly half billion people who call North America home.”

The plan is for the leaders of the three North American countries to sign before the end of November, after which it would be submitted to Congress.

The negotiations between American and Canadian officials involved offering more market access to U.S. dairy farmers, as well as Canada agreeing to an arrangement effectively capping automobile exports to the United States.

A senior Trump administration official said the deal will “re-balance our trade relationship with Mexico and Canada,” highlighting new rules on the origin of autos, and market access to Canada’s dairy sector.

The deal will also modernize what was covered by NAFTA by adding provisions on digital trade and intellectual property, the administration official said.

A U.S. official also pointed to the prospect of enforcing the agreement, calling it “one of the most enforceable trade agreements we’ve ever had.”

“This is going to be real, and it’s going to change people’s lives, and it’s going to make the U.S. economy stronger and better,” the official said.

The trade pact will come up for review every six years, which will give the U.S. a “significant new form of leverage” to make sure the arrangement is to its liking, according to the senior American official.

“It’s a good day for Canada,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

“We celebrate a trilateral deal. The door closes on trade fragmentation in the region,” Jesus Seade, trade negotiator for Mexico’s incoming president, said via Twitter.

Jesús Seade@JesusSeade

Celebramos el acuerdo trilateral. Se cierra la puerta a la fragmentación comercial de la región. TLCAN 2 dará certidumbre y estabilidad al comercio de México con sus socios en Norteamérica. Gran satisfacción haber representado a @lopezobrador en este proceso. Enhorabuena a todos.

The issue of enforcement was front and center in a statement from Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

“As I’ve said many times, NAFTA has long needed a serious overhaul,” he said. “The crucial test for a new NAFTA, or any new trade agreement, is whether it is enforceable, particularly with respect to promises to protect worker rights and the environment. Americans are sick of hearing speeches about the benefits of new trade agreements when the agreements in place aren’t even enforced and their opportunities don’t materialize.”

Negotiators were racing to meet a U.S.-imposed Sept. 30 deadline to reach an agreement with Canada as they tried to roll out a new North American trade pact.

Canada, America’s second-largest trading partner, was left out when the U.S. and Mexico reached a preliminary deal in late August to revamp NAFTA. Canada was expected to join the talks after that, and the two sides have sparred over dairy products.

Lighthizer said he was prepared to move ahead with just Mexico, but some in Congress, which has to approve a deal, were against leaving Canada behind.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had earlier told reporters in New York during U.N. week that they will keep working on a “broad range of alternatives.”

(BBG) Trump Says He’s Agreed on Mexico Trade Deal to Replace Nafta

(BBG) President Donald Trump said the U.S. is pursuing a new trade accord with Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement and called on Canada to join the deal soon or risk being left out.

Trump announced the agreement with Mexico in a hastily arranged Oval Office event Monday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto joining by conference call. Pena Nieto said he is “quite hopeful” Canada would soon be incorporated in the revised agreement, while Trump said that remains to be seen but that he wanted those negotiations to begin quickly.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is leaving a trip in Europe early to travel to Washington for Nafta talks on Tuesday, spokesman Adam Austen said on Monday. Canada and the U.S. are still at odds over some key issues.

The U.S. and Mexico agreed to increase regional automotive content to 75 percent from the current 62.5 percent in Nafta, with 40 percent to 45 percent of production by workers earning at least $16 an hour, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said in an emailed statement. They agreed to review the deal after six years, softening a demand by the U.S. for a clause to kill the pact after five years unless it’s renewed by all parties. Duty-free access for agricultural products will remain in place, USTR said.

The peso rallied, and the Canadian dollar also advanced. U.S. stocks rose, with the S&P 500 Index closing just short of 2,900 and the Nasdaq Composite Index topping 8,000 for the first time. Automakers and railroads were among the top gainers.

As he announced the move, Trump said he would drop the name Nafta from the accord because of its unpopularity.

“We’re going to call it the United States/Mexico Trade Agreement,” he said. Nafta “has a bad connotation because the United States was hurt very badly by Nafta for many years.”

‘Big Day’

While the president hailed it as “a big day for trade,” groups representing American workers and companies withheld full endorsements.

The Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs at major U.S. companies, said it was encouraged by the progress but said Nafta “must remain trilateral” and is concerned the announcement might not signal an improvement. A coalition of five unions including the AFL-CIO and United Steelworkers said more work is needed to fix Nafta. “We are not done yet,” the unions said in a statement.

An accord between the U.S. and Mexico is the biggest development in talks that began a year ago, punctuated by Trump’s repeated threats to quit altogether. Significant breakthroughs came during the past several days of bilateral talks on automobiles and energy. The three countries trade more than $1 trillion annually, much of it under the pact.

But questions remain about how the Trump administration will steer a deal through Congress, and whether Canada will be part of the final pact. Trump has been authorized by Congress to seek new Nafta through his so-called fast-track authority, which allows the president to submit trade deals to lawmakers for a basic yes-or-no vote, provided the administration follows certain procedures.

Canada Hopes

The U.S. plans to submit a letter to Congress on Friday, said Trump’s trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, told reporters on Monday. The U.S. hopes Canada will join the pact this week, but it will have the option to sign on later, he said. That suggests the administration believes it has congressional authority to move ahead with its current plan as a two-way deal.

But some experts are less certain. Trump would have to go back to Congress to ratify a bilateral agreement with Mexico, said Mickey Kantor, who oversaw America’s entry into Nafta as Bill Clinton’s first U.S. trade representative.

“They’d have to go back to the Congress,” he said. “To walk away from an arrangement with the two and try to set up bilateral deals would probably cause a tremendous political response.”

Canada firmly opposes a U.S. plan to scrap a measure that allows Nafta countries to settle disputes in cases involving dumping and unfair subsidies, and has also warned it won’t totally dismantle protections for its dairy industry, as the U.S. would like.

Important Step

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, called the deal with Mexico an important step but added that “a final agreement should include Canada.” As the main trade committee in the Senate, the finance panel’s approval will be key to any deal.

Canada, which has been on the sidelines of the talks since July as Mexico and the U.S focused on settling differences, said an overhaul of the trilateral pact will still require its endorsement. “Canada’s signature is required,” Austen, Freeland’s spokesman, said in an email on Monday. “We will only sign a new Nafta that is good for Canada and good for the middle class.”

Pena Nieto said in a tweet on Monday that he spoke with Trudeau and stressed the importance of Canada rejoining Nafta talks.

Trump doesn’t plan to invoke a clause to formally withdraw from the pact, which any country can do with six months’ notice, Lighthizer said. Since his election campaign, the president has repeatedly threatened to kill the pact.

Talks to update Nafta began a year ago, but in recent weeks have been held between just the U.S. and Mexico. The U.S. president says the 24-year-old deal has led to hundreds of thousands of lost American jobs, and he promised to either change it to be more favorable to the U.S., or withdraw.

The U.S. push to finish Nafta talks comes at the same time it’s in a spiraling trade war with China, and has threatened to place tariffs on cars imported from major manufacturing centers in Asia and Europe — efforts that have created new uncertainty for many businesses and investors.

“They want to talk,” Trump told reporters on Monday, referring to Chinese officials. But “it’s been too one-sided for too many years, for too many decades and so it’s not the right time to talk.”

(ZH) “What They Did Was Unacceptable”: Saudis To Dump Canadian Assets “No Matter The Cost”

(ZHUpdate 2: Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir has made a new statement – attempting to talk back The Kingdom’s rhetoric somewhat (or perhaps avoid sending its Canadian asset prices tumbling into a firesale).

“What Canada did was unacceptable.

Canada committed a big mistake, must rectify it.

We in Saudi Arabia do not accept dictation, interference.

There is no need for mediation, Canada knows what it needs to do, it must change its policies, ways with The Kingdom.

The Saudi measures only apply to new investments [ZH: so no immediate asset dumping]

Saudis are still weighing other measures to take against Canada.

The Loonie rebounded:

*  *  *

Update 1: Russia has sided with Saudi Arabia in the ongoing diplomatic rift with Canada on Wednesday, issuing a statement accusing the latter of attempting to “politicize human rights issues.”

The statement said Russia rejected the “authoritative tone” of Canada toward Saudi Arabia, adding that the Kingdom had the full sovereign right to manage its own affairs.

“We consistently and firmly advocate compliance with universal human rights with due regard for the specific national customs and traditions that developed in a given country over a long period of time. We have always said that the politicization of human rights matters is unacceptable,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

*  *  *

The Saudis have escalated their fury towards Trudeau’s “progressive” propaganda. Having expelled the Canadian ambassador, froze new trade and investment with the G7 member, suspended a student exchange program and halted Saudi Arabian Airlines flights to Canada, the Saudis are stepping up their pressure very directly.

The FT reports that the Saudi central bank and state pension funds have instructed their overseas asset managers to dispose of their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings “no matter the cost.”

Third-party managers are estimated to be mandated to invest more than $100bn of Saudi funds in global markets, executives say. While the proportion of that figure invested in Canadian holdings would be “fairly small in absolute terms,” the asset sale sent a strong message, one of the people said.

The sell-off began on Tuesday and underlines how the Gulf monarchy is flexing its financial and political muscle to warn foreign powers against what it regards as interference in its sovereign affairs.

“This is severe stuff,” said one banker.

The most immediate reaction appears to be in the currency…

Why are the Saudis doing this (aside from responding to Ottawa’s criticism of the arrest of a female activist)?

One Twitter wit noted – “to secure funding for the Tesla LBO?”

(BBG) Canada Is Preparing Steel Quotas, Tariffs on China and Others

(BBG) The Canadian government is preparing new measures to prevent a potential flood of steel imports from global producers seeking to avoid U.S. tariffs, according to people familiar with the plans. The Canadian dollar weakened and shares in Stelco Holdings Inc. soared.

The measures are said to be a combination of quotas and tariffs aimed at certain countries including China, said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter isn’t public. The moves follow similar “safeguard” measures being considered by the European Union aimed at warding off steel that might otherwise have been sent to the U.S. It comes alongside Canadian counter-tariffs on U.S. steel, aluminum and other products set to kick in on July 1.

The steps intensify the fallout from U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade fight, in particular U.S. tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum that hit Canada, the EU and other nations. The moves have prompted retaliation from the U.S.’s biggest trading partners, and forced companies like Harley-Davidson Inc. to shift production.

The Canadian measures are expected to include new quotas on certain steel imports to prevent dumping, with tariffs applied above that threshold, the people said. The announcement could come as early as next week, though the government hasn’t finalized its plans, the people said. A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau declined to comment. Representatives for Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who handles U.S. trade issues, didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

Imports Data

Canadian steel imports in 2017 totaled $9 billion, according to U.S. data, with 55 percent of that coming from the U.S. The next biggest sources of Canadian steel are China, South Korea, Brazil and Turkey, the data show.

The U.S. steel tariffs open the door to a potential flood of cheap imports, said Sean Donnelly, chief executive officer of ArcelorMittal Dofasco, the Canadian unit of ArcelorMittal of Luxembourg.

“We must be able to operate in an un-distorted, market-based competitive environment,” Donnelly told lawmakers at a parliamentary committee in Ottawa Tuesday. “Canada’s response to past and future threats from unfairly traded and diverted offshore imports is critical.”

Steel groups have been pressing for safeguard measures, which could be applied provisionally pending an investigation. Joseph Galimberti, president of the Canadian Steel Producers Association, said his members are seeing the impacts of steel diversion in Canada’s market. The industry group’s members include ArcelorMittal Dofasco, Stelco Holdings Inc., Essar Steel Algoma Inc. and others.

Stelco, one of the few publicly traded steel producers in Canada, jumped as much as 2.5 percent in Toronto and was up 1.7 percent to C$25.90 at 12:36 p.m while Alcoa Corp. rose 2.6 percent to $45.40. The loonie erased gains, weakening 0.1 percent to 75.13 U.S cents.

“We are entirely supportive of the safeguard as an appropriate measure and have been working with government to provide them the commercial information they need to proceed as appropriate,” he said in an email Tuesday.

Residential Turmoil

Any additional tariffs enacted on foreign steel will have a ripple effect on the Canadian economy and raise costs in the already-crunched housing sector.

Only a handful of companies produce steel in the country and construction companies, steel fabricators and developers rely on imports for various types of steel including those used for residential building such as rebar.

“Construction companies and owners will have to pay more in the short-term out of their own pockets,” Richard Lyall, president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario, said in a phone interview. “It’s a hit that can affect risk profile and pro formas for future projects, which can have a chilling effect on the market. But the medium to longer term is consumers will get hit by this.”

(GUA) US, Canada and Mexico beat Morocco in vote to host 2026 World Cup

(GUA)

Delegates of Canada, Mexico and the United States celebrate after winning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup.
 Delegates of Canada, Mexico and the United States celebrate after winning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico after they beat Morocco by a margin of 69 votes to host the tournament which will be expanded to 48 teams for the first time.

The Moroccan bid used its final address to Fifa congress to point out the country has a ban on weapons and would not hike up ticket prices to increase profit, a thinly veiled swipe at its rivals. But it was not enough to sway the room as it lost the vote, with the United 2026 bid receiving 134 votes to its 65.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

The U.S., together with Mexico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Congratulations – a great deal of hard work!

The United States-led bid was judged by a Fifa taskforce to be vastly superior to its north African rivals on technical grounds, with a total of 23 stadiums, already built or under construction, at its disposal. Morocco, while enticing some federations with its commitment to fan engagement in a footballing nation, would have had to build or renovate all of the 14 stadiums in its bid book.

That difference – alongside the promise of £4bn in extra profit for the federations – was enough to convince some undecided voters to side with the United 2026 campaign, which opened its final 15-minute pitch by handing the stage to Alphonso Davies, a 17-year-old Canadian born in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. “In Canada, they’ve welcomed me and I know they’ll welcome you,” he said.

Of 211 federations, 203 submitted a vote. That number accounted for the four bidding nations who were ineligible, plus three American-governed territories who abstained because of a perceived conflict of interest plus Ghana, who did not attend congress after corruption allegations. The way the federations voted was made public for the first time, perhaps the most surprising revelation being Russia voting for the United 2026 bid despite political tensions between the nations.

The Fifa heirarchy, including the president, Gianni Infantino, preferred the North American bid which has promised to generate around an $11bn (£8.24bn) profit for Fifa compared to the projected $5.7bn (£4.48bn) a Morocco World Cup would raise. The Moroccans had been keen to emphasise its more fan-friendly pricing in contrast with the United 2026 bid which stated an average ticket price of $431 (£322), a significant increase on the Brazil and Russia World Cups.

It was the first World Cup vote since 2010, when the FA suffered humiliation after Russia won the right to host the 2018 tournament. Allegations of corruption immediately followed that vote with Qatar securing the 2022 event. The prospect of a more controversy-free World Cup also swayed Fifa in favour of the United 2026 bid.

Infantino took the opportunity to claim the Fifa landscape has drastically changed since he succeeded Sepp Blatter. “It was clinically dead when I took over two years ago,” he said. “Now it is alive. There are no longer additional costs in the balance sheet.”

Proceedings at congress, held at Moscow’s Expocentre on the outskirts of the city centre, came to an unexpected halt halfway through as Infantino announced the arrival of Vladimir Putin. Most of the hall rose to their feet to greet the arrival of the Russian president but the FA delegation, led by the chief executive, Martin Glenn, remained seated. Putin offered little alternative to David Gill, the English Fifa council member, but to shake his hand as he made his way along the line of those on the stage.

Eight years ago when Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup in Zurich, Putin spoke mainly in English as he thanked the audience “from the bottom of my heart”. He struck a different, more serious tone this time round although he was full of praise for Infantino, calling him a “good front man and true fighter”. Infantino responded in kind, thanking Putin “on behalf of the entire world of football … from the bottom of our heart a big thank you for your engagement, for your passion, for really making us feel part of the same team”.

Putin closed his speech by saying in English: “Welcome to Russia.”

+++ (BBG) Canada, Mexico to Get Initial Exemption From Trump Tariffs

(Bloomberg) — The Trump administration will initially
exclude Canada and Mexico from stiff tariffs on steel and
aluminum imports, an exemption they would lose if they fail to
reach an updated Nafta agreement with the U.S., White House
trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Wednesday.
The two nations won’t be subject to tariffs on their steel
and aluminum if they sign a new North American Free Trade
Agreement that meets the satisfaction of the U.S., Navarro said,
adding that other American allies could use a similar system to
ask for an exemption.
If Nafta talks fall through, Canada and Mexico would face
the same tariff as other nations, expected to be 25 percent on
steel and 10 percent on aluminum.
“Here’s the situation, and the president has made this
public,” Navarro said. “There’s going to be a provision which
will exclude Canada and Mexico until the Nafta thing is
concluded one way or another.”
The decision-making process regarding the tariffs has
evolved and more changes could be made before President Donald
Trump formally approves them. China on Thursday vowed to
retaliate, its most forceful comments yet on the threatened
tariffs.

China Response

“A trade war is never the right solution,” China’s Foreign
Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing. “In a globalized
world, it is particularly unhelpful, as it will harm both the
initiator and the target countries. In the event of a trade war,
China will make a justified and necessary response.”
Earlier Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah
Huckabee Sanders said the tariff plan would feature “potential
carve outs for Canada and Mexico based on national security”
considerations and also possible exclusions for specific
countries.
Australia is among those making the case for exemption,
with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop citing her nation’s status as
a “close ally and partner” in a Sky News interview on Thursday.

‘Encouraging’

“While the news is encouraging, our efforts are ongoing,”
Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said in a reply to emailed questions
on Thursday about Huckabee Sanders’ comments. “We are leaving no
stone unturned to secure Australian exports and the jobs they
support.”
Negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico wrapped up the
seventh round of Nafta talks this week in Mexico still hoping
for a breakthrough on the biggest sticking points. The president
hinted at the tariff incentive in a tweet earlier this week,
without elaborating on how the trade-off would work.
Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel
triggered threats of retaliation from trading partners including
Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Lawmakers of his own
Republican Party have been turning up the pressure, warning of
severe political and economic ramifications and the potential
for a trade war from such broad-based measures.
Navarro, the director of the Office of Trade and
Manufacturing Policy, said in an interview with the Fox Business
Network on Wednesday evening that Trump would sign the tariff
proclamations on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in the Oval Office
surrounded by workers in the steel and aluminum industry.

EU Retaliation

But a person familiar with the planning said that the
president would likely not sign on Thursday because lawyers
needed more time to polish the details and finish the paperwork.
The White House schedule released late Wednesday didn’t list a
tariff announcement for Thursday.
The threat of retaliation over the tariffs, which the
International Monetary Fund has warned could eventually damage
growth, is already rising. Besides China, the European Union has
said it would respond with its own 25 percent tariff to hit $3.5
billion of American goods. The bloc is targeting iconic U.S.
brands produced in key Republican states on a range of consumer,
agricultural and steel products, according to a list drawn up by
the European Commission.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in an interview on
Wednesday, said he recognizes the risk of retaliation against
the U.S. for steel and aluminum tariffs but he still believes
the move will benefit American workers.
“We are the freest trader in the world, hands down,”
Navarro told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday. “All we get for that is
a half a trillion dollar a year trade deficit that offshores our
wealth, offshores our jobs.”

+++ P.O. (BBG) U.K. Should Have ‘Canada Plus Plus Plus’ Brexit Deal, Italy Says

P.O. 

…In my opinion we will soon see Mr Barnier swallow his own words…

…It is an inevitability…

…One cannot escape one’s own destiny…

FCMP

(BBG)

 

Britain should be granted the “Canada plus plus plus” trade deal that Brexit Secretary David Davis has called for, Italian Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda said in an interview.

Calenda, a politically independent figure in the center-left government of Premier Paolo Gentiloni, told Bloomberg Television at his Rome ministry: “I think Canada plus plus plus will be the minimum that we need to achieve.” The European Union’s free-trade accord with Canada is the bloc’s most ambitious commercial deal to date.

Calenda urged the European Commission to keep the lead to hold the EU’s 27 remaining nations together, saying “the Commission has to be the most important character in this case.” He said the bloc should find a way “to keep on cooperating” with the U.K. after Brexit on trade strategy in dealings with outsiders, including countries which are not liberal democracies and work “with different values.”

Davis said last month that he wanted “Canada plus plus plus,” explaining this would probably start with “the best of Canada, the best of Japan and the best of South Korea and then add to that the bits that are missing, which is services.”

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has specifically ruled out the agreement as described by Davis. “There is not a single trade agreement that is open to financial services,” Barnier told the Guardian newspaper on Dec. 18. “It doesn’t exist.”

 

(GUA) ‘Sonic attack’: Canadian diplomat in Cuba also suffered hearing damage

(GUA) One or more Canadians affected after suspected use of sound weapon against US personnel in Havana led to expulsion of Cuban diplomats from Washington.

Cuban flags in front of the US embassy in Havana
Canada helped broker talks between Cuba and the United States that led to restored diplomatic relations. Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

At least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba has been treated for hearing loss following disclosures that a group of American diplomats in Havana suffered severe hearing loss that US officials believe was caused by an advanced sonic device.

Brianne Maxwell, Canadian government spokeswoman for global affairs, said officials “are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and US diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana. The government is actively working – including with US and Cuban authorities – to ascertain the cause.”

Maxwell added that officials did not have any reason to believe Canadian tourists and other visitors could be affected.

Canada helped broker talks between Cuba and the United States that led to restored diplomatic relations.

In the autumn of 2016 a series of US diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of President Barack Obama’s re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Some of the US diplomats’ symptoms were so severe they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation US officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences.

It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose.

The US officials weren’t authorised to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US retaliated byexpelling two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington on 23 May. She did not say how many US diplomats were affected or confirm they had suffered hearing loss, saying only that they had “a variety of physical symptoms”.

The Cuban government said in a lengthy statement late on Wednesday that “Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception”.

The statement from the Cuban foreign ministry said it had been informed on 17 February of the incidents and launched an “exhaustive, high-priority, urgent investigation at the behest of the highest level of the Cuban government”.

It said the decision to expel two Cuban diplomats was “unjustified and baseless.”

The ministry said it had created an expert committee to analyse the incidents and had reinforced security around the US embassy and US diplomatic residences.

“Cuba is universally considered a safe destination for visitors and foreign diplomats, including US citizens,” the statement said.

US officials told the Associated Press that about five diplomats, several with spouses, had been affected and that no children had been involved. The FBI and Diplomatic Security Service are investigating.

Cuba employs a state security apparatus that keeps many people under surveillance and US diplomats are among the most closely monitored people on the island. Like virtually all foreign diplomats in Cuba, the victims of the incidents lived in housing owned and maintained by the Cuban government.

However, officials familiar with the probe said investigators were looking into the possibilities that the incidents were carried out by a third country such as Russia, possibly operating without the knowledge of Cuba’s formal chain of command.

Nauert said investigators did not yet have a definitive explanation for the incidents but stressed they take them “very seriously,” as shown by the Cuban diplomats’ expulsions.

(Reuters) Exclusive: U.S., Canada, Mexico agree on fast-paced NAFTA talks – sources

(Reuters) U.S., Mexican and Canadian officials have agreed to an aggressive timetable to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), sources said, aiming to conclude early next year to avoid Mexico’s 2018 presidential elections.

The plan is to hold seven rounds of talks at three-week intervals, according to two Mexican officials who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Described by one Mexican official as a “very aggressive calendar,” the sources said the goal was to conclude the talks before the electoral campaign was in full swing.

Negotiators fear the renegotiation process could become a political punching bag in Mexico due to President Donald Trump’s repeated swipes at Mexico and as Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party leads a number of early polls for next year’s election.

Trump has pushed for a renegotiation of NAFTA, threatening to dump it if he cannot rework the accord to the benefit of the United States. He argues it has fueled a trade deficit with Mexico and cost thousands of U.S. jobs.

The first round of talks to upgrade the accord underpinning over a trillion dollars of trilateral trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada is due to take place in Washington from Aug. 16-20, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday.

The talks will alternate sites among the three countries and the second round is slated to happen in Mexico, one of the Mexican sources said. However, a U.S. Trade Representative spokesperson said the countries have not all agreed to the number of rounds and the frequency of talks.

A well-placed Canadian source familiar with discussions said the United States had proposed the “staggering” schedule but could also not confirm whether an agreement had been reached on the timetable.

U.S. administration officials said Mexico had asked for the negotiations to be completed by the end of the year before the Mexican presidential election heats up.

Lighthizer has said he hopes the negotiations could be wrapped up by the end of the year, while noting that he was not prepared to set a deadline for the talks. John Melle, assistant U.S. trade representative for the Western Hemisphere, will lead the day-to-day negotiations of NAFTA for the United States.

Lighthizer, who by U.S. rules is the chief NAFTA negotiator, said in June that completing the negotiations by the year end was a “very, very quick time frame and we’re not going to have a bad agreement to save time.”

Impact on Immigration

David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to Washington, told reporters on Tuesday, “Obviously if we could get a clarification of the trading relationship sooner rather than later, it would be better, but having said that, we’re not going to rush into a bad deal.”

Canadian officials said there is no chance of making substantial changes to NAFTA if talks wrap up by the end of 2017. Modernizing the pact in a serious way will take two years, they forecast.

After the United States unveiled on Monday its much-anticipated objectives for the renegotiation, the agenda was generally viewed as fairly limited in scope and greeted as such by Mexico and Canada.

A U.S. administration official and a congressional source said there were growing concerns within the Trump administration, on Capitol Hill and in the business community that Trump policies could embolden anti-U.S. populist Lopez Obrador, who has tapped into Mexico’s resentment toward Trump.

Some see the series of recent high-level visits by Trump cabinet members to Mexico, including Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, as signs of those concerns.

U.S. officials caution that if things go badly on the trade front, Mexico would gain leverage on immigration. It has been praised by U.S. officials for curbing the flow of Central American immigrants through Mexico, but it could decide to reduce its border enforcement.

“If the current president of Mexico were to capitulate in any major way to Trump’s unreasonable demands, then it would be a huge bonanza for Lopez Obrador,” said Fred Bergsten, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

(Reuters) Exclusive: Almost half of Canadians want illegal border crossers deported – Reuters poll

(Reuters) Nearly half of Canadians want to deport people who are illegally crossing into Canada from the United States, and a similar number disapprove of how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is handling the influx, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday.

A significant minority, four out of 10 respondents, said the border crossers could make Canada “less safe,” underlining the potential political risk for Trudeau’s Liberal government.

The increasing flow of hundreds of asylum-seekers of African and Middle Eastern origin from the United States in recent months has become a contentious issue in Canada.

There has been broad bipartisan support for high levels of legal immigration for decades in Canada. But Trudeau has come under pressure over the flow of the illegal migrants. He is questioned about it every time he appears in parliament, from opponents on the left, who want more asylum-seekers to be allowed in, and critics on the right, who say the migrants pose a potential security risk.

Canadians appeared to be just as concerned about illegal immigration as their American neighbors, according to the poll, which was conducted between March 8-9. Some 48 percent of Canadians said they supported “increasing the deportation of people living in Canada illegally.” (For graphics on asylum process, immigration poll see tmsnrt.rs/2nyY8CJ)

When asked specifically about the recent border crossings from the United States, the same number – 48 percent – said Canada should “send these migrants back to the U.S.” Another 36 percent said Canada should “accept these migrants” and let them seek refugee status.

In the United States, where President Donald Trump was elected partly on his promise to boost deportations, 50 percent of adults supported “increasing the deportation of illegal immigrants,” according to a separate Reuters/Ipsos poll that was conducted during the same week in the United States.

Illegal migrants interviewed by Reuters in Canada said they had been living legally in the United States and had applied for asylum there. But they had fled to Canada for fear of being caught up in Trump’s immigration crackdown.

 

WARMING WEATHER POSES RISK

In the poll, support for deporting the border crossers was strongest among men, adults who do not have a college degree, people who are older and those with higher levels of income.

“There are so many people in the world who want to come in and go through the right channels,” said Greg Janzen, elected leader of a Manitoba border municipality that has seen hundreds of border crossers. “That’s what’s pissing most people off. These guys are jumping the border,” he said.

Forty-six percent of Canadians feel the influx would have no effect on safety, while 41 percent said it would make Canada less safe, according to the poll.

“Refugees are much more welcomed when we have gone and selected them ourselves as a country, as opposed to refugees who have chosen us,” said Janet Dench, executive director of Canadian Council for Refugees.

Of those polled, 46 percent disagreed with how Trudeau was handling the situation, 37 percent agreed, while 17 percent did not know. In January, a separate Ipsos poll found that 59 percent of Canadians approved of Trudeau, while 41 percent disapproved.

Trudeau faces no immediate threat, since the next elections are not until 2019. Trudeau’s office declined to comment on the poll, as did the opposition Conservative Party.

Brian Lee Crowley, head of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute public policy think-tank, said the number of illegal migrants could spike as the weather warms, and “if people become convinced there’s a large uncontrolled flow of illegal immigrants, I think that will be a very serious political issue for the government.”

Canadian authorities dismiss the idea they are being lax.

Dan Brien, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, said “trying to slip across the border in an irregular manner is not a ‘free’ ticket to Canada,” noting that all asylum-seekers were detained.

“If they are found to be inadmissible without a valid claim, deportation procedures are begun,” he said by email when asked about the poll.

According to a separate Ipsos poll in Canada, 23 percent of Canadians listed immigration control as among the top national issues in March, up from 17 percent in December. It ranks behind healthcare, taxes, unemployment and poverty as top concerns.

The Canadian government set an immigration target of 300,000 for 2017, or just under 1 percent of the population, the same level as 2016. It reduced the 2017 target for resettled refugees to 25,000 from 44,800 in 2016, a year when it welcomed 25,000 refugees from Syria.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English and French throughout Canada. It included responses from 1,001 people who were at least 18 years old. Individual responses were weighted according to the latest population estimates in Canada, so that the results reflect the entire population.

The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 4 percentage points.

 

 

(Reuters) Trudeau says Canada, EU must lead world economy

(Reuters) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that the whole world benefited from a strong European Union and that the bloc and his country needed to lead the international economy in challenging times.

Trudeau told the European Parliament that the Union was an unprecedented model for peaceful cooperation in a speech that marked his distance from both the United States under new President Donald Trump, who has questioned the value and future of the bloc, and from Britain, which has voted to leave it.

An effective European voice on the global stage was not just preferable, but essential, Trudeau said.

“You are a vital player in addressing the challenges that we collectively face as an international community,” he told EU lawmakers a day after they backed an EU-Canada free trade deal. “Indeed the whole world benefits from a strong EU.”

Trudeau, who will also visit Germany, said that Canada and the European Union shared a belief in democracy, transparency and the rule of law, in human rights, inclusion and diversity.

“We know that, in these times, we must choose to lead the international economy, not simply be subject to its whims,” he said, according to a text made available in advance of his speech, adding both parties had shown they valued trade and a belief that it could bring prosperity to their citizens.

With the passage of their trade deal, Canada and the European Union offer a counter to Trump, who has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and wants to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement.

For Canada the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is important to reduce its reliance on the neighbouring United States as an export market.

For the EU, it is a first trade pact with a G7 country and a success to hail after months of protests at a time when the bloc’s credibility has taken a beating from Britain’s vote last June to leave.

Trudeau’s speech, in English and French, got a warm welcome from lawmakers in Strasbourg as he signalled Canada’s distance from both its big neighbour to the south under Trump and from London, where Brexit supporters argue that ties to Britain’s old empire can help expand trade once out of the European Union.

Both Canada and the EU, said Trudeau, needed to ensure that their Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), set to enter force in months, worked for people.

“If we are successful, CETA will become the blueprint for all ambitious, future trade deals. If we are not, this could very well be the last. So make no mistake, this is an important moment for us.”

Trudeau said many people were worried that the current system only benefited society’s luckiest few and that this was a valid concern.

Trade, he said, must be inclusive, so that everyone benefited.

“And this agreement … delivers just that.”

+++ (BBG) Canada Signals Possible U.S. Trade Deal That Excludes Mexico

(BBG) Canada’s government will consider bilateral trade measures during renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a sign it could potentially move ahead at least in part without Mexico.

The comments from David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., suggest Donald Trump’s protectionist pledges are splintering the continental pact as the president prepares to meet Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto late this month.

Justin Trudeau. Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government arrived in Calgary Sunday evening for cabinet meetings where Trump is looming large. The president signed an executive order Monday withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord and intends to begin talks soon to renegotiate Nafta, abruptly ending the decades-old U.S. tilt toward free trade.

MacNaughton said upon arrival that his focus is on avoiding Canada being “collateral damage” in trade actions aimed at China and Mexico. “We will cooperate on trilateral matters when it’s in our interest and we’ll be looking to do things that are in our interest bilaterally also. Some of them may be within Nafta, some may not be,” he said.

Trudeau talked with Pena Nieto on Sunday, releasing a short summary afterward saying they “spoke about the importance of the Canada-Mexico bilateral relationship, and of the trilateral North American partnership.”

Line of Fire

Since Trump’s election victory, Canadian trade officials and observers have held out hope they’re not Trump’s target. Canada is the top buyer of U.S. goods overall and the top buyer for 35 individual states, a detail Trudeau emphasized to the president in a call Saturday. What Canadians fear is that any tariffs or other measures applied broadly will sideswipe them. About 70 percent of Canadian trade is with the U.S.

“I don’t think Canada’s the focus at all, but I think we are part of that,” MacNaughton said. “That’s what we’ve got to worry about — is if we’re collateral damage.”

Trump officials have yet to raise any specific concerns about Canadian trade, MacNaughton added. “Their biggest concern frankly in terms of trade is the deficits they have with China and Mexico. That’s what they’ve raised.”

Chrystia Freeland. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Chrystia Freeland.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Trudeau has prepared for the Trump era by promoting his trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, to serve as foreign minister and his main liaison for talks with Trump. He appointed a retired general as her deputy with a specific focus on wooing the U.S. administration, and reshuffled staff to focus on U.S. ties.

‘Primarily’ Bilateral

Asked about Mexico on Monday, Freeland cited Pena Nieto’s visit to Ottawathis summer as evidence of “a very mutually beneficial Nafta partnership. But of course, our relationship with the United States is primarily a bilateral relationship.”

Meanwhile, Trump-style politics are looming larger in Canada. Trudeau canceled a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in favor of a rural tour aimed at fending off controversies that painted him as out-of-touch. His main rival party is embroiled in a leadership race where several candidates are drawing from Trump’s playbook.

Freeland has downplayed the risks of major trade impacts, saying she’s “really confident” Canada can build a strong relationship with the Trump team. “There’ve been nearly a dozen meaningful changes to Nafta since it was first concluded, so we’re looking forward to those conversations,” she said in a television interview on inauguration day.

(WP) Commerce nominee Ross says top priority is renegotiating NAFTA

(WP) Wilbur Ross: Trade partners who don’t ‘play fair … should be punished’. 

President-elect Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary Wilbur Ross gave opening remarks, Jan. 18, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. (Reuters)

Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross singled out changes to the nation’s free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada on Wednesday as “the first thing” he would address if confirmed to lead the Commerce Department in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

Speaking before the Senate commerce committee, Ross argued that the United States should open its economic borders to countries that “play by the rules.” But those that do not, he said, “should be punished — severely.”

“I am not anti-trade. I am pro-trade,” Ross said. “But I am pro sensible trade, not pro trade that is to the disadvantage of the American worker and the American manufacturing community.”

Ross appeared to face an easy path to confirmation, with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle praising his testimony Wednesday. Commerce chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) called Ross’s explanation of his stance on trade “reassuring.” Meanwhile, ranking Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said Ross answers were “detailed” and “non-evasive” and called the hearing “a piece of cake.”

Trump made renegotiating the nation’s trade agreements a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, tapping into the frustration of many middle-class workers who have felt left behind by globalization. Since his election, Trump has already begun wielding the power of the bully pulpit, repeatedly calling for a border tax on U.S. companies that offshore jobs and sell their products back home.

He has taken to task individual companies such as Ford, General Motors and Toyota for investing in Mexico, sending their stock prices plummeting. But he has also touted new U.S. jobs created by telecom giant Sprint and pharmaceutical maker Bayer AG.

Ross was a close adviser to Trump during the election, and he is slated to take the leading role in setting trade policy in the new administration. Trump has named economist Peter Navarro to head a newly created manufacturing council within the White House and picked trade veteran Robert Lighthizer as the U.S. Trade Representative in charge of negotiating agreements.

On the campaign trail, Trump called for a blanket 35 percent tax on Mexican imports and a 45 percent tariff on goods from China. In a recent interview with the German newspaper Bild, he suggested imposing a 35 percent tax on German cars sold in the United States as well.

“When you start out with the adverse party understanding that he or she is going to have to make concessions, that’s a pretty good background to begin” negotiations, Ross said Wednesday.

Ross wants to ‘level the playing field’ with China

It is unclear if those measures are part of the border tax that Trump has long touted, and international trade experts say they are likely a violation of long-standing treaties. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Trump criticized a controversial tax plan by House Republicans intended to discourage imports known as “border adjustment.”

Ross indicated Wednesday that tariffs were an essential component of U.S. trade policy. However, he acknowledged that protectionist measures implemented during the Great Depression only served to deepen the nation’s economic distress.

“I think tariffs play a role both as a negotiating tool and to punish offenders that don’t play by the rules,” he said.

Trump’s top trade advisers have also raised concerns about China’s growing power in the world economy. Navarro has been particularly dire in his warnings, writing a book entitled “Death By China.”

Ross, who collects Chinese art and has extensive business interests in the country, sounded a stern but less strident tone in his testimony Wednesday. He said companies manipulate their currencies as a strategy for “attacking” the American economy, though he did not mention Trump’s pledge to label China a currency manipulator on the president-elect’s first day in office.

“China is the most protectionist country of very large countries,” Ross said.

Ross amassed his fortune by investing in the industries that were hit hardest by the forces of globalization — including steel, coal and textile. He recently announced he would step down down from his position on the board of directors at ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel producer, in advance of his confirmation. According to Bloomberg, Ross’s financial disclosures revealed assets of more than $330 million, though his net worth is estimated at $2.9 billion.

During his testimony, Ross said he would be “scrupulous in recusal” to prevent any conflicts of interest with his vast business empire. But he said his wide-ranging investments also provided him insight into the minutiae of trade law and said his companies have been the victims of unfair practices.

On Wednesday, he called for tougher enforcement of existing trade laws, arguing that countries often delay cases by failing to provide paperwork and that billions of dollars in penalties go uncollected. That hard-line stance has helped him win support from the United Steelworkers, which had backed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the election.

Ross’s testimony was briefly interrupted by protesters criticizing Ross for his early support of the sweeping trade agreement with Asia known as the TransPacific Partnership, one of President’ Obama’s signature achievements. The deal has since become politically toxic, and Trump has vowed to pull out of the agreement once in office.

Ross said Wednesday he changed his mind after analyzing the details of the agreement, raising concerns about what he said were lax requirements on auto parts manufacturing.

“I came across some things that I felt were not consistent with things that had been advertised,” he said.

Protesters interrupt Trump’s commerce secretary nominee

Ross also highlighted proposals to incentive domestic growth, including spending on infrastructure. During the campaign, Ross and Navarro suggested a $137 billion tax credit that they said could spur $1 trillion in private sector spending on infrastructure projects with a regular revenue stream, such as toll roads. That proposal was widely panned by economists as unrealistic, but Ross defended it on Wednesday.

“The infrastructure needs of this country are so monumental that we need any available source of capital in order to meet it on a timely basis,” he said.

Ross said the tax credits should be one of several efforts by the federal government to boost infrastructure spending. Several top Republican lawmakers have questioned the need for additional government spending, however, and Ross did not propose a way to pay for those proposals.

Ross also acknowledged during the hearing that he had hired an undocumented immigrant in 2009 as a household employee. Ross said the worker had provided what appeared to be a valid Social Security card and driver’s license when hired. But in preparation for his confirmation, Ross said he requested that the employee provide the paperwork once more and that person was unable to do so.

Ross said the employee has been fired. He also said he paid all taxes required that person’s employment.

(LibertyblitizKrieg) Montreal Moves to Limit New Restaurants to Protect Existing Restaurants

(LibertyblitizKrieg) Here’s your “it’s hard to believe, but true” article of the day.

Reason reports:

Lawmakers in Montreal have moved to crack down on new restaurants, in an odious attempt to protect existing ones.

“Montreal has one of the highest restaurant per-capita ratios in North America and the amount of places to eat is worrying local politicians,” reads a Canadian Press piece from earlier this week.

If that sounds awful and weird, that’s because it is. Studies of the best places to eat often conclude that the more restaurants a city has per-capita, the better its restaurant scene. It’s no surprise that the more choices a consumer has, the better off that consumer is.

Montreal does have an impressive number of restaurants. Data shows Montreal trails only New York City in terms of restaurants per capita in North America. As in New York City, that competition is great for Montreal’s consumers. But it puts pressure on incumbent restaurateurs. So lawmakers have decided to side with the latter.

The worry expressed by lawmakers has turned into a ban on new restaurants from opening within 25 meters of an existing one along the city’s Rue Notre Dame, the street the now-shuttered Sans Menu once called home. Notably, the action comes as “a number of commercial and retail properties remain empty” in this same part of Montreal.

The law “risk[s] turning the city’s restaurant scene into a heavily bureaucratized nightmare like the province’s construction industry,” says the head of Quebec’s restaurant association, who notes that real threats to the industry come from “road construction, high property and licensing taxes, as well as the potential for a $15 hourly minimum wage.”

It’s not just brick and mortar restaurants though. Montreal’s increasingly absurd stance when it comes to food, also applies to food trucks.

Speaking of food trucks, Montreal recently ended its decades-long ban on food trucks, with a twist. Food trucks can’t park within 60 meters of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Also: “For food safety,” reports a Canadian news service, “the trucks chosen will have to be associated with an already established restaurant.”

You can’t make this up.

(DPA) EU’s deadline day for landmark Canada trade deal

(DPA) – The European Union was set to achieve a long-sought consensus on a landmark EU-Canada trade deal Friday, after more than a week of intense negotiation.

For days, Belgium‘s francophone region of Wallonia had blocked the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which aims to lift trade barriers and ease the flow of goods between Canada and the EU.

Belgian negotiators achieved a breakthrough on Thursday and the country‘s powerful regional parliaments now have until midnight (2200 GMT) to give their go-ahead. The rest of the EU is already on board.

The Walloon parliament is expected to vote at around 4 pm, the Belga news agency reported, with another region that opposed the deal expected to meet at around the same time.

In parallel, EU member states are expected to give their formal approval to CETA and all accompanying texts by midnight on Friday, after their ambassadors accepted the Belgian compromise, EU sources said on condition of anonymity.

(EurActiv) Belgians keep EU, Canada in suspense on CETA trade deal

(EurActiv) Feuding Belgian politicians, keeping Canada and the European Union waiting, resume talks on Wednesday (26 October) with hopes fading that they will unblock the CETA free trade deal in time for a planned signing summit.

Belgian and European Union officials held a string of meetings aimed at winning over the Wallonia region, which has prevented Belgium from supporting the agreement and effectively blocked a deal that must be endorsed by all 28 EU nations.

“I want to be clear on the fact that we have already received three ultimatums and that we will not tolerate a fourth ultimatum, wherever it comes from,” Wallonia leader Paul Magnette told reporters.

“If there is a fourth ultimatum, we will stop the negotiations.”
Didier Reynders, the Belgian foreign minister who chaired the talks, said he hoped that his Liberal-led federal government could forge a common position with Socialist-led Wallonia, one of five devolved authorities whose agreement it needs. It would then go back to EU negotiators trying to conclude the accord.Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was due to fly to Brussels to ink the CETA trade pact with EU leaders on Thursday. But Belgium’s federal government failed, in six hours of negotiations on Tuesday, to overcome a veto from the region of Wallonia that is stopping the European bloc from signing up.

“I hope we can give a signal to our European colleagues that we are ready to respond to the European discussion on the basis of Belgian proposals,” he told reporters late on Tuesday, while stressing that he could not yet say if Belgium would sign up.

Deal could take weeks

Paul Magnette, the Wallonia premier, has said it could take some weeks to agree a deal that has been seven years in the making. He repeated on Tuesday that his French-speaking region, less than 1% of the EU’s 507-million population, could not agree to an arbitration system in CETA that he said favoured multinational corporations over existing national courts.

EU and Canadian officials have said that even if Trudeau does not come to sign the accord, they will keep talking. Canada, with much to lose from failing to gain easier access to such a big market, says the ball is in Europe’s court.

All 27 other EU states are ready to sign up, as is Belgium’s federal government and its biggest region, Dutch-speaking Flanders. Critics accuse the French-speaking Socialists, pushed out of federal power for the first time in over 20 years by the current coalition, of exploiting its veto for domestic ends.

Magnette, who has reacted angrily to pressure to reach a deal in time for Trudeau’s visit, told reporters after the talks that he wanted an accord with Ottawa. “We’ve always negotiated in good faith,” he said. “Our demands are very clear,” he said.

“We want to start to be understood.”

‘CETA is not dead’

Meanwhile, the European Commission renewed calls for patience while a majority of the European Parliament called for the most ambitious trade deal in EU history to be saved.

“CETA is not dead,” said both the head of the Conservative European People’s Party bloc, Manfred Weber, and his liberal counterpart, Guy Verhofstadt, during a session in Strasbourg, France.

Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, said it was important to lay the groundwork for approving the deal by November and signing it in December.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz told German radio that he did not think a solution will be reached this week but that delaying the summit would not mean failure.

“If you need 14 more days then you just push back the summit,” he said.

BACKGROUND

The EU’s current trade relations with Canada are guided by a Framework Agreement for Commercial and Economic Cooperation, in force since 1976.

The EU and Canada launched CETA negotiations in May 2009 and agreed on the content and its general strategy in June 2009.

The European Commission proposed the signature of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) to the Council of the EU in July 2016. If the Council approves the agreement, it will need the European Parliament consent for it to be finalised.

The national parliaments of the EU member states would then also need to ratify CETA for the areas which fall under their responsibility to take effect.

This ratification procedure follows the release of the legally reviewed CETA text in February 2016.

In 2015, Canada was the EU’s 12th most important trading partner, accounting for 1.8% of the EU’s total external trade. The EU was Canada’s second most important trading partner, after the US, with around 9.5% of Canada’s total external trade in goods in 2015.

(BBC) Belgium Walloons block key EU Ceta trade deal with Canada

(BBC) Belgium cannot sign a key EU trade deal with Canada, Prime Minister Charles Michel has said, because of objections led by its Wallonia region.

Mr Michel said talks with Wallonia and two other elected bodies had failed.

His comments appeared to dash hopes the Ceta deal could be signed on Thursday but European Council President Donald Tusk said it was still possible.

This is the EU’s most ambitious free trade deal to date but Belgium needs its regions’ approval to sign it.

Mr Michel said he had told Mr Tusk that Belgium could not sign Ceta (the acronym for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).

The other 27 EU governments want to sign the agreement, which has been in the pipeline for seven years.

The European Commission had set Belgium a Monday deadline to make its decision on the deal.

In a tweet on Monday, Mr Tusk wrote: “Together with (Canadian) PM @JustinTrudeau, we think Thursday’s summit still possible. We encourage all parties to find a solution. There’s yet time.”

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, 21 Oct 16Image copyrightAP
Image captionBelgian leader Charles Michel hosted his EU partners in Brussels last week

For the deal to pass, Belgium’s federal, regional and community bodies (seven in all) must give their approval.

Wallonia, a staunchly socialist region of 3.6 million people, has led objections to the deal, demanding stronger safeguards on labour, environmental and consumer standards.

But at talks with Mr Martin on Monday, it emerged that two other bodies, Brussels and that of the French-speaking community, also opposed Ceta.

The Belgian socialists’ fears echo those of anti-globalisation activists, who say Ceta and deals like it give too much power to multinationals – power even to intimidate governments.

There have also been big demonstrations in several EU countries against Ceta and the TTIP trade talks between the EU and the US.

map

On Sunday, the European Commission presented a new clarification to Wallonia on the mechanism for settling disputes with investors.

The rules for trade arbitration are one of the thorniest issues in the deal.

But Belgium’s RTBF news reported (in French) that the latest EU document did not satisfy the Walloon politicians.

‘A real shame’

Canada and the EU would eliminate 98% of tariffs under Ceta, which was negotiated over five years between 2009 and 2014.

Supporters say this would increase trade between them by 20%, and would especially help small businesses.

Critics say the deal threatens product standards and protects big business, allowing corporations to sue governments.

Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland was bitterly disappointed on Friday when talks with Wallonia broke down and she flew home, during an EU summit in Brussels.

The Ceta trade deal in numbers

98%

The number of tariffs between the EU and Canada that would be eliminated

€500 million

The estimated amount that EU exporters would save in duties annually

  • 3.6m The population of Wallonia
  • 36.3m The population of Canada
  • 508m The population of the EU
Reuters

On Monday, Wallonia’s regional leader Paul Magnette warned: “We will never decide anything under an ultimatum or under pressure.”

His counterpart in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region, Geert Bourgeois, said the blockage was “a real shame”.

“We’re the laughing stock of the whole world,” said the centre-right leader, quoted by Reuters news agency. “It’s bad for Wallonia, for Flanders, for Belgium, for Europe, for the whole world.”

Some UK politicians see Ceta as a potential model for a Brexit trade deal with the EU.

Ceta does not involve EU-style free movement of labour. But for British services – 80% of the UK economy – the Ceta terms are less favourable than those they have now.

P.O. (DPA) German minister: «Europe’s incompetence» must not kill EU-Canada deal

P.O.

…Well … I am not alone in talking about Europe’s incompetence…
The EU in it’s current form does not work and is not viable.

FCMP

(DPA) — The EU-Canadian Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) trade deal must not fall victim to internal European politics, warns German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

“This is a domestic European problem and a domestic Belgian problem and not a problem for Canada. CETA is an excellent deal and it can’t fail because of Europe’s incompetence at finding a way to balance interests between regions,” he said, according to his ministry.

According to the statement, Gabriel was instrumental in getting Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to remain in Europe for more talks with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, hours after Canada had declared the deal dead.

+++ V.I. (JN) Canadá abandona negociações para tratado com a União Europeia

Conforme a minha Opinião Pessoal +++ P.O. (CNP) Deadline looming for Canada-EU trade pact, as Europeans.

(JN) O governo canadiano abandonou esta sexta-feira a mesa das negociações com a Bélgica, responsabilizando a União Europeia de incapacidade de aprovar o tratado de comércio transatlântico entre as duas comunidades (o Acordo Integral de Economia e Comércio, CETA na sigla inglesa).

Em causa está a oposição de uma das províncias belgas, a Valónia, que se opõe ao acordo, pondo em causa o apoio já dado pelos governos centrais dos 28 membros da União Europeia.

“O Canadá – e eu pessoalmente – trabalhámos muito. Mas é claro para mim e para o Canadá que a União Europeia é incapaz de chegar a acordo, mesmo com um país com valores europeus como o Canadá,” afirmou a ministra do Comércio Chrystia Freeland, que acrescentou estar “desiludida”. “Penso que é impossível”, afirmou.

Contudo, em Bruxelas, fontes comunitárias acreditam que ainda é possível chegar a um entendimento. E a comissária europeia com a pasta das transacções comerciais, Cecelia Malmstrom, mostrou vontade de continuar com as conversações.

As preocupações da Valónia prendem-se com o impacto que o acordo poderá ter no aumento da importação de produtos de suíno e bovino e também em relação ao mecanismo de resolução de conflitos entre as partes dos dois continentes, que podem ser usadas pelas multinacionais em seu benefício.

O acordo para o CETA deveria ser assinado na próxima quinta-feira, na cimeira União Europeia, Canadá. Até segunda-feira de manhã o primeiro-ministro canadiano, Justin Trudeau (na foto), decidirá se voa ou não para Bruxelas para firmar o documento.

De acordo com a Reuters, o acordo prevê aumentar as trocas comerciais entre os parceiros em 20%, dando ganhos anuais de 12 mil milhões de euros às economias do bloco europeu e de 8,26 mil milhões à canadiana.

+++ (DPA) German vice chancellor still sees life in EU-Canada trade talks

(DPA) — There is still hope for an EU-Canada trade deal, which seemed dead in the water just a day ago, says German Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel amid efforts to revive the
talks.

Gabriel says he sees a good chance for success in planned talks today between EU Parliament President Martin Schulz and Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The goal, he says, is to “stop the clock” and get the Canadians to decide to reverse themselves after saying Friday that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is dead because of opposition by a Belgian regional parliament.