In an exclusive interview, prior to leaving for bi-lateral talks with several European Union countries, Canada’s International Trade Minister Peter Van loan, has given Estonian Life a brief update on how free trade negotiations with the EU are developing.
Is their cause for optimism for succeeding in negotiations with the EU that represents 27 nations, all of whom have their own special needs, but who rely on EU central representatives to talk for them, while Canada has invited representatives of the provinces with definite individual interests to participate directly?
Van Loan: Yes, the provinces are participating, And they have a very important role to play. This is the first time for Canada to have provinces as part of free trade negotiations. Even though achieving an agreement is a very complicated process, the talks are ahead of schedule. The fourth round of negotiations take place in July and the fifth round in October. The free trade agreement was to be signed by the end of next year, but it looks like it might be ready much before that.
We know what the North American Free Trade Agreement covers, will the deal with the EU be as comprehensive as Nafta?
Van Loan: It’ll be broader and deeper than the North American Free Trade Act. Keep in mind that Europe is Canada’s second largest trade partner now. These negotiations involve things such as government procurement, financial services and labour mobility, which are areas that may be covered more thoroughly than Nafta.
What sort of impact will the EU-Canada deal have on Canada?
Van Loan: Canada is the first developed country with which the EU is negotiating a free trade deal. The free trade pact will offer Canada a market with a population of 500 million that includes 27 countries with an economic output of over $16 trillion. From a Canada-EU study, the agreement is expected to boost Canada’s economy by $12 billion annually. It will open doors for our businesses in Europe and create jobs for Canadians. The EU is the world’s largest exporter of goods and services. After the USA the EU is the second most important trade and investment partner for Canada.
On a totally different note. As Canada’s international free trade minister, you have the responsibility to see that Canadians benefit from business dealings with as many countries in the world as possible. At the same time, as a lifelong promoter of human rights and individual freedoms, and now as a minister of the crown you are beholden to see that Canada continues to uphold and advocate those values that it holds high. Do you find it difficult in dealing with certain governments that continually violate our valued principles?
Van Loan: I can assure you that I do not hesitate to present our concerns to all governments that we know are not upholding human rights standards as we respect them in Canada. Recently, in meetings with a government accused of violating human rights, Stephen Harper vigorously pointed out the expectations of democratic countries in this area. We do not back off in this area while talking trade.
You’re on your way to Europe. Is this a working or vacationing trip?
Van Loan: It’ll be official visits to several countries including Estonia, where I’ll be seeing foreign affairs, finance and European Union officials. I’ll have my family with me and I’m looking forward to a personal visit to President Ilves’ farm at Ärma.
Peter Van Loan’s continuing trade talks include trip to Estonia (3)