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British PM Wants Canada-Europe Trade Agreement ĎEarly Next YearíThursday, September 29, 2011 > 08:58:00
In warm tones, David Cameron highlighted Canada's strong economic footing, and expressed desire to see Doha Round move past stumbling blocks
While British Prime Minister David Cameron's first solo visit to Canada on Sept. 22 was underpinned by his foreboding warnings of yet another global economic downturn, it also revealed his intention to accelerate and strengthen trade and economic ties both bilaterally and multilaterally.
He and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed off on a joint declaration, A Stronger Partnership for the 21st Century. Such a document hasn't been signed off by both countries in 14 years. Along with security and development co-operation, prosperity was a key focus of the declaration.
The ongoing free-trade negotiations between Europe and Canada were at the heart of the matter.
"[W]e will seek an ambitious and mutually successful outcome to the negotiation of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement," reads the document. "This will result in economic growth for both countries, by stimulating competition, increasing trade, expanding market access and promoting joint investment and innovation."
Mr. Cameron expressed a desire to quickly ink the deal.
"And let's set an example to the world by concluding early next year the comprehensive economic and trade agreement between Europe and Canada, which will deliver a huge boost to growth and jobs on both sides," Mr. Cameron told a special joint session of Parliament, drawing applause from both sides of the aisle."
The proposed Canada-EU free trade agreement represents Canada's most ambitious trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994. The ninth, and possibly final, round of talks is slated to take place in Ottawa from Oct. 17 to 21.
But there are still a host of sticky issues to sort through. The two sides exchanged offers on goods and procurement during the last round in Brussels in July. They were expected to exchange offers on services and investments in the weeks before the next round.
"The truth is trade is the biggest wealth creator we've ever known. And it's the biggest stimulus we can give our economies right now," said Mr. Cameron.
In multilateral terms, he highlighted the need to conclude the World Trade Organization's long-stalled Doha development round, which some commentators had passed off as all but dead. The latest round of WTO trade negotiations, launched in 2001 in Doha, Qatar, aims at introducing lower international trade barriers, covering about 20 areas of trade.
Mr. Cameron said at the G20 in Cannes, France, later this fall, countries need to agree to a Doha conclusion plan to take to a WTO ministerial meeting in December.
But he acknowledged that that's an uphill battle.
And if we can't get a deal involving everyone, then we need to look at other ways in which to drive forward with the trade liberalization the world needs, ensuring the continued work of the WTO preventing any collapse back to protectionism," he told Parliament. "But going forwards, perhaps with a coalition of the willing where countries like Britain and Canada who want to, can forge ahead with more ambitious deals and others can join later if they choose."
In warm tones, Mr. Cameron said that Canada had engaged in sound economic practices. He said that Mr. Harper had led by example and that other countries would have to engage in similar actions to deal with the current debt crisis.
"In the last few years, Canada has got every major decision right," he said, citing the stability of Canada's economy, strong corporate and household balance sheets, the ongoing impact of tax cuts for businesses and households, and solvent finances.
Conservative MPs seemed more appreciative of Mr. Cameron's speech, likely due to the close ideological links they share with his Conservative Party. NDP MPs, the Official Opposition, were not as enthusiastic. They often sat silently when Mr. Cameron's speech turned to trade, while Tories clapped vigorously.
Afterward, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar did, however, highlight what he felt were the speech's positive points. He said he appreciated Mr. Cameron's praise of Canada's banking system, Britain's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, and also his mention of the Doha Round, where technical assistance and capacity building for poorer countries is a key component.
"He did mention Doha and I find that interesting as well, we have right now a Conservative government that is pursuing bilateral aid, and not really looking at multilateral organizations," said Mr. Dewar.
"There was a challenge laid out there by Prime Minister Cameron: 'Let's get a multilateral initiative going.' And he mentioned Doha and in contrast, I haven't heard this government utter Doha for many years. That was interesting, we'll see where that goes."
Mr. Cameron also heaped praise on Canada's significant military involvement in places like Libya and Afghanistan, accolades that were highlighted by some of the heads of mission witnessing the proceedings.
"It was a moving and fantastic speech," said Afghan Chargé d'Affaires Ershad Ahmadi. "It was good to see the commitment of the British people to Afghanistan, and that we stay the course in that country," he said. "And I really appreciated the fact that Cameron thanked Canada for its important role in Afghanistan."