The European Union is touting the fact a landmark trade deal with Canada will make it easier for EU companies to move staff here for short-term postings – a development that comes as the Canadian government tries to dissuade employers from importing temporary foreign workers.
Canada and the 28-member EU struck a wide-ranging trade deal last week that the Harper governments predicts will yield billions of dollars in annual economic benefits for Canada.
The EU has its own list of wins from the negotiations. In a recent news release where Brussels lists the "key elements" of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, No. 9 is how it will enable "temporary movement of company personnel."
"To support trade in services and investment, CETA will make it easier for firms to move staff temporarily between the EU and Canada. This will make it easier for European companies to run their operations in Canada."
The Canadian government recently introduced measures to discourage companies in this country from importing temporary foreign labour. Just last week, Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney gave a speech saying: "Searching for the best candidate should begin at home. Canada has one of the best-educated work forces in the world, but there are too many people without jobs and jobs without people."
Adam Taylor, director of communications for International Trade Minister Ed Fast, said the deal also makes it easier for skilled professionals in Canada to work in the EU. "EU commitments for temporary entry under CETA will be more extensive than any other country has received from the EU under a free trade agreement."
Mr. Taylor added that allowing EU companies to more easily import workers will "make Canada an even more attractive destination for investors and manufacturers, which will create jobs and opportunities for all Canadians."
On Monday, the Harper government launched a public-relations blitz to sell the new Canada-EU deal to Canadians. This week alone, 20 cabinet ministers will fan out across the country to pitch the agreement to voters with a focus on regional strengths such as manufacturing in Central Canada, agriculture in Western Canada and seafood in Atlantic Canada.
It could be months, though, before the public sees the fine print of the agreement, although the government has published a 44-page summary.
Mr. Fast, who has been pursuing the deal for almost 2 1/2 years, says Canada and the EU are still hammering out a legal text that reflects the details of the deal clinched last week. "We expect that our lawyers and our technical experts are going to move very quickly to get the draft text completed."
Asked at a news conference Monday whether they'd put the accord to a public vote – like the 1988 election that became a referendum on the Canada-U.S. free trade deal – Conservative cabinet ministers demurred and noted their 2011 election campaign platform included signing the EU agreement.
"The EU has been largely closed to many of our thousands of businesses because of tariff and non-tariff barriers," Mr. Fast said in an interview. "When this agreement comes into effect, 98 per cent of these tariffs are gone and … overnight this market of 500 million consumers becomes dramatically more accessible to Canadian companies that want to trade or invest. It's a no-brainer."
After the legal text is published, the government will then table legislation in Parliament to enact the trade treaty. With its Conservative majority in both the Commons and the Senate, the Tories will be able to easily pass the deal into law.
The government is taking special care to market the deal to Quebeckers, where polls suggest voters are especially protective of dairy farmers and cheese producers. The Canada-EU deal will allow more than 16,000 tonnes of additional European cheese into this country unhindered by the steep protectionist tariffs that the Canadian government normally applies to cheese imports.
Mr. Fast pointed out premiers and territorial leaders all back the deal, an agreement he called the "biggest trade deal Canada has ever signed."
"The provinces and territories have been right there with us. They know what's in the deal and they're very confident this represents their best interests," the Trade Minister said.