Canadian Manufacturing

Fast dismisses concerns over delays in finalizing Europe, China deals

Trade minister blamed lengthy legal documents, legal challenge for holding up deals

OTTAWA—Trade Minister Ed Fast insists only technical issues are holding up ratification of two major trade and investment agreements with Europe and China.

Fast says the free trade agreement with Europe, which was signed in principle last October, will require more than 1,000 pages in legal text and that takes time.

And he says a legal challenge by the Hupacasath First Nation in British Columbia is holding up ratification of the investment protection treaty with China.

Fast made the comments in testimony to the House trade committee during which he defended Canada’s trade agreements with troubled countries such as Colombia and Honduras, saying engagement was the best way to improve human rights there.

News reports in recent months have suggested the explanations on the delays to the European and China deals are not so simple—including that internal divisions within the Harper cabinet over the investment deal with China are holding up implementation.

As well, a leaked European briefing paper prepared in April identified several stumbling blocks to cementing the agreement, including language on intellectual property rights for pharmaceuticals, financial services, tariff rates, geographical indicators and investment protection, among other issues.

Fast gave no time for completion of the deal, saying only that the substantive issues had been resolved.

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