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Europe pleased with access to local contracts in Canada, wants more

European negotiators have been pleased with the Canadian government's concessions on public procurement but want more, according to a leaked European Union document.

Canada and the EU are negotiating the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, with both sides hoping to be finished by the end of the year, the Nov. 6, 2012 briefing said.

The document summarizes the state of negotiations on several outstanding issues, including Europe's desire for increased ability for its companies to bid on contracts to provide public goods or services in Canada, including to provinces, municipalities, Crown corporations, schools and hospitals.

"The Public Procurement market access offer that Canada made in July 2011 is the most ambitious and comprehensive offer Canada and its Provinces have made to any partner including the US," the document said. "It also outreaches the mutual commitments between the different Canadian Povinces in the Agreement on Internal Trade."

Canada's willingness to open procurement was "highly satisfactory," it said. "The offer fulfils our expectations, including regarding the expansion of procurement to the sub-central level (Provinces and Territories) and to Canadian Crown Corporations and already now provides for very considerable added value with regard to the existing situation."

Negotiators, however, still hoped to have "all local content requirements for EU operators" removed from Canada's public urban transport sector, greater access to energy projects and to have provincial regional development clauses "either eliminated or redrafted so as not to undermine Canadian Provinces' market access commitments."

Some 40 Canadian municipalities have asked to be excluded from CETA, a Council of Canadians press release said. In 2010 the Union of BC Municipalities passed a resolution requesting a permanent exemption from the trade agreement.

"Overall, our key challenge remains that our list of offensive interests is larger than the Canadian one, which puts Canada at a tactical advantage in this end game," the EU document said. "On the other hand, Canada will, at this point, also have to take into consideration that the EU market to which it gains preferential access is much larger than its own."

Canada will also be concerned about any precedents an agreement with the EU sets for future negotiations, particularly with the United States, it said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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