Early U.K.-Canada trade deal prospects not looking good

As prospects of a trade deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union collapse, there is growing doubt that a post-Brexit pact involving Canada can be completed by the end of the year.

The U.K. left the EU on Jan. 31 and nearing the end of an 11-month implementation period where essentially agreements remain status quo while the U.K. negotiates a more permanent agreement with the EU and other countries.

But talks between the U.K. and EU have so far gone poorly and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now preparing voters to enter 2021 without a trade agreement in place.

A deal between the two is likely being prioritized over negotiations with Canada, but the U.K. has agreed in principle to some bilateral trade agreements.

When the calendar turns, the U.K. will no longer be included in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU.

Tracy Gray, Conservative critic for export promotion and international trade, says companies are looking for certainty as 2021 approaches.

“We’re at a stage right now where the deadline is quickly approaching and we’ve got a number of industries that are very concerned,” she said, noting the near $20-billion worth of goods Canada exported to the U.K. last year.

Last month, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Confederation of British Industry said in a joint release that the “clock is ticking” on completing a deal.

“The benefits businesses have under CETA are set to disappear and without a trade deal in place both our countries will be going into uncharted territory,” they said.

Mary Ng, the federal minister responsible for international trade, continues to say both parties are working on finishing a transitional agreement before the end of the year.

In response to a question on the matter during question period in September, Ng said she remains in close communication with the U.K.

While the U.K. says trade talks with Canada have begun, opposition MPs like Gray contend Ng and the Liberal government are not transparent about the status of negotiations.

Earlier this year, the governing Liberals agreed to inform parliamentarians of any negotiations it enters into within 90 days, but by mid-October, no notification had been made.

Meanwhile, there is continued speculation the U.K. will look to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The free trade deal currently includes 11 countries, including Canada.

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