Tories cancel outside consultant to help auto industry in free trade talks

Industry Minister’s spokesman says not approved by Moore’s office; more than enough civil servants to do the job

January 14, 2014   by CANADAN PRESS

OTTAWA — The Harper government says it is cancelling plans to hire an outside consultant to give strategic advice on how it can negotiate free trade agreements that are advantageous to the auto sector.

The consultant was to have been paid up to $420,000 for three years to provide Canadian trade negotiators strategic advice on how to get the best deal possible for makers of cars, buses, and heavy trucks.

The federal government solicited bids for the contract on Jan. 13, citing the fact that is moving forward with free trade talks on a number of fronts, including two countries with thriving auto industries: South Korea and Japan.

The government’s statement of work said it wanted a consultant to provide “an analysis of Canada’s trade interests, identify risks and opportunities associated with potential trade agreements, and provide strategic and economic advice in the context of Canadian manufacturing industries.”

The government is focusing on the automotive sector, as well as “mass transit manufacturing (bus, rail, heavy duty trucks),” the statement says.

“The consultant(s) will provide … written reports analyzing Canada’s offensive and defensive interests, identify risks and opportunities, trade policy provisions which can result in a Canadian advantage, and provide strategic advice to allow Canadian manufacturing industries to optimally benefit from a particular trade agreement.”

Initially, the job was to have been for one year, but with options to renew for two more. The government also planned to restrict the competition to Canadian companies.

However, a spokesman for Industry Minister James Moore said that evening the government would not proceed with the contract.

“This contract is being cancelled. It was not approved by the minister’s office. There are more than enough civil servants with the expertise to provide this analysis,” Jake Enwright said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press.

The Tories, ardent free traders, landed their biggest deal last fall when they signed an agreement-in-principle on a sweeping pact with the European Union.

As the call for bidders makes clear, many more deals are being sought including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as separate, bilateral pacts with South Korea and Japan.
The government says the new consultant would have helped create the most favourable conditions possible to help Canadian businesses compete.

“A number of the countries that Canada is currently negotiating with have significant interests in the manufacturing sector, particularly in automotive and mass transit (both export and import),” it says.

“The expert advice sought through this contract will complement the work of Government of Canada officials, providing access to a full range of perspectives and insights into best negotiation practices going forward in international trade discussions.”

Canada made some gains in the auto sector under the EU deal announced last fall. It gained greater access to the European market for autos that are for composed mainly of Canadian components. The elimination of Canadian tariffs will also give major European car makers a chance to increase sales through lower prices.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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