Quebec not ready to sign on to Canada-EU trade deal

Quebec's new Parti Québécois government says its support for a Canada-Europe free trade agreement is not yet certain and warns that a deal should not be treated as a fait accompli.

Negotiations ongoing but Quebec minister has concerns about energy and culture provisions

Quebec's new international relations minister Jean-François Lisée shakes hands with Premier Pauline Marois after being sworn into her cabinet last month. Lisée is raising concerns about the provisions of the free trade deal Canada's currently negotiating with Europe, suggesting Quebec's support is not guaranteed. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The new Quebec government says its support for a Canada-Europe free trade agreement is not yet certain and is warning that it should not be treated as a fait accompli.

The Parti Québécois government said Wednesday that there are grey areas in the negotiation that need to be clarified before the province signs on.

The new minister responsible for the file, Jean-François Lisée, said in an interview that he's "moderately optimistic" that the province will eventually support the deal — but he has some concern about going too far in liberalizing certain industries.

The PQ government says it's particularly concerned about energy and cultural policy, along with some other economic sectors.

It is also critical of the level of transparency in the file and says too little information has filtered out from the negotiations. The PQ made that same criticism in opposition while confronting the previous government of Jean Charest, who was among the staunchest and earliest proponents of a Canada-EU deal.

The new provincial government is organizing an information session Friday in Montreal, where Lisée will update industry, union and civil-society groups on the negotiations.

The PQ was an early supporter of Canada-U.S. free trade in the 1980s but the current incarnation of the party, facing threats from smaller left-wing opponents, has positioned itself farther to the left.

Lisée's note of caution comes on the heels of optimistic talk from Ottawa.

The federal trade minister, Ed Fast, said this week that a trade deal is achievable by year's end and that a conversation with Lisée had reassured him that the PQ government remained on side.