CANADIAN PROVINCES WOULD DISCARD TRADE DEAL WITH A SOVEREIGN QUEBEC

CANADIAN PROVINCES WOULD DISCARD TRADE DEAL WITH A SOVEREIGN QUEBEC

Canadian provincial leaders have warned Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau that continued special trade relations with the rest of Canada would be a "non- starter" if Quebec voted Yes in a sovereignty referendum this fall.

The blunt message was issued prior to the arrival Wednesday night of Mr. Parizeau to attend a conference of provincial premiers in St. John's, Newfoundland.Interprovincial trade, along with social policy reform, are the two main items on the agenda of the annual conference of provincial premiers that ends today.

Last year, Canada's 10 provinces reached an agreement to reduce or eliminate an estimated 500 internal trade barriers.

Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon indicated there was no chance a sovereign Quebec would remain part of the agreement.

"It specifically precludes a sovereign nation outside of this country from having access to all of these advantages," he said.

Mr. Filmon suggested that Quebec could lose its access to such things as national dairy quotas, and its companies would no longer receive preferential treatment in bidding on contracts from provincial and municipal governments.

"If we did it for a sovereign Quebec, we'd have to do it, then, for the United States, Mexico and any other country with which we have open trading arrangements," Mr. Filmon said.

Similar comments came the premiers of Ontario, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and British Columbia.

As planned, Mr. Parizeau participated in only the Thursday morning session on trade before returning to Quebec City.

While in St. John's, Mr. Parizeau announced the appointment of five Quebec representatives to sit on dispute settlement panels under the interprovincial trade deal.

The date of the referendum this fall has not yet been announced. Latest polls continue to show nearly 60 percent of Quebecers opposed to seceding from Canada.

Meanwhile, a powerful pro-Canada group of Quebec businessmen said in Montreal Wednesday it will be highly active during the referendum campaign.

"A Quebec which occupies its rightful place in a united Canada is still one of our best guarantees of prosperity in an increasingly competitive global marketplace," said the group's leader, Celanese Canada chairman Pierre Cote.

"Quebec's elected representatives in the federal government are worth far more than an army of consultants and bureaucrats building windmills on the banks of the Ottawa River," Mr. Cote added.