Latest news about CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement)

Short historical development.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (for short CETA) is an international agreement between the European Union and Canada.The negociations on it have been launched in May 2009 and were concluded in September 2014.

The objective of CETA is to increase bilateral trade and investment flows, in accordance with the 2020 Europe strategy to boost growth through external competiveness and the participation in open and fair markets worldwide.On request of the European Union, the negociations have been reopened and finalized in February 2016.

The basic text of September 2014 indeed contained a chapter about Investor-State Dispute Settlement, like various international investment treaties, which established private arbitration. But France and Germany, among others, wanted a revision of this chapter, under the threat not to ratify the CETA.

A new version of the CETA has been published in February 2016, with the replacing of the system of private arbitration courts (ISDS) by an Investment Court System.

The content, in short, of the CETA.

This treaty will be the first agreement concluded by the European Union with another highly industrialised country to facilitate market access for goods, services and investments abolishing almost all tariffs and reducing a wide array of non-tariff barriers.

The mains goals of CETA are:

  • helping to create growth and jobs across Europe,
  • ending customs duties for exporters and importers by scrapping most of them as soon as the agreement enters into force,
  • removing relevant trade barriers in specific sectors, such as for wines and spirits,
  • letting EU businesses bid for Canadian public contracts at all levels of government,
  • stepping-up regulatory cooperation (by setting up a Regulatory Cooperation Forum that will provide assistance to regulators in Canada and in the EU, without the power of changing existing legislation, and, on the other hand, by agreeing, in a number of sectors, such as electrical equipment, toys, …, to accept the conformity assessment certificates which each other’s conformity assessment bodies issue),
  • protecting European innovations, artists and traditional products (by improving copyright protection by bringing Canadian rules closer to the those of the EU when it comes to patents and digital rights management, by recognizing the special status and offering protection on the Canadian market for numerous of European agricultural products from a specific geographical origin),
  • opening up trade in services (by creating access to the Canadian market in sectors such as financial services, telecommunications, energy, maritime transport, by recognizing each other’s professional qualifications, for example for regulated professions such as architects, accountants and engineers),
  • promoting investment (by removing barriers for investors wishing to enter the Canadian market, by applying the principle of non-discrimination between domestic and foreign investors, by encouraging Canadian companies to invest more in Europe by giving up the current arbitration system for a permanent and institution-based dispute settlement Tribunal, with an appeals system before an Appellate Tribunal, similar to domestic legal systems),
  • ensuring good cooperation in future (by containing provisions and a set of procedures about the resolving of any future disagreements between the EU and Canada about CETA),
  • protecting democracy, consumers’ health and safety, social and labour rights and the environment (by giving a strong role to business associations, trade unions, environmental groups and other non-governmental organisations in both the EU and Canada in helping to put the commitments to respect international rules on these areas into practice).

CETA will not affect the right of governments to regulate in the public interest, in areas such as environmental protection or food-related regulations (GWOs for example). The European Commission sets out that CETA contains clear pledges to uphold the EU’s high standard and not to undermine them for the sake of commercial gain.

The next steps.

In July 2016, the European Commission adopted the tree following texts and proposed them to the Council of the European Union: the signature, the conclusion and the provisional application of the agreement. Following a decision by the Council, it will be possible to provisionally apply CETA.

The CETA will fully entry into force after the Council decision with the consent of the European Parliament and by all Member States through the relevant national ratification procedures.

While negociations on the TTIP (EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) are on-going, it appears that criticism on the TTIP rebounds on CETA. Some protestors allege that this treaty gives the corporate sector too much power.

In Belgium, on 27th April 2016, with 44 votes for and 42 against, the Walloon Parliament pushed through a resolution requesting the regional government not to grant full powers to the Belgian Federal Executive to sign CETA. The Walloon Parliament was the first among the competent EU Parliament to launch a warning on the ratification of this treaty.

On 20th September 2016, the European Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, went to the Federal Chamber of Representatives of Belgium to try to convince the Federal Parliament to sign CETA, to ratify it and to implement it in full.