Green light for CETA

EU member states have agreed to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada. The decision was announced by Slovakia, which currently holds the EU Presidency, yesterday evening. The Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, said she was pleased with the unanimous support for CETA: ‘This agreement is good for workers, consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); prices will go down, businesses will have new and better access to a market of 35 million people, and consumers will have more choice. And CETA will have more than just economic benefits; we’re going to work with Canada on such important issues as sustainability, labour law and animal welfare. CETA stands for sustainable trade and a better distribution of the benefits of economic growth.’

As well as agreeing on the CETA treaty text, the member states have also reached agreement on the CETA declaration, which explains a number of provisions in CETA in more detail. ‘The declaration unambiguously reaffirms the agreements made on certain issues we had concerns about,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘For instance, we have set out in black and white that individual states will retain their policy freedom and may decide whenever they want what services must remain in public hands, such as water supplies and public transport. We have also agreed to look soon at how we can give more teeth to the chapters on sustainability and labour law; if these provisions are breached, organisations and interested parties must be able to obtain redress.’

Now that all EU member states have agreed to CETA, the Slovakian Presidency will officially sign the agreement on behalf of the Union on Sunday. It will then be submitted to the European Parliament for approval. If approved, it can then be provisionally implemented. It has been decided that the provisions on investment protection and the new dispute settlement mechanism for investment protection (the Investment Court System) will not be implemented for the time being, nor will a number of provisions that fall under the exclusive competence of the member states. CETA will also be debated by national parliaments as well as the European Parliament. ‘CETA goes further than just tariff restrictions,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘It says something about the values we hold dear and how we want to trade with other nations. That’s why it’s so important to have a good public debate about it.’

A study by the European Commission concluded that CETA could boost exports to Canada by more than €17 billion, creating tens of thousands of jobs in the Netherlands and the rest of the EU. The benefits are particularly important to SMEs in the Netherlands. Under CETA, agreements can be made on, for example, the mutual recognition of standards so that manufacturers no longer have to have their products tested twice or use two different labelling systems. Such costs are a particular burden for SMEs, which do not have the same resources and manpower as large companies. Access to the Canadian public procurement market, with an estimated value of more than 30 billion Canadian dollars, will also be very advantageous to Dutch companies. Some companies will benefit directly and their suppliers will benefit indirectly.