Ploumen: deal with Canada is a very good result

The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, believes the deal announced today between the European Union and Canada on the bilateral Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a very good result for the European Commission. The Commission informed the EU member states today about the agreed amendments to CETA.

One of the most important unresolved issues had been the changes to the provisions on investment protection in the agreement. Together with several other member states, the Netherlands has been working to achieve a fairer and more transparent investment protection mechanism, whilst safeguarding member states’ freedom to set or adjust their own rules. The text presented today appears to have resolved all the Netherlands’ key concerns.

The changes to the CETA investment chapter enhance governments’ policy space and establish a permanent tribunal which will settle investment disputes in a transparent manner and include an appeal system. The members of the tribunal must be highly qualified and will be appointed by the member states. Parties to a dispute will have no influence on the choice of tribunal members.

‘This is a major milestone,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘The agreement already contained important reforms regarding the mechanism for investment dispute settlement, but it is now also adopting the new EU standard used by the Investment Court System in full. We can now work with Canada to set up a multilateral investment court. It’s also a boost for all the civil society organisations that have advocated this.’

The amended CETA text still has to be studied in detail, but it is clearly in line with the modern approach to investment protection proposed by the EU. That approach has already been incorporated into the free trade agreement with Vietnam and has also been proposed by the European Commission in negotiations with the US on the TTIP trade agreement and with Japan.

‘By adopting our new model, Canada is sending a clear message that investment protection mechanisms need to be improved,’ the minister said. ‘This will strengthen the EU’s position in its negotiations with the US on this subject. Our ultimate goal is for this investment protection model to become the new world standard. We’re now one step closer to achieving that.’

Now that final agreement has been reached with Canada about the text, steps can be taken to complete the CETA process. The legal review has been finished, so now the text will be translated into all official EU languages. The European Commission will then send a proposal to the Council for signature of the agreement by the European Union, which may be accompanied by a proposal for interim application of the agreement by the EU. The Commission’s proposal will also be discussed with the House of Representatives. The Netherlands believes that the agreement affects policy areas that are the responsibility of not only the European Union but the member states as well, such as transport and investment protection. This means that the national parliaments of all member states must approve the agreement as well as the European Parliament.

‘The protection of Dutch and European fundamental principles is the main priority,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘I’m convinced the Commission holds the same view and that this will be reflected in the agreement with Canada. This agreement on the text means that we are now close to completion.’ The minister met with European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström this afternoon.

Ms Ploumen is also very pleased with the decision to make the negotiation results available for anyone to consult. The Netherlands had called for this to be done. ‘We attach great value to transparency on major trade agreements like this,’ she said. ‘It helps avoid misunderstandings.’

The negotiations between the EU and Canada on a trade agreement were completed in August 2014. The agreement will provide many opportunities for the Netherlands. As a trading country it greatly benefits from freer trade. This is the most comprehensive and ambitious trade agreement in the EU’s history. It was more than five years in the making and covers trade in services, goods and investments. For the Netherlands it is expected to boost annual trade by €600 million to €1.2 billion.