Ceta, the EU-Canada trade deal, was approved by the international trade committee on 24 January.
The agreement, which would remove tariffs on most traded goods and services, will be put to a final vote by all MEPs next month. Speaking in a Facebook Live interview, Artis Pabriks, the MEP responsible for steering the deal through Parliament, said: “The prime motivation is to ensure more wealth from trade. Ceta is a really good example of how good trade deals should be made.”
Responding to concerns from Parliament’s Facebook followers that there is not sufficient transparency surrounding Ceta, Pabriks pointed out that the deal has been available online for the past three years. Addressing fears that it may impinge on national sovereignty, he said: “In Europe we have our constitutions, our laws and our EU treaties. This trade deal is not capable of overruling any of them.”
While noting that Ceta would not be a “panacea”, the Latvian member of the EPP group pointed out that small and medium-sized enterprises would actually have the most to gain and that international trade is currently responsible for 14% of EU employment.
Addressing concerns that food which does not meet European standards could flood the EU market, he said: “The fact is that this agreement does not allow a decrease in standards on our continent. The Canadians are like-minded with us Europeans. There are certain areas where EU standards are superior and others where the Canadians are better. This deal is based on the best practices on both sides of the Atlantic, so Canadians will gain, as will we.”
The EU-Canada trade agreement aims to boost trade and investment flows between the EU and the North American country of more than 36 million people. The EU and Canada signed the agreement on 30 October 2016 but the deal must be ratified by the European Parliament before it can come into force. The EU is already Canada’s second most important trading partner and trade between the two parties is expected to rise by more than 20% once Ceta is fully implemented.
The draft recommendation was passed by 25 votes to 15 with 1 abstention.
Goods and services trade
CETA will remove tariffs on most traded goods and services. It also provides for the mutual recognition of certification for a wide range of products. This means that if an EU firm wants to export toys, for example, it will only need to get its product tested once, in Europe, to obtain a certificate that is valid for Canada, thus saving time and money.
Canada is to open up its public procurement markets at both federal and municipal levels, to ensure symmetrical access. EU service suppliers ranging from maritime services through telecoms and engineering to environmental services and accountancy are to benefit from access to the Canadian market.
Safeguards for agricultural goods and environmental and social standards
In negotiations, the EU secured protection for over 140 European geographical indications for food and drinks sold on the Canadian market. Sustainable development provisions were included to maintain environmental and social standards and ensure that trade and investment enhance both.
To allay citizens’ concerns that the deal gives too much power to multinational companies and that governments will not be able to legislate to protect health, safety or the environment, the EU and Canada recognise in both the preamble to the deal and an attached joint declaration that these provisions preserve the domestic right to regulate.
The CETA deal will not remove tariff barriers for public services, audiovisual and transport services and a few agricultural products, such as dairy, poultry and eggs.
New investor protection rules
Parliament tracked the negotiations closely, voicing its opinion in its resolution of June 2011 on EU-Canada trade relations and also in a 2015 resolution on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks. In response to parliamentary pressure, the controversial investor-state-dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism was replaced by the Investment Court System (ICS), which aims to ensure government control over the choice of arbitrators and enhances transparency.
The deal will be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole at the February plenary session in Strasbourg. If Parliament approves the CETA deal, it could apply provisionally from as early as April 2017. As CETA was declared a mixed agreement by the European Commission in July, it will also need to be ratified by national and regional parliaments
[Source: UK Parliament-Media Relations]
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