CETA is a 'very satisfactory' trade agreement

Written by David Campbell Bannerman on 6 April 2016 in Feature

The EU-Canada free trade agreement deserves our support no matter what our political persuasion, argues David Campbell Bannerman.

This international trade committee visit was a tale of two trade agreements: the official EU-Canada free trade agreement, CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), and the proposed agreement that the charismatic Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has proposed as a model of cooperation for a EU-UK free trade agreement in the event of a Brexit.

On CETA there was extraordinary support: the EU claims this is its most ambitious free trade agreement yet, with 99 per cent of non-agricultural tariffs swept away, and including services such as most favoured nation services provisions, mutual recognition of professionals such as architects and even a financial services chapter. 

Impressive new Canadian trade minister Chrystia Freeland boldly agreed back that: "CETA is really significant. It's the deepest trade agreement apart from the common market ever". 


Even concerned union and civil society representatives concluded 'Canada is a trading nation' - and frankly, with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and 80 per cent exports going to the USA, a bit of variety is a good thing.

There has been no excitement about the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in Canada, even with real examples of big payout compensation cases under NAFTA.

Even I, as a 'Brexiter', agreed this is a very good and comprehensive trade agreement - already UK beef exports are up. While I celebrate Alberta beef and Canadian scallops arriving here, Bison might be more of an acquired taste. 

As for the other agreement, Boris and I would rather enjoy such a deal between the UK and the EU - a super-CETA - with Canada the EU's 12th largest trading partner and UK the EU-27's largest. Brexit was of huge interest to Canadians, particular parliamentarians on Ottawa's Government Hill, as well as among business people and Quebecois provincial government negotiators. 

CETA is the sort of 'WTOPlus' agreement the UK and EU might have; a guaranteed WTO 'Most Favoured Nation' rules deal as Canada has now, but with a better, free trade agreement on top - the plus that is CETA, or what Japan, the USA, India, Australia and New Zealand all aspire to.

No wonder the BBC's Europe correspondent Gavin Hewitt was coincidentally in Canada filming: Would Scotland try to break away again, like Quebec? (Highly unlikely). Would the deal take seven years as CETA has?

(Actually no - as the UK is 'compliant' now as an EU member, there'll be no human rights demands wasting two years, and no ISDS controversy to add another two). 

Either way, this visit proved two like-minded democracies with common values can come to a very satisfactory trade agreement. CETA deserves our support - whatever our perspective.


About the author

David Campbell Bannerman (UK) is the ECR group shadow rapporteur on the EU-Canada free trade agreement (CETA)

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