CETA set to strengthen EU-Canada partnership

Canada is both a crucial trading partner and a strong ally for the EU, writes Marietje Schaake.

By Marietje Schaake

06 Apr 2016

The European Parliament's recent international trade committee (INTA) delegation to Canada was marked by the terrible terrorist attacks in Brussels. The overwhelming support by Canadians, who lowered their flags to half-mast and held a minute's silence all across the country, reminded us of the shared values that shape our history and our alliance.

The comprehensive economic and trade agreement (CETA) is set to reinforce the strong partnership between the European Union and Canada when it is ratified by both sides, hopefully by the end of this year. CETA should go hand in hand with the strategic partnership agreement.

After years of negotiations and a lengthy legal check, the trade agreement between the EU and Canada was finalised this year and the procedure leading towards ratification has now started. 


Canada is a crucial trading partner for the EU and a strong ally when it comes to shared values in a rapidly changing world. CETA will strengthen our cooperation and allow us to jointly work towards reinforcing the rules-based global system. This is under increasing pressure as growing economies, such as China, the Gulf-States and Russia have a larger impact on global trade. Development at any price seems to be their mantra.

CETA will make it easier for European businesses to operate in the Canadian market and vice versa. Under the agreement, tariffs will be lowered and removed where possible, procedures will be more predictable and bureaucratic burdens will be removed. 

This is especially important for SMEs, which often have difficulties in finding new markets. An important factor is that the Canadian public procurement market will be opened for European companies, giving them a fair chance to compete.

Another achievement is the recognition of 145 European geographical indications by Canada. In a chapter on sustainable development, both partners have reaffirmed their commitment to furthering their values, for example in protecting the environment and in defending labour rights.

On both sides of the Atlantic, there is broad support for this agreement, which is generally seen as balanced, fair and having the potential to create benefits.

Investment protection was long considered a potential bottleneck for the CETA deal. This followed the growing concerns surrounding the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in Europe regarding the transatlantic trade and investment partnership between the EU and the US. 

However, under the leadership of EU trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and the new liberal Canadian government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the two sides agreed to a complete overhaul of the outdated and controversial ISDS, moving towards an investment court system. The reformed model takes on board the key demands I made with many of my colleagues in the European Parliament.

Here we see a great example of how the EU and Canada can work together to raise worldwide standards. The investment protection now taken up in CETA is the first step towards creating an international investment court on the model of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism. This would also allow the EU to start solving the problems associated with the 1300 ISDS clauses we already have.

To make sure that Europeans and Canadians benefit from the positive effects of this agreement, CETA must enter into force as soon as possible.

We have urged the European Commission and the Canadian government not to waste time. This is also a task for EU member states, since the Council will have to do its part.

During the INTA delegation's visit, it became abundantly clear that the EU and Canada have a very strong sense of shared values. Our Canadian counterparts also stressed that they see Europe as a key strategic partner.

With the liberal Trudeau government, this is perhaps truer than ever. Our joint commitment to universal human rights, democracy and international law was clear in every meeting. 

The partnership between the EU and Canada goes much further than trade and CETA, but CETA is the reaffirmation of our strong bonds and a shared vision of open societies and markets, embedded in an international rules-based order.


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