The Canadian government is set to announce the finalized terms of a trade deal with the European Union. Under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) the agreement will remove 98 per cent of EU tariffs on a wide range of Canadian products.
International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said she hopes the deal will be ratified later this year and come into force in 2017. The two countries are now translating the text in French as well as in the 21 other EU treaty languages.
Freeland said the deal will bring tremendous benefit to Canadians and to Europeans, leading to an increase in prosperity for the signatories.
Also agreeing with Freeland was Catherine McKenna, the minister for the environment and climate change. McKenna said the CETA deal will make it easier for Canadian businesses to tap into emerging clean-tech markets adding that, “CETA stands to remove trade barriers, widely expand free trade between Canada and the European Union and increase opportunity for the middle class at a time when we need to foster innovation and create good jobs as we move to a low-carbon economy.”
Amendments have also been made to a controversial investment protection clause which has caused complications in the past between the two countries.
The amendments include:
- A reformed and permanent investment dispute settlement system.
- A revised process for the selection of tribunal members who will adjudicate investors claims.
- The introduction of an appeals system.
Conservative trade critic Gerry Ritz said his party welcomed the legal review and said the Liberals, in addition to ratifying the trade deal with the EU, should also focus on the Trans-Pacific Partnership which the Conservatives secured recently.
Ritz said in a written statement, “CETA should be ratified immediately as should the TPP which would make Canada the only G7 country with free-trade access to the United States, Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.”
The Council of Canadians, which had been in Europe trying to mobilize opposition to the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, is also opposed to CETA, calling the most recent announcements “smoke and mirrors.”
“It still enshrines corporate rights and enables giant European corporations to sue the Canadian government.Tinkering with the dispute settlement process doesn’t change this fundamental flaw.” said Garry Neil, executive director of the Council of Canadians in a written statement.
According to Tracey Ramsey, trade critic for the NDP, the party has some concerns, saying, “We want to look at the details and are concerned that environmental laws could still be challenged under the new rules.”
Adam Taylor, who worked as a senior adviser to former Conservative minister Ed Fast during the negotiations, and is now director at Ensight Canada’s international trade practice, said that while the ISDS mechanism negotiated by the Conservatives was consistent with other deals, negotiations between the U.S. and the EU forced Canada back to the table.
Taylor said the debate has been “hijacked” by those who oppose trade agreements when investment clauses are there to protect businesses from foreign governments making arbitrary decisions.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said while today’s announcement includes some improvements to the appointment of arbitrators and the government’s right to regulate, there are still problems with the dispute process.
Under CETA, foreign investors will still be able to attack state decisions in areas ranging from agriculture to consumer protection to public health to the environment. This means tribunals can still order vast payouts to foreign investors without having to go through Canadian courts.
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